Takeaways from the 2017 Digital Health Summer Summit

06.23.2017 • Senem Guney, PhD, CPXP

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It was a blast to attend and present at this year's Digital Health Summer Summit. Also, it wasn’t bad to escape from Austin’s 95+ temps and June humidity to the refreshing ocean breeze in San Diego.

I enjoyed the weather outside as much as I could after full days of presentations on digital health innovation around pressing topics like the opioid epidemic and caregiving for Alzheimer’s patients, a thought-provoking keynote by Steven Beinhubl, MD on what it means to practice precision medicine, and live demos for therapeutic applications of VR.

So, it was just as exciting to be inside the San Diego Convention Center as it was to spend time outside! 

The session on Tackling Two Conditions that Will Bankrupt America: Mental Health + Alzheimer’s Diseasemoderated by Eric Taub, underlined the growing cost of Alzheimer’s: It is now $250 billion annually and this number is expected to triple within the next few years. Seniorlink’s Clinical Transformation Officer, Jay Patel, PharmD, MBA discussed the role of technology in enabling the terribly-stressed caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients to reach out for information and motivation. The goal of technology-enabled services like Seniorlink is to reduce the emotional and financial cost of Alzheimer’s by making such stressful caregiving more manageable.

Innovators in healthcare take every opportunity to hear from healthcare administrators, researchers and clinicians about what they expect of innovation. The session on How the Largest Western Hospital is Leveraging Unique Partnerships to Solve Greatest Challenges gave us a great opportunity to hear about Cedars-Sinai clinicians’ expectations of new products and their adoption and integration into the hospital workflow. This session also discussed how low-tech solutions continue to be relevant in monitoring patients. For example, Cedars-Sinai is working with a group from the Holman Methodist Church to teach patients about how to lower their blood pressure through diet and exercise and stress management.

Senior Pastor Rev. Kelvin Saul shared his enthusiasm about this initiative, saying, “we realized we can’t save their souls in the worship hall and then kill them in the fellowship hall.” We were reminded that it does take the whole village - with its church and hospital system - to keep a community healthy.

I had the opportunity to present what we do at NarrativeDx as part of a session moderated by Taha Jangda, Partner at HealthX Ventures. Before Medable took the stage, NarrativeDx and Redox presented onstage as representative companies of the HealthX Ventures portfolio. Jangda spoke about Executing Digital Health Innovation, and his talk focused on the inevitable tension that develops between the time it takes for hospital systems to fund an innovative project and the financial realities of starting a company from ground-zero. This tension creates great pressure for all stakeholders in digital health innovation - investors that fund early-phase companies and the founders of those companies alike. Jangda underlined the importance of emerging ecosystems like those led by Dreamit Health in Philadelphia and the Texas Medical Center in Houston to provide support and guidance for the financial and operational challenges of digital health innovation.

VR (virtual reality) is breathtaking to experience in most settings. Witnessing orthosurgery in VR, though, is something I will never forget. Chirag Chauhan, MD of OssoVR warned the audience before he showed us a short exercise for surgical training in VR. Howard Rose, CEO of Firsthand Technology showed us how VR can provide a much better alternative than traditional medicine - especially given what we had heard about the opioid epidemic - in pain management as well as managing depression and anxiety associated with pain. Matthew Stoudt, CEO of appliedVR presented a real-life case of how VR helps a patient (who needs to be hospitalized for 100 days at a time) stay connected with his family and everything he likes to do in the outside world during his hospitalization.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jill Gilbert, who produced the Digital Health Summer Summit, for a great Summit that brought together entrepreneurs committed to digital health innovation, forward-thinking providers and investors to share their experiences, ambitions and passion for the healthcare industry.

I also would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to Judy Brower Fancher, CEO of Brower, Miller & Cole for our lively discussions during the Summit and for her contributions to this article.

Senem Guney, PhD, CPXP is the Founder and Chief Experience Officer at NarrativeDx.
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Senem Guney, PhD, CPXP

Senem Guney, PhD, CPXP

Founder and Chief Patient Experience Officer, NarrativeDx

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