It’s been a busy couple of weeks at Wellpepper with both the AAKHS annual conference and HIMSS M-Health Summit at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor where Wellpepper was honored to have won the Venture+ Pitch along with CirrusMD. This was our second year attending the conference and we noticed that the hype for digital health is a bit lower and perhaps that represents market maturity. It could also be that organizations are in the thick of implementation and don’t have the success stories to tell yet. We believe in digital health and are rolling up our sleeves so will take this feeling that we are moving to incremental change as a positive sign.
Venture+: The Market Is Maturing
We participated in the Venture+ Pitch last year as well which was won by fellow our fellow Springboard Alumna Prima-Temp. Prima-Temp was the clear winner last year, already raising their Series B. However, there were a ton of startups with only an idea. This year the criteria was that startups have revenue before applying, and the competition was held in two parts, the first an invitation-only session where 11 startups pitched and panelists talked about the market opportunity in general, and then a final round with 4 excellent startups and really tough questions from the judges. We were a bit earlier on our journey than a couple of the other startups in the final pitch so were honored to be recognized along with CirrusMD.
Interestingly the startup area on the tradeshow floor was almost entirely made up of a new class of startups. So, while the market for M-Health may be maturing somewhat, there are still new entrants attracted by the promise of disruption.
Incremental Progress and Show Me The Evidence
I was only able to attend Day 1 Keynotes, and I heard that the Day 2 keynotes were great, especially by Shahram Ebadollahi of IBM Watson Healthcare. On Day 1, with the exception of an excellent presentation from Dr. Wood from Mayo Center for Innovation (disclosure: as part of winning the Mayo ThinkBig challenge we have the opportunity to work with CFI for the next year), most of the presentations were quite low-key. The main problem was the voice of the patient was missing: the focus was on initiatives or technology. I timed it. 1.5 hours into the keynote and we heard the first end-user story, and it wasn’t really a patient, it was a blind runner who used FitBit.
Dr. Wood shook everyone out of complacency and called out for a faster adoption of healthcare innovation, pointing out how basic things like patient treatment rooms have not changed dramatically in the last 50 years. He asked the audience to consider going beyond patient-reported outcomes and consider the outcomes that matter to patients. What would the system look like if we paid for health rather than healthcare, and we paid based on people being able to reach their own self-defined goals? Digital health is an enabler of this new system, but really, it’s about taking a patient or people-centered approach to health and to care.
Again, maybe it’s a sign of market maturity, but the conference this year seemed more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Themes from previous years were expanded on. For example, Judy Murphy of IBM talked about how consumer expectations expectations are fueling demand for m-health. People expect the same level of transparent and always available technology to manage their healthcare as they get from any other consumer experience.
HoneyBee and IPSOs announced the launch of the Global M-Health Survey which also pointed to ubiquity and consumer expectations and desire for M-Health. (The final survey results will be available in Q1.)
In a number of sessions Apple Research Kit was heralded as a major breakthrough for clinical trials. While the speed with which Research Kit was able to sign up study participants is certainly turning traditional research recruits on its head, the same limitations are still there: no HIPAA-compliant server infrastructure and selection-bias for those with more expensive devices. Interestingly, one of the greatest benefits for researchers seems to be the standardization of the informed consent process. (Note that Duke University will be open-sourcing the platform infrastructure they built in recognition that not all organizations have the skills and resources to build something like that.)
Interesting, how what was deemed such a major innovation at the time of release (less than a year ago), also seems a bit incremental. Again, we will take the glass-half full approach and say that we are reaching a market maturity where the gains are more incremental, although at next year’s conference we would really like to see more clinically-validated mobile health applications, and also more patient stories, preferably told by the patients themselves.