Health 2.0 Conference: Speakers Highlight Innovation, Next Steps

by Kate Ackerman, iHealthBeat Senior Editor

SAN FRANCISCO – About 1,000 entrepreneurs, health care providers, insurers, government officials and patients gathered on Thursday for the first day of the fourth annual Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

The two-day conference, which also marks the culmination of the Health Innovation Week, featured a slew of potentially game-changing announcements, dozens of product demos and insightful discussions about where to go next.

Two somewhat clashing themes emerged from the first day of the Health 2.0 Conference. The first was that the health care system still has a long way to go when it comes to fully utilizing 2.0 technologies. The second was that both the public and private sector see the potential of health 2.0 and are committed to fostering health innovation.

Not Much Dueling in 'Dueling Keynotes'

The conference kicked off with "Dueling Keynotes" from Jeff Goldsmith, president of Health Futures, and Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media. Despite the use of the word dueling, Goldsmith and O'Reilly agreed on several aspects of health 2.0.

Goldsmith painted a grim picture of the current U.S. health care system, highlighting the prevalence of chronic disease and the high cost of health care. He noted that the country's 76 million baby boomers likely will put an added strain on the health care system, which soon will face a critical health care provider shortage.

Goldsmith also said that health IT currently is hurting physician productivity. He argued that there is too much emphasis on transactions, saying, "We've got to make the health care system simpler."

O'Reilly, known as the "godfather of Web 2.0," described health 2.0 as "building a single global computer in which everything is connected." He said that when you look at other industries and then look at health care, you think, "Wow, we have a long way to go."

He said, "Hopefully we will see some enormous positive change," adding, "but it's going to take a while."

Goldsmith offered several suggestions for moving forward, including:

  • Taming documentation requirements;
  • Helping people find information they need effortlessly;
  • Accommodating the diversity of people's needs and styles; and
  • Equipping families with tools to better manage their health care.

Health 2.0 Developer Challenge

In one of the most high-energy sessions of the day, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, HHS CTO Todd Park and Department of Veterans Affairs CTO Peter Levin unveiled some of the winners of the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge.

The Health 2.0 Developer Challenge was announced in June at the Community Health Data Initiative meeting at the Institute of Medicine. The initiative is being run by Health 2.0, with the support of HHS.

For the challenge, foundations and startups offered monetary prizes to the best solution for a specific health care challenge.

Chopra stressed the importance of leveraging the power of IT and innovation to curb health care costs and improve quality. He called the federal government's work "necessary, but insufficient," adding that it is critical to engage the private sector.

Park said HHS will continue its "data liberacion." He said that HHS was sitting on tens of billions of dollars of data and that "it's the American people's data."

Building on what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has done with weather data, HHS is making health data publicly available at no cost. Later in the day, Park said the "goal is for this not be choreographed by the government."

Health 2.0 Developer Challenge winners include:

  • Adobe's Blue Button Health Assistant for the Blue Button Challenge sponsored by the Markle Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation;
  • Acsys Healthcare for The Health Factor -- Using the County Health Rankings To Make Smart Decisions sponsored by RWJF;
  • Ringful Health's Pain Care application for the Project Health Design Developer Challenge sponsored by RWJF and the California HealthCare Foundation;
  • Critical Systems for the Real-Time Patient Data Driven Challenge sponsored by Practice Fusion;
  • Videntity for Accelerating Wireless Health Adoption through a Standardized Social Network Platform sponsored by West Wireless Health Institute; and
  • Happy Feet for Move Your App! Developer Challenge sponsored by Catch and HopeLab.

Other Key Announcements

Several significant announcements were made at the Health 2.0 Conference on Thursday.

The federal government formally launched its Blue Button initiative. Under the initiative, Medicare and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries will be able to download their own health records.

Carol Diamond -- managing director of the Markle Foundation's health care program -- called the initiative a "logical and important next step." The Markle Foundation has been advocating for patient access to their own health data.

Levin said that 65,000 veterans already have downloaded their health data. He added that it's possible for other organizations and groups to make their own "blue button" though the use of an ASCII file.

On the private-sector end, WebMD founder Jeff Arnold unveiled the much-hyped ShareCare at the conference on Thursday. The Q&A social platform includes answers from medical experts to hundreds of thousands of questions. The site includes predictive text searching because Arnold said "consumers often don't know what to ask."

The site has some big-name partners, including:

  • Sony;
  • Harpo Productions;
  • Discovery; and
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Meanwhile, well-renowned health organizations -- such as AARP, the American Heart Association, the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins -- are providing answers and content to the site. ShareCare also has industry sponsors, including Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, United Healthcare and Walgreen. 

The other big announcement of the day came from CHCF. Margaret Laws, director of CHCF's Innovations for the Underserved program, said that the program will allocate some of its funding for investments in "disruptive innovation" that can dramatically lower costs or increase access to health care in California.

Laws explained that working solely through grants has limited the foundation's work with entrepreneurs. CHCF will continue to provide grant funding in addition to the new investments.

CHCF is the publisher of iHealthBeat.

to share your thoughts on this article.