Doing South By, healthcare style

March 27, 2016

The second floor of the JW Marriott Austin was “spring break” for healthcare nerds like me. It was the epicenter of South by Southwest Interactive’s second Health & MedTech gathering.

During a sunny Texas weekend in mid-March, healthcare professionals, engineers, entrepreneurs, designers and patient advocates hunkered down to talk about the future of healthcare and technology. For someone who has spent much of my life either consulting or working directly for healthcare organizations, there was something very encouraging about it all.

There’s also part of me that’s admittedly more than a little cynical about healthcare and innovation. Ever since I started working with large healthcare systems in the 1990s, everyone has talked about reforming healthcare. More than 20 years later, there still seems to be a preponderance of terms like “humancare” and “health 2.0” that sound great but are amorphous at best.

As a member of a healthcare administration team, I worked on quality initiatives that were largely exercises in filling out paperwork. I sat on an innovation committee that accomplished little beyond agreeing on a definition of innovation … after over a year of meetings. The opportunity to work with researchers, designers and engineers at Design Concepts, where innovation is our business, was an amazing and energizing opportunity.

Healthcare can and needs to change and perhaps Design Thinking and Lean models can help jolt the industry out of its deep rut.

More than ever before, there is a recognition that healthcare can and needs to change and perhaps Design Thinking and Lean models can help jolt the industry out of its deep rut. The Accountable Care Act and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) experimental models for funding offer some of the most meaningful opportunities for change in years. The influx of new technologies that gather continuous data and empower patients also have the potential to be game-changers.

Last year, health-related startups received about $4 billion in funding. That’s a lot of investment, which is great, but I was struck by the common themes that kept popping up in every panel discussion. Here are some of the requirements for meaningful medical technology that panelists frequently mentioned:

  • Design for the end user
  • Address an unmet need
  • Make sure it works with other devices and systems (interoperability)
  • Design beyond consumer-grade “worried well” devices to provide accurate, actionable data
  • Provide algorithms that make sense of data
  • And someone, please, redesign the electronic health record system to capture and measure how care is delivered rather than reflecting a broken, crazy reimbursement system.

I hope you find something interesting in our SxSWi 2016 Health & MedTech Report. As that list above shows, there is so much need and opportunity that it really is a great time to be an innovator in healthcare.