Health 2.0 Northeast Meeting Review

I along with e-Patient Dave, Dan Hoch and Danny Sands, attended the second Health 2.0 Northeast meeting in Cambridge, Mass. on Tuesday night (Oct. 7, 2008). It was an initially well-attended event, with up to 150 people who came out to network (old-school style!) and listen to some presentations on local startups.


The first presentation was by the always-charming Ben Heywood, one of the co-founders and driving forces behind PatientsLikeMe.com. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a log for the past 2 years, you should already be familiar with PLM and its focus on data-driven records, looking for reliable trends in a number of disease conditions. Their latest condition is called “mood” and unfortunately clumps a bunch of mental disorders (which are distinct entities, so I’m not sure why they refer to them as one) together. Heywood spoke for about a half hour, outlining PLM and some of the great work its doing so far.

Heywood also spoke a bit about their Openness Philosophy. PLM makes money by selling the data you give them to pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers. These companies buy the data not for marketing purposes, but for help in their R&D efforts. It’s a unique, sustainable business model, assuming the companies actually do find value in the data (as I suspect they do).

After Heywood’s presentation was completed, Wade Roush, Chief Correspondent for Xconomy, stepped in and introduced the panel. Each person spoke for about 10 or so minutes about their company and was asked a few questions by Roush, who was on-the-ball as the moderator.

First up was Matthew Jarman, Vice President, Corporate Development, of American Well. American Well is a company that allows you to talk to a doctor anytime online via a chat application. It’s a fee-for-service company and I’m not sure how well it does when free alternatives, like MedHelp.org are available.

Aaron Day, Chairman & CEO of Tangerine Wellness spoke next about his company’s focus on helping companies with a wellness program tailored to losing weight. An interesting focus on corporate America, but unfortunately wellness programs and employee assistance programs are the first benefits to go (even with a positive ROI) in tough economic times. Despite the current recession, Tangerine is reportedly doing well.

Stan Nowak, President of Silverlink which uses old-school technology (the telephone!) to send automated reminders to people via the telephone about health issues. Companies can use the service for everything from health education services to medication compliance reminders. The platform is very customizable and user-friendly.

Jack Barrette, Founder and CEO of WEGO Health started out at Yahoo! Health. After figuring out they weren’t going to quite “get it” when it comes to the opportunities available in health topics, he struck out on his own and has created a social network of “leaders” or health advocates in dozens of health conditions. I like the idea of “expert” recommended resources in health, given the vast quantity (and varying quality) of material available online. I think WEGO has some good legs to stand on, but is a fairly quick and obvious candidate for acquisition by a savvy e-health company.

Robert Reid, the President of Endovascular Forum, finished off the presentations of the roundtable. The Forum is a doctors-only social community online where endovascular doctors can go and present cases and engage in consultations with one another.

The presentations were good, but most people I suspect came for the roundtable Q&A and I felt like too much time was spent on the presentations and too little time on the Q&A part. The room was packed when the event began at 6:30ish, but had virtually cleared out (more than half were no longer in the room) by the time the Q&A began at 8:00pm. Thirty minutes for questions just wasn’t enough time.

One of the best questions/observation came from none other than our own e-Patient Dave, who noticed that there was very little consumer focus in the companies presenting. When people hear terms like “Health 2.0,” they assume you’re talking on some level about social networking and empowering users with their own creation and networking tools. None of the companies at this event, except PLM, seems to do that. That’s not the companies’ fault, but it was an interesting observation nonetheless.

The pre-event social hour was perhaps the best part of the event, allowing people to meet and talk to others interested in the Health 2.0 world in the Boston area. It was a good event and I’m likely to attend the next one.

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4 Responses to “Health 2.0 Northeast Meeting Review”

  1. Excellent write-up. Thank you!

    I was taken by surprise by the early end to Q&A, and in my haste I didn’t express myself clearly.

    (I was using the hotel wireless and Twittering my 2c worth of observations all night long. @epatientdave)

    My real concern was that most “Health 2.0” companies (whose work I very much appreciate) are often looking PASSIVELY at where the current cash flow is (which I understand) in today’s ecosystem, and not looking at where VALUE ARISES in that ecosystem.

    Paying for that value is where the cash flow happens, but that’s not the perspective that will lead to radical innovation that saves more lives (and really steals the show, business-wise).

    Listening to all the discussion of “Who’ll pay for all this?” (which is also a theme of the Connected Health Symposium this month in Boston), it felt like such a morass that, right then and there, I googled “define: morass” and got a perfect match for my feelings: “A swamp… from which escape seems impossible.”

    But “morass” is not what I see when I ask where the value is coming from. Examples: Value is generated in a care event when a physician’s skill is applied to a patient’s need. Value is generated when a medication or treatment creates improvement in a patient’s condition, as it did with me. Value is generated when early detection saves $100,000 of treatment (or even saves a life).

    That’s all within the walls of today’s system. But value is also generated when important new information is brought into the care relationship – including when patients introduce the value, as recounted many times in e-Patients: How they can help us heal healthcare.

    Then, we can see that value is created outside provider walls, when patients share information with each other, so others can bring that value to their doctors’ tables.

    And that in turn introduces the concept of network effects: each person’s experience gains value exponentially when it’s connected to a larger and larger network of other patients and providers who are listening.

    See, understanding THAT is what will lead to radical new business solutions (or non-profit ones).

    The point I hoped, and failed, to convey is that a platform by itself has no value at all; the value comes from the community. One of the companies on the panel talks a good game but I looked at their site during the event and they have a total of about 500 members in all their communities combined. 31 people total talking about cancer, 20 about ADHD.

    The question I wanted, and failed, to convey clearly is, what do we do (vendors and patients and facilitators alike) to find and bring together the *people* who generate that value?

    Is there a need for that answer? Well, already one person who was at that event has written to me and asked “Where do I find a good group for _____ cancer? I know someone who just got diagnosed.” I get that question every week or two. If I had a wand and could create any one “e” thing, it would be a strong database of answers to that question.

  2. Susan T. says:

    Amazing! Health care providers all seem to agree that everything should be patient-focused, but they rarely get the patient’s input before new systems or solutions are implemented. What’s up with that!?! Do they think the patient has no opinions on what they need or want?
    I’ve been developing patient-focused medication reminder systems for 12 years and have tons of patient input. My software users definitely know what they want and we’ve implemented many enhancements based on their well-reasoned suggestions. Unfortunately, there are still too many seniors and younger patients who will flatly deny that they need medication reminders. (They don’t want anyone to even THINK they may need help remembering to take their meds.) If no one is having trouble, then how come we have an avg 50% medication adherence rate in the US?
    I wholeheartedly agree that everything we do to “fix” our health care system must be patient-focused. Without Patients, we’d all be out of work!!
    Susan T. pharmacist (ret.)

  3. Great to meet you, Susan. How did you find us?

    I don’t mean to create the impression that the people at the session Tuesday night formed their companies without seeking patient input. I didn’t have that experience. (And I don’t know.) The real challenge I tried to convey is, for any platform, how do we attract enough good people?

  4. John Grohol says:

    @e-Patient Dave… Not all value in social networks needs to be generated by sheer numbers. I know that’s the “traditional” view of a social network, but there are some social networks that are turning that value on its head. The thinking goes, get the “right” people together, instead of just sheer quantities (hoping that quality will bubble up to the top), give them empowering tools, and very cool things can happen. I don’t know whether there’s any truth to it or not, but that’s the idea I think behind WEGO Health.

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