77 of 2015's most interesting digital health quotes

By Brian Dolan

There are a lot of ways to slice up a year's worth of news coverage for a year-in-review, but one of the more fun roundups we do every year is the year in quotes. Below are 77 quotes from our 2015 archive. While they don't all perfectly fit into particular groupings, we've organized them into a few buckets like anti-hype commentary, telemedicine-focused quotes, policy and regulatory discussions, and more. 

There are few better ways to get a sense for the tone in digital health than reviewing some of the smartest, most interesting, or -- simply -- most quoted things said in the past year.

9 quotes from 2015 that helped counteract digital health hype

"The clinical trenches bear almost no resemblance to what’s being talked about. There are almost no examples of mobile health apps that are being used at scale, wearable sensors that are being used. I do not want all that information, and I’m a technophile."

- Dr. Brennan Spiegel, Director of Health Services Research, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

"The notion that simply discharging patients with some technology will prevent readmission or ensure positive outcomes is more wishful thinking than reality."

- Chilmark Research

"It seemed like the medical industry was one that could be disrupted. I went to work on a business plan and the sales and marketing side of it later, but it didn’t fly. We didn’t love it."

- Kimbal Musk, Elon Musk's brother on a digital health startup they almost founded

"We think this shows technology isn’t really central to patient engagement activities right now. It’s unclear how much health IT is supporting these care transitions and planning programs, but when asked about certain activities, nearly half of ACOs reported having difficulties engaging patients, which seems to suggest that the technology side isn’t quite up to snuff yet."

- Alex Kontur, Manager of Research and Projects, eHealth Initiative

"As part of this realignment, Bosch has agreed to close its telehealth business in the US. Despite early entry to the telehealth market, the strategic and economic targets associated with Bosch’s telehealth business did not develop as expected."

- Bosch

"Absent this sort of approach, this sort of prioritization, what I am seeing from a lot of pure technology software vendors in this space are things that don’t really work in meeting the needs of the practices. They are created in a vacuum or rejiggered from something a health plan needs, or something someone else had laying around. They don’t really understand the needs of practices the way we do."

- Dr. Farzad Mostashari, CEO, Aledade

"Everyone wants to know what’s happening with wearables. I wouldn’t worry about it. Unless you’re working in the innovation team and you’re thinking five years ahead, I wouldn’t stay up all night worrying about wearables. You need to worry about smartphones and what you’re doing to be mobile optimized."

- Monique Levy, VP of Research, Manhattan Research

"I think the media certainly holds Google to an unfair standard. They’ve always called it the [Google Glass] 'explorer' program. It’s never been widely available and for them to halt it, it’s not the same thing as an Apple product failing in the market, or even like Newton, which was properly launched. I wouldn’t call it a failure, I would just call it a beta."

- Ian Shakil, CEO, Augmedix

"Shame on us for overreaching."

- Hosain Rahman, CEO, Jawbone

13 notable quotes about telemedicine, remote visits from 2015

"There’s no technology in telemedicine, or very little, from my point of view, because there’s no new data. It’s the same doctors making same subjective judgement. Instead of you sitting in their office, they’re doing it remotely."

- Vinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures

"I generally think that technology-enabled services there will be a big part of healthcare going forward and I wish we’ve invested in Teladoc or DoctorOnDemand or any one of those companies. They are really providing a low cost solution to the interesting question of the consumer need for better access at a very reasonable cost, compared to traditional in-person physician visits. We were surprised by the amount of influence that employers are exerting by contracting for healthcare themselves."

- Casper de Clercq, General Partner, Norwest Venture Partners

"The fastest-growing part of our business in 2015 has shifted from the health plans into health systems. They are the bigger buyer in 2015 vs the payers, who are, by the way, not stopping anything, it’s just that health systems are buying more than they do."

- Roy Schoenberg, CEO, American Well

"Every second the doctor is not seeing patients is wasted time. Doctors already spend roughly 40 percent of their day documenting and doing other administrative tasks. To waste the other 50 to 60 percent of your day traveling between patients is a 50 to 60 percent reduction in efficiency. Short of teleportation, the doctor house call will always be an irresponsibly massive reduction in primary care efficiency."

- Dr. Jay Parkinson, Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Sherpaa

"I feel good about the prospect of CMS making decisions to cover telehealth for Medicaid and Medicare on a fee for service basis. I know better than to ever predict the timing of the federal government, so I wouldn’t prognosticate about when they’re going to happen, but I do feel good about the conversations that are going on and the likelihood of that happening in the future."

- Jason Gorevic, CEO, Teladoc

"Input from the Telehealth Services Workgroup will help the CPT code set reflect new technological and telehealth advancements available to mainstream clinical practice, and ensures the code set can fulfill its role as the health system's common language for reporting contemporary medical procedures."

- Dr. Steven J. Stack, President, American Medical Association

"Today, our health care system has changed dramatically, but it’s still too difficult for families in rural America to find quality, affordable health care. And I know many families here in Iowa are worried about even more rural hospitals closing. Telemedicine can help  -- and we should streamline licensing and explore how to make that reimbursable under Medicare."

- Former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

"Delaware is well-positioned to embrace efforts that will encourage health insurers and health care providers to support the use of telemedicine and that will also encourage all state agencies to evaluate and amend their policies and rules to foster and promote telemedicine services."

- Delaware's new telehealth parity law

"The use of telemedicine care by virtual health care providers, such as those linked to retail-based clinics, entrepreneurs, or insurers whose business model is to provide health care services to patients via smart phone, laptop, or video-consult kiosk without a previous physician-patient relationship, previous medical history, or hands-on physical examination (other than what can be accessed via the technology), can undermine the basic principles of the PCMH model."

- The American Academy of Pediatrics

"Changes in the status quo threaten people who are wedded to the status quo. So if you have a board in a particular state made up of certain kinds of old school physicians who are unwilling to accept the possibility that there are alternative methods of delivery that are as good or better than what they are familiar with, then there’s gonna be a problem."

- Stuart Gerson, former acting Attorney General of the United States

"If, however, this new use is overutilization, care that does not lead to improvements in health, then there could be increased costs without any added health benefits. The very advantage of telehealth, its ability to make care convenient, is also potentially its Achilles’ heel. Telehealth may be 'too convenient.'"

- Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, Rand Corporation analyst

"This is relatively minor, in that it doesn’t affect any population at the moment. But [Next Generation ACOs are] a huge step forward that Medicare is now ... waiving that requirement that you have to be in a rural environment or a hospital. The door is ajar, and we’re hoping it’s the beginning of swinging the door wide open. It’s a very significant decision for what it represents."

- Jonathan Linkous, President, American Telemedicine Association

"The crowd will see you now, the patient will see you now, Dr. Google will see you now, the robot will see you now, the avatar will see you now. Everyone will see you now. Everyone but the doctor."

- Dr. Eric Topol, Director, Scripps Translational Science Institute

7 quotes about digital health and pharma from 2015

"We’re entering this era where if you don’t have an outcome, you’re not gonna have an income."

- Sandra Nichols, Senior Director of the Digital Innovation Group, AstraZeneca

"Today, patients suffering from severe mental illnesses struggle with adhering to or communicating with their healthcare teams about their medication regimen, which can greatly impact outcomes and disease progression. We believe this new digital medicine could revolutionize the way adherence is measured and fulfill a serious unmet medical need in this population."

- Dr. William H. Carson, President and CEO, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development and Commercialization

"MS impairs the ability to walk for many people with MS, yet we only assess walking ability in the limited time a patient is in the doctor’s office. Consumer devices can measure number of steps, distance walked, and sleep quality on a continuous basis in a person’s home environment. These data could provide potentially important information to supplement office visit exams."

- Dr. Richard Rudick, VP of Value Based Medicine, Biogen

"If a pharma company today is not thinking along these lines about how to integrate, not just use as a tool to promote, but integrate programs and educational resources around the pill and the bottle, you will be left behind."

- Greg Barrett, VP of Marketing and Managed Markets, Daiichi Sankyo

"Some recent reports have suggested that pharma companies are hesitant to market via mobile channels. That is obviously not what we are seeing or experiencing. It’s not something we expect to see going forward... We’re highly focused on delivering mobile-friendly content and tools to our users. This mobile engagement also allows us to deliver advertising solutions that monetize equally well across mobile and desktop."

- Ben Wolin, CEO, Everyday Health

"People really are communicating a lot online on social media. There’s actually a wealth of information here that potentially hasn’t been tapped into until recently. The question is ‘If people are talking about our products, should we be listening to what they’re saying?’ The answer is ‘Of course’."

- Greg Powell, Director of Pharmacovigilance, GlaxoSmithKline

"[Pharma companies] also want data straight from consumers. They want real-world data on clinical outcomes [of their drugs]. They need data to show that people should pay more for their drug [now that sales teams are more limited]. It can be data from wearables, or from insurance claims and electronic health records. Pharma companies today must prove over and over and over again the benefits of their drugs."

- Julie Papanek, Principal, Canaan Partners

8 quotes about policy and regulation plus one from President Obama

"We are taking a very light touch, an almost hands-off approach. If you have technology that's going to motivate a person to stay healthy, that's not something we want to be engaged in."

- Bakul Patel, associate director for digital health, FDA

"One way to think about ResearchKit is as the beginning of a pipeline that will lead to more apps that are screening, diagnostic, management and treatment apps. In fact, it is a necessary, essential first step to figure out what is needed to develop these apps — what works and what doesn’t — before you move into, ultimately, clinical study apps and clearance to use them for diagnosis and treatment."

- Bud Tribble, MD PhD, VP Software Technology, Apple

“We don’t want to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it — maybe an app, maybe something else.”

- Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

"It used to be, if you ate a banana, you knew what was in it. It was a banana. And then we started getting processed food, processed chemicals, and now we have a label. It’s a standardized version of a set of very complex things that we simplify. Where’s the nutrition label for privacy?"

- Dr. Jordan Shlain, Founder and Chairman, HealthLoop

"If healthcare reform 1.0 was about improving coverage, I would say healthcare reform 2.0 is going to be about improving delivery. In all sorts of technology-enabled ways, that’s the opportunity here."

- Dr. Sachin Jain, Chief Medical Officer, CareMore Health System

"The success of mobile health is founded on trust. To establish trust, our companies must be able to keep sensitive health data secure and private. While there’s currently no legislation on encryption, we ask that you take seriously any government efforts that would require companies to put citizens’ data at risk."

- Morgan Reed, Executive Director, ACT The App Association

"The big word inside the beltway is 'non-HIPAA regulated medical data'. This is information that’s on our phones and the individual is providing it, not a covered entity. Information is flowing back and forth into the cloud and it is not necessary regulated by HIPAA HITECH, but it might well be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission."

- Sharon Klein, Partner, Pepper Hamilton

"I don’t have a Fitbit yet, but I work out hard. Word is these Apple Watches might be a good companion for my workouts. So I’m gonna see, I’m gonna test it out."

- Barack Obama, President of the United States of America

7 quotes about the consumerization of healthcare

"Our belief is that in order to improve outcomes, which is what we are trying to do, you need to focus on the patient experience, the consumer experience, the physician experience. And in order to do this you have to make these solutions seamless, part of one’s lifestyle."

- Dave Rhew, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Healthcare and Fitness, Samsung Electronics America

"There’s a long-running theme among investors that D2C doesn’t work in digital health or maybe in healthcare at all. [There’s] an inability to scale, ... no business model, and there’s this common theme that all the people using these are young, healthy, rich and educated people, the so-called worried well."

- Malay Gandhi, Managing Director, Rock Health

"Health care is becoming more digitized and consumer oriented. It’s not an overnight change, but more like how summer turns into fall – gradual yet very perceptible."

- Greg Scott, Principal, Deloitte Consulting

"Healthcare is the last industry that has not adopted digital technology in any major way to help deliver its services. And it’s becoming challenging for physicians and consumers to actually manage care without those digital tools."

- David Schlanger, CEO, WebMD

"Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to making individuals better consumers of healthcare, and health insurance in particular. However, in the United States, employers drive most health insurance purchasing decisions and cover the lion’s share of healthcare costs."

- Ali Diab, CEO, Collective Health

"We believe consumer health technologies — apps, wearables, self-diagnosis tools — have the potential to strengthen the patient-physician connection and improve health outcomes."

- Dr. Glen Stream, Chairman, Family Medicine for America’s Health

"The proliferation of internet-connected solutions and evolving regulatory guidelines are blurring the lines between clinical and consumer health solutions. As consumer health platforms support more ‘medical’ devices, rather than just today’s wellness trackers, they’ll create a viable self-care model in a segment that today is occupied by chronic-disease monitoring companies."

- Rick Ratliff, managing director of digital health solutions, Accenture

5 digital health quotes about efficacy, what works and how to prove it

"I’ll be the first to say it doesn’t matter what the ROI of your program is. Ask your CFO or ask your head of HR whether a connected, focused workforce is what they want. If that’s what they want to drive productivity, revenue, and customer interactions, then this is one way to get it. We don’t have to measure a three for one return on wellness, and we don’t have to measure how much we are going to get back on this Fitbit investment."

- Jim Huffman, Senior Vice President of Employee Benefits, Bank of America

"The responsibility for generating evidence should not fall solely only on the product developers. The research and clinical communities also must help to generate these needed data. Our review of the evidence to date, even with its flaws and limitations, clearly demonstrates the great potential that mobile technologies can have to aid in lifestyle modification. Thus, clinicians should not conclude that mobile technologies are generally unproven and thus can be ignored. The current absence of evidence should not be used as evidence of an absence of effectiveness."

- The American Heart Association

"From many available apps, few women's reproductive health apps have been assessed and recommended by reproductive health experts. Available apps have varied functionality that may be important when recommending apps. Evaluation of usability and quality of these apps is needed."

- Michelle Lynn Moglia and Dr. Paula Castano, Columbia University Medical Center

"With nearly 50,000 health care–related apps now available for download and numerous internet-based digital health intervention solutions available, the benefit of digital health interventions on cardiovascular disease prevention and outcomes, both primary and secondary, merits reexamination."

- Dr. Jay Widmer, Mayo Clinic

"Predicting caloric expenditure is a relatively complicated process. There are certain assumptions that are made when developing the algorithms that translate movement activity detected by the devices into calories burned. Even devices with the best prediction equations will have some margin of error due to natural biological variability."

- Cedric X. Bryant, Chief Science Officer, American Council on Exercise

9 digital health quotes about change, threats and opportunities

"Despite this large unmet need and our leading brand position, we have struggled to attract members in recent years. Why? What has changed? Over the last few years, as the world appified and activity monitors experienced significant increases in penetration, our competitive frame shifted dramatically and we were competing for consumer attention with new competitors in new ways."

- James Chambers, CEO, Weight Watchers

"These transactional things are making a big difference in healthcare, because mostly what people want to know is ‘Are you going to be able to see them promptly? What’s the service experience like?' Especially in relatively commoditized ambulatory care activities, that service is important."

- CVS MinuteClinic, President, Dr. Andrew Sussman

"That’s going to be the story for the next year or so: [digital health] moving from a curiosity, to a research tool, to an actual mainstream, accepted clinical tool. I think it’s very exciting."

- Corey Bridges, CEO, LifeMap Solutions

"There’s a paradox here. We’ve seen the toll hypertension takes on the world, but it’s easily diagnosed, easily treated, inexpensive to treat – pennies a day –  and the treatment is overwhelmingly effective. But in the United States, only 40 percent of people are diagnosed and of those that are treated only 50 to 80 percent adhere to their treatment."

- Dr. John Sotos, Worldwide Medical Director, Intel

"The sheer number of family caregivers in the US – 44 million, more than 18 percent of the population – has changed the landscape of family life in this country. The issues are not only care-related, but impact physical and emotional health, finances and workplace productivity. As the Baby Boomers age, there will be a huge care gap and a critical need for caregiver support."

- David Inns, CEO, GreatCall

"Instead of maintaining our own website going forward, we’re now going to empower institutions who specialize in infectious disease research to use the data to build their own models. Flu continues to affect millions of people every year, and while it’s still early days for nowcasting and similar tools for understanding the spread of diseases like flu and dengue fever — we’re excited to see what comes next."

- Google Flu Trends team

"This isn’t just about knowing that I took 8,000 steps yesterday. But because I took 8,000 steps, how did it make me feel? And more importantly, how did that work with how I slept or what I ate that day? And we think that having that information is going to allow them to make better decision to live healthier and enriched lives — affecting ultimately, obviously, fitness, but we think there’s an outlook for us to affect global health, which gets us so excited."

- Kevin Plank, CEO, Under Armour

"We believe that the possibilities for Apple Watch are enormous and that's been reinforced in just the first few weeks since it became available to customers. For example, doctors and researchers at leading hospitals in the US and Europe are already putting Apple Watch to work in improving patients' lives."

- Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

"Doctors have always looked for new ways to gain insight into the subtle biological patterns that could help earlier diagnosis or intervention in disease. Our hope is that this technology could unlock a new class of continuous, medical-grade information that makes it easier to understand these patterns and manage serious health conditions."

- Andy Conrad, Head of Life Sciences, Google X

7 quotes about money, investments, M&A in digital health

"All the dollars in healthcare have multiple zeros behind them, that’s just how it works. The average revenue per user in Facebook is $4. For eBay it’s $89 dollars, for Amazon it’s $109 dollars. For Medicare it's $1,200."

- Abhas Gupta, partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures

"We were pretty excited about the fact that we could use public currency to be more aggressive in terms of M&A."

- James Park, Cofounder & CEO, Fitbit

"In April 2013, AliphCom acquired BodyMedia for over $100 million and obtained the rights to BodyMedia’s expansive patent portfolio in the field of wearable technology."

- Jawbone's IP suit against Fitbit

"We must empower patients and providers with personalized knowledge when and where they need it. Digital health is the best vehicle for this, yet when I started exploring this many years ago we didn’t even know what to call it. Fast forward to 2015 and digital health is one of the hottest emerging industries backed by the winds of healthcare reform, the mobile revolution, and accelerating investment. However, few economic models have yet to emerge. At WellDoc, I was fortunate to help pioneer working business models. Today, I see an ocean of opportunities to make this industry sustainable."

- Chris Bergstrom, upon leaving WellDoc, now at BCG

"As a female investor, I don’t have the same assumption that a woman shouldn’t run this company because there’s a possibility that she might run off in five years to have a baby. I ask male founders, shouldn’t you care about your family too?"

- Lisa Suennen, Managing Partner, Venture Valkyrie

"The irony of reducing waste and improving the health of the employer-sponsored population -- for over 100 million Americans -- is that it's not a health problem, but rather a marketing and IT problem."

- Josh Stevens, CEO, Keas

"We view free apps, which I think is an issue still being struggled with, as complementary to our products rather than as cannibalistic. The price point for our product is close to $300, and that’s a big difference. People signing up for our products know that they are committing to a $300-a-month product and are willing to do that. And as we like to say, ‘You can’t eat an app for lunch’."

- Dawn Zier, CEO, NutriSystem

12 quotes about patient generated health data

"You have to understand what are they worried about, what are their fears, what are they trying to do? If we don’t engage with them that way, it doesn’t matter what technology we use."

- Roy Rosin, Chief Innovation Officer, Penn Medicine

"Perhaps more than anything else we’ve seen out there, digital tools can help providers maintain contact with this [low income] population that can be very difficult to reach, and to proactively respond to health and social issues before crises appear."

- Rachel Davis, senior program officer, Center for Health Care Strategies

"It's amazing that happens just because you put a little electronic thing on you to monitor your steps. For the Apple Watch it's that opportunity magnified by a million. If we can gain insights into health behaviors, health problems, treatment side effects... a lot of our patients get three to four months into chemo before they figure out how their body is reacting. It's not until then that they figure out what to tell their physician."

- Cori McMahon, Psy.D., Director of Behavioral Medicine, MD Anderson Cooper

"To be perfectly candid, we’re not sure what we’re going to do with [HealthKit] information. I think some of it will be patient-directed, they’ll tell us as they meet with clinicians throughout the health system. We’ll study the information and we’ll learn from there. But I think the fundamental aspect to this type of go-live is that we’ll learn where patient interest really is."

- Darren Dworkin, SVP of Enterprise Information Systems and CIO, Cedars Sinai

"Traditionally, remote monitoring is seen as a short-to-medium term adjunct to regular care to empower patients for self-management following hospitalization. Long-term use is not usually feasible due to cost. However, based on our findings, we speculate that increasing the duration of the program to enable patients to develop self-competency may improve outcomes."

- Dr. Stephen Agboola, Massachusetts General Hospital

"Many children with excess weight will grow up to be severely obese adults and will suffer from obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Our goal is to help teens and their families improve their health through lifestyle changes and we believe that well designed communications technology can help us connect with our patients and increase the likelihood of our patients achieving success."

- Dr. Susan Woolford, Medical Director of the Weight Management Program, CS Mott Children's Hospital

"When it comes to the idea of population health, we’re missing some of those tools. We’re missing the data, we’re missing the realtime information, we’re missing the forecasting methods. And we’re missing the consumer tools that feed back to the patient to inform us about what’s happening around us."

- John Brownstein, Director of the Computational Epidemiology Group, Boston Children’s Hospital

"To build a culture of health we will need tools that help people -- no matter who they are or where they live -- lead healthier lives. Wearable sensors and tracking devices have the potential to help people exercise more, eat healthier and sleep better, and we need to learn more about how people engage with these devices to better understand how they can be maximized."

- Deborah Bae, Senior Program Officer, RWJF

"We provide care for some of the most technologically sophisticated patients in the country, whose lives revolve around innovation. After carefully evaluating all of the available mobile technologies, we recognized that to meet the needs and expectations of our patients we had to develop our own solution that worked seamlessly with our existing electronic health record system."

- Amir Dan Rubin, President and CEO, Stanford Health Care

"You have these healthcare systems who are basically sticking to a portal and they’re kind of looking to their health IT vendors -- who they’re already paying lots of money --  to roll out mobile apps, telemonitoring solutions, and things like that. And the vendors are like, 'The doctors and the hospitals they tend to want things to get them the meaningful use dollars.' So it’s like, who’s going to move first to these newer technologies?"

- Naveen Rao, Analyst, Chilmark Research

"We envision the potential capability of OurNotes to range from allowing patients to, for example, add a list of topics or questions they’d like to cover during an upcoming visit, creating efficiency in that visit, to inviting patient to review and sign off on notes after a visit as way to ensure that patients and clinicians are on the same page."

- Jan Walker, Principal Investigator, BIDMC

"For the first time really we’re discovering physicians are expressing much more openness and willingness to consider information about their patients coming from DIY devices."

- Ceci Connolly, Leader of PwC’s Health Research Institute