In-Depth: All the news from the Connected Health Conference 2016

By MobiHealthNews
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This week, the Connected Health Conference in National Harbor, Maryland brought together stakeholders and thought leaders in digital and connected health. MobiHealthNews covered the two-day event this week -- links to our coverage from Monday and Tuesday are at the bottom of this roundup. Read on for other notable events and quotable presentations we picked up along the way.

Accenture, Mount Auburn talk digital therapeutics, art of medicine

In a panel moderated by Dr. Joe Kvedar, the VP of Connected Health at Partner’s Healthcare, Alden Doerner Rinaldi, medical director at Mount Auburn Hospital and Ronan Wisdom, global lead for connected health at Accenture, talked about how the role of digital tools is changing in healthcare.

“What’s really interesting is the evolution of digital assets that were first intended as a complement to a therapy and the evolution of those to now have therapeutic value by themselves, and for some to a place where there’s no chemical element involved,” Wisdom said. “… What we think of as a therapeutical product is really changing and it’s an evolution to some mix of chemical, biological, and digital.”

Rinaldi added that getting doctors to accept digital tools will depend on introducing them in a way that maintains the fundamental humanity of the profession.

“I think there’s a lot of anxiety among physicians that somehow digital health and the art of medicine are opposed or in tension,” he said. “But I think, not just in healthy patients but in people dealing with chronic illness, technology and the art of medicine can be collapsed. And it just requires careful attention to design. … How do you enable our digital health technologies to develop this extra level of not just biological but psycho-social data, and team them up for the most authentic types of healing relationships?”

Payers discuss how, when to invest in innovation

“I’ve never seen an industry with so many problems to solve,” United Healthcare VP Marti Nyman said on a panel of payers and providers. “When we started on this journey we were like kids in a candy store. We ran into a lot of problems right away. We tried a lot of things. Some things worked, a lot of things didn’t.”

Nyman said United applies three questions to an investment: is it desirable, is it feasible, and is it viable? Or, to put it another way: Should it be done? Can it be done? and Will it have the effect we want?

Steve Wimmer, senior director of innovation and ventures at Providence Health and Services, said startups sometimes forget to really grapple with the first question and have a hard time with the third.

“That is something that is really important for startups in particularly, make sure you’re addressing one of the really big problems that health systems have,” he said. “And then, it’s not just about viability but bringing it to scale. You have to have that scaling plan together. That’s somewhere where we frankly struggle. Otherwise we’re just technology dilettantes.”

Partners HealthCare innovation leaders discuss the challenges of connected health research

Good research takes time, but advancements in technology seem to happen in the blink of an eye. So conducting health research with digital health tools like apps, software and connected medical devices requires special considerations.

“Developing a clinical study goes completely against the aim of connected health, because we need to move fast; faster than anything we have ever done before, because the technology will be outdated before we even start,” said Stephen Agboola, Associate Director of Research and Analytics at Partners Connected Health.

Due to this disconnect in technology advancement and clinical research, a lot of trials using digital health tools never get out of the pilot phase, Agboola said. They aren’t able to spend enough time to show if they actually work because the inevitable obsolescence of the technology can render evaluation studies moot. So, researchers need to start planning their evaluation studies before they even launch their initial study using connected health technology, and that means figuring how to maximize participant engagement and data security from the outset.

“We still have all the requirements to prove efficacy, acceptability, safety, feasibility and ROI, but we have other things to consider with connected health research,” said Ramya Palacholla, a postdoctoral research fellow for Harvard and Partners Connected Health. “With data collection, you have to figure out how you are going to store it safely and securely.”

Researchers must also consider compatibility between devices, data collection systems and whether their study population is even comfortable using digital health tools in the first place.

“How easy is it for your target population to use this? Is it going to be burdensome? If it is burdensome and difficult to integrate in their daily life, they aren’t going to use it,” said Amanda Centi, project manager for Partners HealthCare Connected Health Innovation. “Another very important thing to consider is brand loyalty: we have a lot of people out there who are very loyal to their particular device, so if you are asking them to use something different, they may not be amenable to that study.”

Personal Connected Health Alliance, Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance join forces

The Personal Connected Health Alliance has combined forces with the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance, the two organizations announced during the conference. Now, the WLSA will no longer doing be holding its Convergence Summit Program and will instead move under the PCHA’s Connected Health conference’s operations. It will still retain elements of WLSA’s program, which is aimed at healthcare technology and life sciences companies, and PCHA will adopt the WLSA membership model. WLSA Cofounder and CEO Robert McCray was named a Senior Advisor of Thought Leadership for PCHA and will continue to serve on the organization’s board of managers. More

Finalists of PMI challenge announced

The finalists of the Precision Medicine Initiative Challenge for the Underserved were announced at Connected Health conference. Eight finalists were named for the challenge, which is entitled “Advance Health Equity Through Precision Medicine,” and their expertise range from genomics and infertility to remote monitoring of chronic conditions and neonatal care. The challenge will fund up to three prizes to teams that 1) propose digital health tools that address the precision medicine needs of medically underserved communities, 2) facilitate participation from medically underserved groups and communities and 3) promote the use of open health platforms as a way of expanding the breadth, depth and interoperability of digital health under the Precision Medicine Initiative. Winners will be announced at HIMSS 2017. More

Validic, CloudMine team up

CloudMine, which makes a connected, cloud-based platform to access, store, analyze and export data,  announced a partnership with patient-generated health data platform provider Validic. The aim of the collaboration is to advance interoperability and integration of PGHD into clinical workflows and healthcare information systems, and CloudMine will use Validic’s mobile libraries and platform to integrate data from hundreds of personal health sources including apps, remote monitoring devices, in-home medical devices, wearables and sensors.

“CloudMine is excited to partner with Validic, the leader in connecting to the new world of healthcare data, IoT and wearables,” CloudMine CEO Brendan McCorkle said in a statement. “The result will be more comprehensive data and insights for users, and a more engaging and secure experience for patients.” More

Happtique is back

Digital health company Social Wellth re-launched Happtique, which it acquired two years ago. Happtique is a curated health app “boutique” of sorts that aims to make it easier for people to find, download and manage all their mobile health apps. Happtique wants to offer users guidance through the hundreds of thousands of health apps available online by evaluating and filtering apps for relevance, value, user ratings and consumer engagement. Each curated app goes through an Adaptive Privacy and Security scan, and Happtique also links to social networking accounts to allow users to interact with others and share insights. More

Medelinked debuts new platform

Medelinked debuted their web and mobile health data storage and sharing platform at the Connected Health conference in National Harbor, Maryland this week. The platform allows users to build a health profile comprised of weight, diet, nutrition, sleep and exercise data from integrated wearable devices. Each day, users have a Medelinked Health Score that is delivered in real time based on fluctuations or patterns from the data, and they can share this information with their healthcare providers. Additionally, users can access their Medelinked profiles to locate healthcare specialists and share health records within their network of providers and others (such as dentists, trainers, insurers and researchers). More

Exploring the role of Patient Powered Research Networks in clinical trials 

Patients and their caregivers are playing increasingly prominent roles in research and healthcare technology innovation. As with any emerging shift in healthcare, creating the right foundation to facilitate more robust, inclusive and insightful research comes with challenges, which is where the National Patient Powered Research Network (PPRN) comes in. 

“Recruitment into registries and clinical trials is going mobile – we find the right patient, the right trial and the right time. If they don’t qualify for one study, we will find another for them,” said Connected Health Resources cofounder MaryAnne Sterling during the Connected Health Conference.

Sterling works with the National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patient and Caregiver Powered Research Network, a PPRN under the national network of such organizations. As a family caregiver herself, Sterling works with others in the network to connect with research organizations like the Brain Health Registry at University of California, San Francisco to improve research and patient participation. More.

Uber opens up about health efforts, MedStar partnership

Uber continues to see healthcare as a major area for growth, according to Lindsay Elin, head of Federal and Community Affairs at Uber. At a panel at the Connected Health Conference in Washington, DC today, Elin spoke about a partnership with health system MedStar (whose director of consumer health initiatives, Pete Celano, also attended), a new team of employees dedicated to health, and the expansion of several programs including working with Circulation, a startup that recently spun out of Boston Children’s Hospital.

"Specific constituencies are certainly being served by Uber such as the disability community, the elderly, and low income communities," Elin said. "We firmly believe with partnerships with healthcare providers, senior centers, and transit agencies that we can do even more and reach more people.” More

Precision medicine is more than just genomics

Precision medicine was a major topic at the conference. In a main stage panel yesterday moderated by NEHI President and CEO Susan Dentzer, panelists discussed how personalized medicine is more than just genomics, but also includes behavioral health and public health considerations.

"If we don’t make progress on the behavioral side, having people get sick and then sequencing them is not going to improve our national health," Greg Simon, the executive director of the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, said on the panel. More

ONC hosts demo of FHIR-enabled medication list apps

National Coordinator for Health IT Vindell Washington was on hand at the conference to show off a demonstration of the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) protocol in action. In a Tuesday afternoon session with Epic, Allscripts, and Cerner, startups Medisafe, RxRevu, and CareEvolution all showed off their own FHIR-based apps that pulled data from EHRs to deliver an updating, de-duplicated medication list to a patient. The demonstrations were the culmination of a project begun at the HIMSS Annual Conference in February.

"The concept is you empower patients to get an interoperable list of their medications across a number of different sites where that information might be held," he said. "We felt that was one of the better focus areas that would allow us to address a missing piece in the process.” More

The future of the medical Internet of Things

With the ever-increasing amount of patient-generated data from connected medical devices, apps and sensors, it's important that digital health players build the right foundation to create a secure, reliable medical Internet of Things, panelists from Fitbit and Qualcomm, among other companies, said at the event. While the elements are mostly out there, bringing all the components of digital health together is still the next frontier.

"“There’s been a lot of hype and expectation literally over the past decade and so much has happened, but it’s still not ubiquity. You still aren’t seeing this type of care in terms of hundreds of thousands of millions of patients, and when I say patients, I’m talking about sick people,” Qualcomm Life Chief Medical Officer James Mault said. “The Fitbits of the world are doing a great job out in the Internet of Things in the wellness and fitness space, but now we are talking about some serious conditions." More

Ipsos survey: 12 percent of people globally use a connected health device

Ipsos Healthcare presented findings from a major survey of 18,180 individuals representing a total of 23 countries. They found that, worldwide 12 percent of people said they currently used a connected health device (including fitness trackers) and another 12 percent said they had formerly used one. But this wasn’t at all the same across all countries. People in China were the most likely to use a connected health device, with 28 percent responding that they did, followed by India with 26 percent and the United States with 21 percent. Turkey and Indonesia rounded out the top five. More

Why the slow pickup for patient engagement?

Engaging patients via connected health apps, devices and other technologies to take charge of their own health seems like an obvious progression for the healthcare industry to make. So why isn’t it happening faster? That was a central question in multiple sessions at the conference. 

“One of the reasons people are not engaging is because they’re not expecting information to be delivered in a way they can use,” Cindy Brach, senior researcher at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said, offering one explanation. “We need to think about ways to deliver information that will motivate them.” More

Kvedar looks back and forward at Connected Health

Partners HealthCare Vice President of Connected Health Dr. Joseph Kvedar has been working to apply connected health technologies to patient care for more than 20 years. Back then, mobile devices encompassed such leading-edge tools as the Sony Walkman, Palm Pilots, expensive cameras that captured images of less than 1 megapixel, brown box PCs, and big cell phones that only made calls. Kvedar spoke about the past, present, and future of digital health in a morning keynote, including an update on Massachusetts General Hospital's telehealth and remote monitoring platform. More

Orbita unveils Echo-based home health tool

Orbita announced its Voice Experience Designer at the conference on Monday. The company described the software as a graphical tool healthcare organizations can use to build voice assistants that aid patients in their homes. Likely applications include medication adherence, pain management, patient monitoring and coordination among various caregivers.

“We provide the connectivity services, the orchestration logic for data that comes in, and a collaboration app for caregivers to communicate with patients,” Orbita Co-Founder and President Nathan Treloar said. “We want to be able to work within care plans.” More

AMA, AHA, HIMSS, DHX Group form mobile health safety collaboration

The American Medical Association, The American Heart Association, HIMSS and the DHX have joined to create Xcertia, collaborative to evaluate and improve the safety and effectiveness of mobile health apps. The goal of the group is to establish best practices in mHealth app development, officials say. Xcertia aims to create a framework to improve mobile development and will serve as a resource to help consumers and clinicians choose mobile health apps. More