Kvedar: With 'human element' theme, Connected Health Conference responds to AI fears, hype

CHC Program Chair Dr. Joseph Kvedar says the event will focus on technology coming in the next 18 to 24 months.
By Jonah Comstock
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Connected Health Conference’s 2018 theme of “technology and the human element” wasn’t just chosen out of a hat, Program Chair Dr. Joseph Kvedar, told MobiHealthNews. It’s an effort to offer reassurance and a helpful reframing for those who are concerned about the pace at which technology is moving.

“With all of the surge in interest, and hype on artificial intelligence, and the corresponding worry that radiologists might be left behind or things like that, we thought we would bring it back to the core of what technology should be doing for us, which is allowing us to do things that human beings do well. So the theme is the intersection of technology and the human element,” Kvedar explained. “What that’s meant to do is remind us that all throughout history technology has made our lives easier in many ways. And AI is just one example. There are a bunch of things on the horizon that people find somewhat frightening. And our point is that if we’re thoughtful about how we design them and our interactions with them, it will basically free up time to do what human beings do well.”

It’s the second year of the combined conference, formed from a merger between the Connected Health Conference, founded in 2008 and previously hosted in National Harbor, Maryland, and the Partners Connected Health Symposium, founded in 2003.

Kvedar says CHC’s identity is to be more grounded than conferences that focus on the far future, like Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine, but more aspirational than “nuts and bolts” events like the American Telemedicine Association’s annual meeting.

“We want people to come to ours every year and feel like they’re getting the next 18 to 24 months of development in the field, and people give us the feedback that we’re hitting on that. That’s how we try to do it. That involves some present, some future.”

On the present side, for instance, the show will feature a lively debate on the usefulness of telehealth.

“So we have my new colleague Alistaire Erskine, he’s moderating a debate between Andrew Watson from UPMC and Ateev Mehrotra,” Kvedar said. “Ateev is a longstanding proponent of the view that telehealth may be overhyped, that the value perhaps isn’t there, whereas Andrew is very pro-telehealth. So we’re going to have them do a debate on value.”

Looking to the future, the event features, for instance, keynote James Vlahos, a writer for Wired Magazine who built a chatbot of his dying father.

“Just a year ago he had an article in Wired,” Kvedar said. “It’s interesting and very personal, his father had a neuromuscular disease. He knew he was dying, so he had him do hours and hours of conversations about his life and processed all that and put it into a bot so he can now have conversations with his dad, who is deceased. He calls it the DadBot. So you can see how that fits into our theme.”

The Connected Health Conference will feature speakers from Jibo, CityBlock Health, and Oscar Health, pre-conference events on voice in healthcare and participatory medicine, and more.

“The thing we try to do is have people walk out of the auditorium scratching their heads and thinking differently,” Kvedar said.

Connected Health Conference

Join PCHAlliance and the Partners Connected Health Symposium in Boston Oct. 17-19.

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