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Virtually Speaking

SXSW heads in the right direction with Health & Medtech track

Posted by Thomas J. Morrow, M.D. on Apr 14, 2015 2:10:54 PM


Literally hundreds of thousands of people representing dozens of disciplines flocked to Austin for SXSW a few weeks ago. One of the newest portions of this massive aggregation of talent represented health and medtech – a newer track I was privileged to attend.

A quick look at the event’s presentation topics demonstrated the wide variety of technologies and solutions aimed at fixing our disjointed health care system. There is no other event in the U.S. that offers SXSW’s combination of vision, talent, technology and opportunity to meet people committed to change the health of our country’s 300,000,000+ citizens.

I spoke with many remarkable people representing startups and large organizations involved in medtech approaches such as online counseling for pre-diabetes, big data, revolutionary mobile health applications, smart caps for dispensing and tracking medication adherence, a bra that can detect breast cancer, wearables, gaming for health, weight loss, sleep monitoring…the list goes on.

My takeaways were numerous, but here are the top two:

  • First, after a four-decade-long medical career, I realize the old ways are not effective and certainly cannot be counted on for improving our collective health in the future.
  • Second, no one company, regardless of how innovative it is or how amazing its technology, can solve the myriad of problems facing our nation.

It has been said, “It takes a village.” In this case, it takes a village of innovators, visionaries, developers, operational experts, early adopters and investors combined, of course, with trust in American ingenuity to solve our problems. It also takes cooperation and the setting aside of egos to get all of the collective creativity of SXSW at the same table to come up with integrated solutions that can change the course of our future.

With that in mind, let me focus on the largest single issue that affects health: our habits and behaviors.

Most of the top-10 causes of death are either directly caused by or significantly contributed to by our bad habits. Let’s talk about just pre-diabetes and heart disease: smoking, high blood pressure, excessive weight, inadequate physical activity, high blood sugar or its precursor, insulin resistance, high LDL, low fruit and vegetable intake…all these are determinants of your health.

We know this. We have known this for decades, but the march of obesity and pre-diabetes over the past half century has not been reversed or even slowed down.

Attending SXSW reinforced a great deal of what I’ve come to believe over the past four decades spent studying our healthcare system. We need to step out with a solution that encompasses a wide range of approaches. We need to integrate artificial intelligence and natural language processing that emulate health care providers’ care with data systems, devices, wearables, games, incentives, behavioral economic concepts, telemonitoring, predictive analytics, smart packaging, social platforms and apps.

Imagine if all of these vendors, companies, creators, visionaries, investors and developers gathered at SXSW – all of whom themselves would benefit from better healthcare tools – worked together to create a single solution that filled in all the gaps of our current system.

Next IT hopes to reconvene many of the opinion leaders and key decision makers this fall at the Next Edge: Health Experience Summit in Philadelphia on November 3rd to not only demonstrate their skills and knowledge and talk about the solutions they are currently building, but to work together to produce a comprehensive, engaging, integrated solution this nation so desperately needs, so we can significantly improve our health and well-being.

We look forward to continuing the conversations and furthering the innovations within the industry at the Next Edge: Health Experience Summit, and I hope that SXSW continues to also highlight these necessary medtech advancements in the years to come.

Topics: Healthcare, Events, Patient Engagement, Technology