Three Seattle Health Conferences in One Week!

Last week was the HealthVault Solutions conference held by my team.   The metrics were great -- lots of new applications launched and partners signed, attendance oversold, 600 people, 285 different organizations etc. -- but the story is not in the numbers.   What excited me was the energy in the room -- the passion of the people who work in health and want to be part of doing better for consumers.   Many participants came up to me at the end of the first day (after 2 hour demo session) and said they were really starting to get it -- the benefits of a personal health data platform -- with multiple applications sharing data as determined by the user.   Getting it is a good sign.   Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was the keynote speaker the next morning, took the energy level up a notch and raised the stakes.    Dr. Oz shared his sweeping vision of empowering consumers (YOU) to improve health -- but the key learning for me was -- to truly engage consumers you must connect with them emotionally.   Reason by itself -- don't smoke you will get cancer, don't eat too much you will get fat -- simply is not enough to change behavior.    Personalization, connectivity are key -- but we have to be able to connect at the emotional level with users - -this is a new set of challenges.    We also announced the winners of our innovation fund - the HealthVault Be Well Fund.    We were astonished by the diversity and quality of responses -- and excited to inform the winners, so we can get started on the 15 exciting projects.

Yesterday, Microsoft hosted the Center for Health Transformation (CHT) meeting on our campus.   CHT is led by Newt Gingrich -- he is a tireless champion for change and for raising our expectations for results from the health delivery system.    CHT does good work stimulating ideas, motivating policy makers to learn and be thoughtful when approaching health and creating connections between their members who are doing good work.    Newt was a judge on the HealthVault Be Well Fund panel.  Many U.S. ecosystem players participated and exchanged ideas -- sharing ways that IT plus leadership can improve overall results in the health delivery system -- like Gary Kaplan CEO at Virginia Mason, an integrated delivery system in Seattle that has utilized the "Toyota Lean" for system improvement.  Given the fragmented nature of the health ecosystem -- these stories of best practices and improved results -- need to be told and retold and retold -- to motivate additional champions how to change and give practical examples of how to make progress.

The last two days I have been participating in the 4th annual Pacific Health Summit .   The mission of the PHS is to bring leading scientists together with policy makers and industry to tackle hard problems in Global Health.   It is a fascinating conference because of the mix of people (scientists, ministers, NGOs, industrialists) -- all of whom bring a real passion to helping "improve" Global Health -- but start from very different perspectives and world views.   This years theme (selected a year ago) was around nutrition and the twin challenges of under nutrition (hunger, nutrient deficiencies and their impact on health status) and over nutrition (obesity, diabetes and the impact on health status and costs).    The timeliness of the topic -- given current events -- only raised the level of urgency and passion behind the conversation.     I won't even attempt to do justice to the theme in a brief blog -- given the complexity and interdependencies of the key threads -- I'm sure a final report will be published.    I can report a few surprising data points for the benefit of others:

  • despite the lowest incidence of obesity -- Japan implemented a national policy in April to focus on prevention because of current costs and the need to change trend lines. This means that all people in Japan ages 40-74 are required to get an annual checkup.    One panelist -- Takemi-san a former vice-minister of health -- described how he had made a public promise to lose 10 kilos - -and this became a big and frequent media event (waist measurement and weigh in).   But he achieved the goal!
  • China too has started a new program to prevent obesity -- as part of an overall approach to public health.   The program's essence is its simplicity -- healthy weight and healthy blood pressure.    They determined that if they could motivate everyone to eat 40kcals less/day -- they could dramatically change future trend lines.  So they ask people to eat 2 less bites off of their dinner plate.  
  • India -- while being a food exporting nation -- has roughly 40% of children under 5 being under-weight.   This data point was used to demonstrate that "point solutions" or "simple programs" don't work -- that behavior change at either the national or individual level require comprehensive approaches (education, training, incentives, etc) that also take into account culture and traditions.

The role of nutrition in Global Health is clearly important -- and impacts costs and outcomes throughout the system -- from childhood development through to the management or prevention of chronic conditions.    One key takeaway for me is that it will require leadership (at multiple levels) and new forms of collaboration between the private sector and the public sector to sustainability address this issue.