digital health

Qualcomm Life Connect2013 – A Healthy Mix of Optimism and Realism

Perhaps I am old-fashioned because I believe that the world is still a people business.

Working hard to build a thriving ecosystem, the folks at Qualcomm Life brought together a stimulating 2013 Qualcomm Connect conference.

Paul Jacobs, the CEO of Qualcomm, presented an interesting mix of trends and numbers including facts such as, “there are 97,000 health apps are out there, 247 million people have downloaded a health app and 98% of physicians would recommend a health app to their patients.”

Rick Valencia, the Vice President and General Manager of Qualcomm Life, suggested that a positive indicator of growth in the sector is that the “talks in the last six months have come from companies with dedicated people with a title, a budget and a timeline.”

Rick also brought perspectives from other industries such as real estate and computers.  An interesting story by Sami Inkinen, a Co-Founder of Trulia, seemed applicable to healthcare.  Despite entrenched infrastructure in the real estate business, it was the consumer demand that allowed him to successfully build an online real estate company in 2005.

Colin Hill of GNS Healthcare, pointed out that in healthcare we have a “matching problem.”  Using big data and analytics we are beginning to get a better understanding of what drug works for whom and when.  We are “now able to simulate under many what if conditions” so that we can “move from insight to mass personalized interventions.”

Presentations by WebMD, the American Heart Association and Kleiner Perkins added realism to the discussions.  Reflecting on lessons learned, Bill Pence, the Chief Technical Officer of WebMD commented on consumer behavior suggesting that “you can’t compel consumers to do something that is all work and no value in return.”  We “must give consumers solutions that are not work, that are effortless and drive some value.”

Nancy Brown, the CEO of the American Heart Association, described their work with habit design, the importance of peer recognition, the impact of social groups and positive incentives, via their Heart 360 program.

Larry Leisure of Kleiner Perkins suggested that entrepreneurs should not engage in pilot studies, because “pilots are pilots to nowhere.” Instead, he suggested that entrepreneurs should seek a “clear path to reimbursement and anchor partners.”

Don Jones, the Vice President of Global Strategy and Market Development  of Qualcomm Life, had several thought provoking predictions including:

  • “In the future, I see Fortune 500 companies having a medical auction of sorts, where we will decide who is bringing the most fun as well as the best outcomes.”
  • “Hospitals are going to be expensive body shops and primary care physicians will be the local mechanic.  The risk to hospitals and physicians is that the consumer bonds with an app and the consumer asks the app where to go – changing the referral patterns.”
  • In the next 2 years, “ I think the benefits of transparency will show up- whether you see there are big data solutions to bring a cancer therapy, pricing transparency, or in quantified self.  More access to information than ever before, will propel change.”

A conference that brings Rick’s warm smile, Don’s uncanny glimpse into the future and Jamie’s fun-loving style, left me with a balanced view of what might be coming next in digital health.

I share Colin Hill’s optimism that  “we now have the technology to be ‘predictive and personalized.’“  Also, when I think about the unmet needs of the autoimmune community, I hope that Larry Smarr is right when he says, “where there is data, there is hope.”

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