October 15, 2020

Highlights From the First Half of HLTH2020

Michael Blumental

COO at Hyro

We (my Hyro team and I) are in the midst of HLTH2020, a four-day super-sized virtual event that seems to feature every single prominent figure in the healthcare arena. We’ve attended back to back sessions with the CEOs and presidents of organizations of the caliber of Phillips, Anthem, Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, and CVS. So far, I’m happy to report; it’s been wonderfully engrossing and extremely well-produced. 


Besides immersing myself in content, I've also met with some fantastic individuals. To be honest, as this is my first virtual conference, I was a little hesitant about what the online networking platform was going to feel like, but after 48 hours of using it, I can safely say it's been a success. Every video-meeting is timed for precisely 18 minutes, which initially kind of felt like speed-dating, but as soon as I got used to it, I realized that it actually sort of emulates a real live event. Somehow, HLTH was able to recreate the buzzing atmosphere of an exhibition hall, with short, concise meetings and plenty of people to speak with through the event portal.  


This year’s iteration of the event was aptly themed and marketed as: “The Year Everything Changed,” and judging by the discussions, announcements, and panels we’ve witnessed, not only has everything changed, but healthcare will never be the same again. 


HLTH2020 Logo


So for those of you who had to skip the event this time around, those of you who are in attendance but a little too flooded with information, or those of you who just want to check in on the current pulse of healthcare, I’ve summed up what I feel are the main topics and insights at HLTH2020 so far:

The Reign of Telemedicine

“Telehealth will never go back to what it used to be,” said Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic, in her fireside chat with George Halvorson. This sentiment was well echoed in almost every session, with Dr. Laurie Glimcher, President, and CEO of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, sharing that before COVID-19, Dana Farber saw about 5 to 10 telehealth visits per week. They now support 3000 per week, a 29900% increase. To put a stamp on just how big telemedicine has become, $18 billion Teladoc Health and digital health management mammoth Livongo’s founders made their first joint appearance on Monday to solidify a merger that has sent shockwaves through the health IT ecosystem. 


From left to right: Phillips CEO Frans van Houten, Dr. Laurie Glimcher, President and CEO of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS
From left to right: Phillips CEO Frans van Houten, Dr. Laurie Glimcher, President and CEO of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS

Dana Farber saw about 5 to 10 telehealth visits per week. They now support 3000 per week, a 29900% increase

COVID-Free Passports

Not sure if they planned it this way, but in one session that followed the other, Mayo Clinic and IBM Watson Health unveiled their solutions for safely returning citizens to public spaces, including offices, both built on thorough screening and clearing processes. Mayo Clinic announced its new alliance with Safe Health Systems to develop softwares and workflows designed to support a pre-vaccine return to work and school. IBM Watson introduced its latest product, the IBM Digital Health Pass, a built-for-smartphones “digital health wallet” containing a person’s health status - a QR code or result from a morning COVID-19 test, to be scanned at the entrance of any venue. IBM’s GM of Watson Health, Paul Roma, pitched a heartening scenario in which baseball fans could get back to their favorite stadiums with the widespread adoption of screening.


[Read about Hyro’s own AI-powered screening solution for COVID-19]


Healthcare Leaves the Hospital

The movement of healthcare out of hospitals and clinics and into patient homes, nearby retail centers, or even smartphones and laptops has been gaining traction long before COVID-19 struck. However, social distancing measures sent these processes into hyper-speed, something which was put into sharp relief through the first days of HLTH. Karen Lynch, who is both the EVP of CVS Health and President of Aetna, emphasized the advantages of having their CVS locations spread across communities as they continue to become hotspots for vaccines, tests, and treatments. She also claimed that CVS is bolstering its home-visit programs as patients have grown completely reliant on delivery services. But care takes many forms, and as 63% of the total U.S. population (18+) uses a personal voice assistant on a regular basis, it’s only natural that Amazon Alexa Health is rolling out new use cases for home care such as chronic disease monitoring, virtual visits, and triage and digital front door.

From Head of Alexa Health Rachel Jiang HLTH2020 presentation
From Head of Alexa Health Rachel Jiang HLTH2020 presentation


Fighting the Pandemic

It’s no surprise that the biggest public health crisis in a century would take center stage at an event devoted to solving today’s greatest healthcare challenges. The central and main message conveyed by most speakers was that the handling of the pandemic in the U.S. has been a failure. Michael Dowling, the CEO of Northwell Health, criticized the federal response to the virus, pointing out a lack of a unified front on wearing masks as a costly mistake. But justified scrutiny was met with cautious optimism, as the globe’s leading healthcare organizations shared their progress in the battle against the virus. From veteran pharmaceutical company Merck’s ‘slow and steady wins the race’ approach towards vaccine development, to Illumina’s groundbreaking rapid genetic sequencing of the virus, it’s perfectly reasonable to start envisioning the light at the end of this tunnel.


Bridging Social Gaps

Not only is this event taking place during a global pandemic, but it is also happening during the worst civil unrest the U.S. has experienced in decades. The social injustices taking place on America's streets have found themselves heavily featured in this year's conference. One of the major talking points brought up in numerous sessions was the terrible toll the pandemic has taken on Black Americans as opposed to their White peers. In fact, six Black or Hispanic people died of COVID-19 for every one White person. Furthermore, income inequality plays another critical role in healthcare outcome; roughly 66% of New York City's residents who died had income below the city median. The urgency to remedy these disparities was palpable through almost every discussion. A bright ray of light came in the form of RWJBarnabas Health's session, which presented their myriad of programs to help bring affordable or even free-of-charge healthcare to those who need it most while providing further assistance with commodities such as food, clothing, housing, and even physical recreation and mental support.


One Last Thing…

Before I wrap up, I just wanted to let you know that Hyro will be presenting at the Israel Export Institute Startup Showcase. We'll show our conversational solutions that are moving the needle for providers, payers, and patients across the board.



Israel Export Institute Start Up Showcase


Additionally, if you want to connect for a cup of coffee over Zoom to learn more about what we do, follow this link to schedule some time with me or send me a message through the event's portal. Oh! And by all means, even if you're not at the event, feel free to shoot me an email at michael@hyro.ai - the great thing about a virtual event is that we can meet anywhere at any time!


Enjoy the rest of the week, everybody.