A Tale of Two Conferences and the Fear of Fragmentation


During the past month, I attended two very different conferences on both coasts.  The first was Health 2.0 ( http://www.health2con.com/past/san-francisco-fall-2010/) in San Francisco where I was again able to present The Prevention Plan during an employer break out session.  The second was The Forum 10 of The Care Continuum Alliance (http://www.carecontinuum.org/theforum10/index.asp)  in DC.  Both are excellent conferences, but while they have many similarities in terms of focus such as, health care, engaging consumers, changing behavior, impacting an individual’s health, to name just a few, they are night and day in terms of the way they are conducted, who they attract and how they view the world.

The Forum 10 is your traditional conference, very formal, solemn and professional presentations by industry representatives showing data and results on how companies and their products impact the health of individuals and the costs of health care to employers and other payers. Health 2.0 is a younger audience, with a vibrant approach showing all kinds of cool “whizbang” products for consumers, employers, doctors, hospitals and others in the health care sector. It’s like West Coast versus East Coast; the high energy entrepreneurial blue jeans of Silicon Valley versus the pinstripe suits of corporate America;  or dare I say Mac versus PC.

Engaging the Consumer

In narrowing my focus to looking only at the concept of engaging the individual to change behavior; which is the holy grail of lowering health care costs and improving productivity, what is most interesting to me is that one group (The Forum 10) has been at it for years and is now beginning to document outcomes and results. The other  (Health 2.0) is about the future, now, and for them there is little talk or thought at this point of whether or not any of this cool consumer engaging stuff really works. Or for that matter if there is any science behind the rationale, let alone what for the consumer appears to be a need to go to 10 different sites for fitness, nutrition, health education, risk identification, decision making support, medication management, PHR, etc. ( I should point out that there were plenty of companies in the physician and other spaces at Health 2.0 that are more rigorous and I am oversimplifying a bit 🙂 ).

Even so, its clear that, whether the cool stuff works or not, the web and services delivered via the web to computers, iPhones, androids, iPads and whatever else is now but a thought in someones head, will remake health care and can have an enormous impact on the individual and their self management of health.

More people are  beginning to take personal responsibility for their health.  In this process they are going to the web and using all sorts of tools and applications being developed by the people presenting at Health 2.0.  On the other hand, those that pay for health care, the employers, insurers and government are looking for validated programs where results can be measured and things like return on investment become important.  This dichotomy is perhaps why the closing panel at Health 2.0, which had some of the leading IT entrepreneurs and Venture Capitol folks (Don Casey CEO, West Wireless; Esther Dyson, Chairman, EDVenture Holdings; Mitchell Kapor, Founder, Kapor Capitol; Lisa Suennen, Managing Member, Psilos Group; and Bryan Roberts, Managing General Partner, Venrock Associates) may have burst a few bubbles (some members of the audience during the question and answer session even complained to the panel that they were not anywhere near as positive as an earlier presentation by Aneesh Chopra, Todd Park and Peter Levin from the White House, HHS and VA respectively. The Politico’s presentation reminded me more of a political rally, but was very good nonetheless).

Members of the Entrepreneur/VC panel stated that they were not that interested in investing in many of the health care companies with direct to consumer products because there were tougher paths to revenue generation as most were looking to ad revenue or other similar models. Panel members further stated they were looking for products and services that could be sold directly to businesses and employers.  This just happens to be the space that the companies attending The Forum 10 have been working in for years.

For these and other reasons, these two thought leading approaches need to be brought together, perhaps not the conferences in the physical sense, but in the collaborative sense because by coming together their impact and success will be far greater.

There is major expertise in both groups and to those attending The Forum 10, we need to look towards Health 2.0 for the entrepreneurial new spirit and vitality of the web and all its wonder. Let’s loosen up a little bit and envision the future, while to those of us at Health 2.0 (I like walking in both worlds),  the companies at The Forum 10 have the relationships, history and metrics to validate the future approaches and they have revenue sources. Remember no margin, no mission.

To my thinking, may the two groups establish strong relationships and build the new health care system. If not, there will be further fragmentation as consumers go online and use all these cool tools and gadgets, all the while generating little revenue for the Health 2.0’ers; while The Forum 10’ers generate revenue working with the same consumers but miss out on the engagement opportunities and cool new stuff that may improve outcomes. If  this coming together does not occur, we will only re-discover what we already know about health care…. fragmentation is costly.

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About Fred Goldstein

President and Founder of Accountable Health, LLC. My background includes over 25 years of health care experience in hospital administration, health plan management, disease management and population health.
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One Response to A Tale of Two Conferences and the Fear of Fragmentation

  1. Great Post Fred!

    An extended thought: while ‘..fragmentation is costly.’ It is also ‘an industry’ with many mouths in the food chain.

    Dis-intermediation may be podium talk with many nodding heads, yet when it comes time to implement the envisioned flat and empowered playing field, many will find ways both passive and aggressive to resist and/or creatively drag their feet.

    Just sayin’…

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