HLTH: Uncovering Innovations to Help Patients with Immune-Mediated Diseases

By Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA | Published 12/11/2019 0

the stage at HLTH VRTL 2020 healthcare in a post-COVID-19 world

Photo from Dr. Feldman with permission from HLTH

What does the future of healthcare offer for chronic autoimmune and inflammatory disease?  Having just come back from the Personalized Lifestyle Medical Institute functional medicine thought leaders conference (PLMI), I was curious to find out what HLTH had in store.

Although there were no sessions specifically focused on autoimmune patients, I was inspired nevertheless, when at every meal, the people on my right and left knew someone with an autoimmune disease. It’s clear that chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases are slowly increasing in industry awareness.

With 6200 attendees from all over the world attended this year’s HLTH conference: Create Health’s Future. It has quickly emerged as one of the healthcare industry’s leading gatherings.

The conference featured an impressive list of speakers from many sectors, including:

  • Payers
  • Providers
  • Big Tech
  • Biotech

It also attracted researchers and companies focused on a specific area, such as the microbiome, digital therapeutics, care coordination and so much more. This wide assortment of viewpoints with a shared goal of building the future of healthcare provided a rich networking environment for participants.

I attended the conference with my autoimmune patient hat on. I was seeking a sweet spot where consumer wellness and maximizing well-being for people with chronic disease overlap. I was pleased to find some amazing innovations that will be useful for patients with immune-mediated diseases.

Autoimmune patients are frustrated with the status quo

My conversations with autoimmune patients have revealed widespread frustration with the lack of care coordination and collaboration between and among their primary providers and various specialists (Rheumatology, Gastroenterology, Immunology, etc.). This is an obvious target for better technology.

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Another source of frustration and sub-optimal quality of life is that most autoimmune patients struggle to find appropriate, supportive physical therapy and exercise modalities and programs.

Autoimmune patients are especially likely to suffer from intolerance at exercise levels normal people are comfortable with. Therefore, chronic immuno-inflammatory patients and their providers need more customized and personalized approaches to movement as therapy.

Bridge Connector helps put data around the patient

As shown below, Bridge Connector, an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) company, enables development, execution, and governance of workflows connecting any combination of on-premise and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations.

Speaking with Jason Raphael, The Chief Delivery Officer of Bridge Connector, “breaking down walls of connection while putting data around the patient. Their soon to be launched product, Destinations, is designed to enable the citizen integrator.  His descriptions left me hopeful that tech companies are finally identifying problems that are important to autoimmune patients. 

It is the first middleware without coding to create an Integration Platform as a Service.  Its customers include hospitals, post-acute facilities, behavioral health, specialty care, and new technology start-ups.

Photo from HLTH

Kaia helps chronic pain patients with home exercise and rehab

On a related note, many autoimmune patients could use better tech for home exercise and rehab. This is why Kaia’s AI home exercise coach, the Motion Coach ™  excited me. Interestingly, it started as a business-to-consumer model and has transitioned to a business-to-business model, selling to self-insured employers and health plans for chronic low back pain.

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As shown below, the Motion Coach acts similarly to a “virtual physical therapist” correcting and helping to mediate the patient’s home exercise program. An independent randomized clinical trial recently published in Nature found Kaia Health’s app-based exercise therapy for lower back pain (LBP) to be an effective treatment for patients. It could be more effective than a standard strategy of individual physiotherapy sessions paired with online education. More studies are underway to further explore these results, with even larger sample sizes.


There are 3 components to the program, which is a digital version of multimodal pain therapy:

    • Education-using all types of digital media
    • Relaxation- includes meditation, breathing, progressive muscle relaxation
    • Physical exercises, which can be done with the help of Motion Coach to ensure proper execution- there are no sensors, just the phone

Photo from HLTH

Beyond remote exercise coaches, exciting future technology is the creation/discovery of digital biomarkers, which could track disease progression as well as record snapshots of users’ ability to perform ADL (activities of daily living). 

I would love to see Kaia expand to include other movement therapies such as Gyrotonic, Feldenkrais, and others.

ClassPass helps promote fearless experimentation

For those who prefer in-person exercise, perhaps ClassPass is a viable option to encourage fearless experimentation. ClassPass is a monthly membership program that allows users to attend classes from multiple studios, gyms, and wellness partners.

Like other aggregated marketplaces, it offers users discounted prices, but it’s different from an offering like Groupon because it is focused on habituation, with more variety in wellness choices.

Similar to Kaia’s business model transition, according to Jennie Aberle, the Strategic Accounts Director of ClassPass “exercise has become one component of the larger growing health and wellness trend, so that 2 years ago ClassPass went B2B in corporate wellness.”  She continued, “I love fitness and wellness and love the idea that HR leaders are looking for something that works.”

With 26,000 partners in 27 countries, ClassPass makes it easy to find a class either at home or when traveling. Over the years we learned that “location, convenience, variety, and cost are key to making it easy for people to participate in a fitness class.”  We would like to see ClassPass extended to an even more diverse selection of studios as well as other studios specializing in small, personalized exercise classes.


Photo by HTH

After interviewing Bridge Connector, Kaia and ClassPass, I remain hopeful that the emergence of consumer wellness as a trend, will become more relevant to those who manage chronic diseases in the future.

Brief sidebar: Consumer brands and healthcare

Before closing, I must include a brief sidebar on consumer brands and healthcare. One noteworthy session at the conference was a discussion of on-demand personalized health with Lyft, Mastercard, and Bose.

At another time I would have wondered what these consumer brands were doing at a healthcare conference, but with the entrance of Google, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway into healthcare, it is no longer surprising.

  • Lyft became the first on-demand transportation company to be designated as a covered option for eligible Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Bose Health is focusing on hearing loss (a growth industry for aging rock ‘n’ roll Boomers). 
  • Mastercard has launched an integrated healthcare product suite. It is basically smart cards for payments, flexible spending management as well as abuse, fraud, and waste reduction.

Going Forward

Next year at HLTH, it would be great to see some sessions specifically dedicated to improving care coordination and collaboration for those with immune-mediated diseases.  Thus creating customized exercise programs for those dealing with the chronic pain and fatigue associated with these diseases.

Other Articles by this author:
Millions with Autoimmune Disease Need a Better Solution
How Movement Therapy Can Help You Overcome Chronic Pain

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Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA

Website: http://www.drbonnie360.com

Dr. Feldman is an autoimmune patient advocate and an expert in digital health, the oral and gut microbiomes, and immune-mediated diseases. She is a frequently invited speaker and panelist at national and international conferences including TEDx, SXSW, and Stanford Medicine X.

Currently, she is the Founder and CEO of Your Autoimmunity Connection, a consultancy that through research, consulting, and other professional services, assists clients offer innovative products and services to people with chronic immuno-inflammatory diseases.

Previously, Dr. Feldman was a practicing clinical dentist. As a dentist, she built two dental practices and a consulting business from scratch. Then, armed with an MBA in finance from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, she worked on all sides of the Wall Street equation - sell side, buy side, and investor relations.

Her multimedia work has appeared in numerous online venues such as Forbes, Medium, Tincture, and Thrive Global. She has also been featured in podcasts and documentaries, written various white papers demonstrating deep subject expertise, and created presentations and blog posts that demonstrate her exceptional skills in the art of science storytelling.

Motivated by her desire to help future generations thrive, Dr. Feldman takes her four lenses (dentist, Wall Street analyst, digital health consultant, and patient) to seek out solutions that provide the best of conventional, functional, and digital medicine to improve chronic disease management for all patients.

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