Bryan Spivak, CTO, HHS

So, I am not sure what “Health Refactored” means, but it really doesn’t matter. This is one great conference. Although it is aimed at health innovation developers (and I am not one), there was really something for everyone interested in the transformation of healthcare – or as Eric Topol calls it, “The Creative Destruction of Medicine.” Here are some highlights.

Bryan Spivak, the CTO of the Department of Health and Human Services gave the opening keynote. He talked about something seemingly oxymoronic: Using government to innovate. Until fairly recently, I think it is fair to say, the words innovate and the government did not often appear in the same sentence.

Spivak discussed underutilized assets at HHS available for entrepreneurs to drive innovation. First, he said, there is data – raw, publicly available, and in a machine-readable format. He asked the audience if we had heard of the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES).  Most of us had not.  It turns out it is a dataset of National Provider Identifiers, standard unique identifiers for every health care provider and health plan in the US. Really? He said, and I agree, that all developers should know about this data set and think creatively about how to use it when building healthcare solutions.

He also talked about the Blue Button that allows consumers to access their data at the click of a button. He encouraged the developers in the room to “design the killer app” that encourages consumers to click on it. The Blue Button, he said, is a game changer.

Spivak went on to describe the HHS entrepreneur program that “brings external experts into the Department on a limited time basis to show career staff better ways to do things.”  Applications for the second class of entrepreneurs will soon be open.


Innovative early-stage health tech companies

Next up on the main stage was a panel moderated by Esther Dyson, a well-known investor in early-stage health tech innovations. The two panelists were entrepreneurs Jim Kean (WellnessFX) and Anmol Maden (Ginger io). Wellness FX is a DIY healthcare play with a gigantically disruptive approach to lab diagnostics.  Currently, you have to go to your doctor, get him/her to approve ordering the lab tests you would like. Then you have to go to a lab for a blood draw and wait (and wait) until your doctor has the time to go over the results with you. Wellness FX turns this cumbersome process on its head by letting you order the tests you want (under the supervision of their online doctors). You still have to go to the lab for the blood draw, but when the results are in, they are yours for the taking. Pretty slick.

Ginger io is another disruptive company. Its behavioral analytics platform turns your “smartphone data into health insights.” Mobile sensors and patient-reported data are continuously collected via the smartphone. Analysis of the data, including non-traditional types of data such as measures of social interaction, is providing new correlations with behaviors and behavior change.


The importance of design

The last workshop I want to include in this review of Day 1 is the UI, UX, and U-Design workshop.  The workshop was moderated by Doug Solomon, a Fellow at IDEO, the “human-centered” design company that has helped design such cool things as the Luxura Reusable Insulin Pen and the LifePort Kidney Transporter. Panelists were Aza Raskin, founder of Massive Health and now, after its acquisition by Jawbone, a VP at that company; Alex Tam of Frog Design, Aaron Sklar of Healthagen, and Gretchen Wustrack of IDEO.  Each of the panelists showed examples of how design impacts use.  One of my favorite examples, used by Gretchen, was Bedsider. IDEO worked with the folks at the The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a private non-profit to develop, an online birth control support network for women 18-29. What they came up with is not your Mother’s sex education program.  Rather it is a quirky, fun way to learn about safe sex, including debunking some of the common myths about birth control (e.g., you can’t get pregnant if you have sex in a hot tub).


It’s a keeper

So, altogether a great way to spend a sunny Monday in Silicon Valley. I think this conference is going to be a keeper for the good folks of Health 2.0. Thanks to Indu Subayu, Matt Holt, and Jean-Luc Neptune for putting this together.