3 takeaways from Rock Health Summit 2018

October 22, 2018
George McLaughlin Director of Solutions Marketing

Last week, I had the good fortune of attending the Rock Health Summit in San Francisco. Rock Health, for the very few of you who don’t know, is a seed fund focused exclusively on digital health. They’ve invested in Collective Health, Doctor on Demand, Honor, and many more organizations you’re sure to recognize. By all accounts, they are a savvy early stage VC, but that isn’t why I wanted to attend their conference.

I wanted to attend because I’m a fan of their succinct and useful newsletter and genuinely appreciate their commitment to publishing research. They have a knack for asking interesting questions and putting forth substantial pieces that provide valuable insight. I hoped their conference would be similarly refreshing. Thankfully, it was.

So, without further adieu, here are my top three takeaways from the conference.

Everyone is excited about voice

With all of the investment in digital health, you think there would be more transformative technologies. There certainly is no shortage of clever solutions pushing the industry forward and providing value, but transformative? Telemedicine is the only one that comes to mind as having fundamentally changed the way we provide and receive care at a nearly universal level.

Coming out of #RHSUM18 it sure feels like killer apps leveraging voice recognition are poised to be the next big thing. From Toby Cosgrove of Google (formerly Cleveland Clinic) and Heather Jordan Cartwright of Microsoft touting the potential implications on stage to the side conversations in hallways, it is clear everyone is bullish on voice.

The two primary use cases for voice being talked about last week were:

Drastically reducing the amount of documentation and “clicks” required by providers is a holy grail problem in healthcare. Anything that gets them away from the computer and allows them to act as caregivers will be welcomed with open arms. We’re personally rather excited about Suki and the progress they’ve made. One thing is for sure, whoever figures out how to leverage voice to streamline provider documentation is going to be incredibly successful.

While less clear from a business model perspective, harnessing voice recognition software to build patient engagement tools was a frequent topic of conversation. What exactly the killer app will be remains to be seen, but the potential to streamline documentation, efficiently distribute information, and engage with patients wherever they may be has captured the attention of entrepreneurs and VCs alike. We’re personally intrigued by fellow Pulse alumni, Orbita, and look forward to tracking breakthroughs in this area.

Math is easy, healthcare is hard

During the Breaking through the AI noise panel the incredibly impressive Suchi Saria, PHD, Johns Hopkins University, dropped this gem. What she was getting at, and what was echoed by Sameer Badlani, MD, Sutter Health, was that understanding workflow and users was more difficult than developing algorithms. She cited her work revealing the ability of AI to predict whether a patient is at risk of sepsis and then the ongoing struggle to turn those findings into a usable tool. Even with the backing of a world class institution like Johns Hopkins, these learnings haven’t been operationalized because they haven’t been able to effectively introduce it into the workflow of providers at scale.

Everyone agreed that the term AI had all but lost meaning due to its use as a marketing tool. That being said, they were all bullish on AIs potential to optimize various aspects of healthcare but see the real challenge being, not the math, but the ability to introduce these tools and learnings into workflows effectively.

Keep your eyes on the Medicare Advantage market

Roughly 35% of Medicare beneficiaries, or about 20 million Americans, are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. This number is expected to rise to 38 million, or 50% of the market by 2025 and guess what? Everyone wants a piece of the pie.

Mario Schlosser of Oscar made it clear their investment in the space has been substantial. Clover Health’s strategy has long been tied to the MA market. Now the Park brothers newest venture, Devoted Health, is pushing their chips into the middle as well. That’s three new payers each valued at over $1bn staking their futures on their ability to succeed in the MA market. Combine that with the incumbents and we very well might be witnessing the battleground that informs the future of health insurance.

The Rock Health Summit was, in my mind, the goldilocks of healthcare conferences. Not too big, not too long, not too many different sessions–it all felt just right. If you have the chance to attend in the future I would highly recommend doing so. It certainly left me with plenty to think about.

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