To quote the great science fiction writer William Gibson, “the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” That idea was in full bloom at TiEcon 2022, an annual Silicon Valley event that brings together entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and investors with the goal of fostering entrepreneurship.
It was my great privilege to moderate one of the healthcare sessions this year and attend all six provocative discussions in the “Precision Care Unleashed” healthcare track, convened by Dipty Desai of CareAsOne. The track covered the major trends driving healthcare forward: game-changing technology, digital transformation, data readiness, Patient 360, and the long-term outlook for the healthcare and healthtech market.
It was a tour de force on the reinvention of healthcare, which I think we can all agree has been accelerated by the global pandemic. And my main take-away as I mulled over what I had seen, heard, and learned during TiEcon was that, in many ways, it is exactly as Gibson said.
Scaling that distribution of health tech, both the medical science and digital technology, is the next great leap for healthcare. That’s one observation. Here are six more—one for each session that I attended as well as the one I moderated—at this year’s TiEcon conference for healthcare innovators.
1) The Convergence of Data and Technology is Game-Changing
In a visionary opening keynote, "The Future of Health & Medicine: Where Can Technology Take Us?”, Daniel Kraft, the Stanford- and Harvard-trained physician, scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, and innovator, spoke from his unique vantage point as chair of the XPRIZE Pandemic Task Force, chair for medicine at Singularity University, and founder and chair of Exponential Medicine.
Kraft contrasted traditional sick-care with the emerging world of data- and technology-enabled health. In some aspects of medicine, we’re still using fax machines and CD-ROMs to transmit information, and only collecting data intermittently through clinician tests, scans and monitors. This leads to a reductive, reactive mindset that focuses on body parts and symptoms, rather than humans and health.
“The pandemic was a catalyst—think of it as healthcare’s Chief Transformation Officer—sparking a new health age of innovation that will hopefully save many more lives that COVID has taken.” - Daniel Kraft
Meanwhile, the eruption of personalized, continuous, connected data—from wearables, medical implants, rings, social determinants, genomic analysis, etc.,—enables doctors, pharmacists, drug makers, nutritionists, and device manufacturers to promote wellness, diagnose pre-disease, and optimize therapies. Combined with inexpensive, new technologies—AI, augmented/virtual reality, 3D printing, robotics, low-cost smart sensors, etc.—this convergence is disrupting old approaches and creating fields of medicine that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Think of drugs designed on a computer and tailored to an individual’s DNA, socks that can monitor the condition of a diabetic’s feet, or a WAZE-like tool that can guide doctors with evidence-based medicine in real time.
To me, Kraft’s talk hammered home the reality that we already live in a world inundated by data, and our biggest technical challenge today is enabling the right information to be accessed and made useful in the right context. It was also fascinating to think of the way the healthcare system has “lost control” of data. Once it was only collected within the four walls of the hospital and clinic; now it’s increasingly “owned” by the individual. When people are empowered by data with real insights into their own conditions, habits, disease risk, and so on, the line between wellness and healthcare will disappear. We’re going to see different kinds of interactions with the healthcare system, with a growing emphasis on optimizing individual health and addressing personal priorities.
2) Healthcare Will be Digital First, Consumer Always
Prat Vemana is the first chief digital officer at Kaiser Permanente. With 12.5 million members, KP has an economic model that can leverage value-based care, and recognizes that digital transformation is essential to fulfill that promise.
“In the future, every company will be a wellness company.” - Prat Vemana, CDO Kaiser Permanente
In his talk on the “Digital Transformation in Healthcare,” Vemana described how rapidly the change is occurring. The digital doorway is becoming the first point of contact. The industry is shifting from a transactional experience to a consumer experience. Digital tech is meeting health equity challenges. Payer and provider strategic priorities are converging. Retail competitors are changing the nature of competition.
It would be easy, during a period of great technological change, to make missteps. But Vemana believes that if you start with the consumer experience in mind, create scalable platforms for expert/builder collaboration, and measure the value along the way, your transformation strategy will stay on track.
Like Kraft, Vemana emphasized that data and intelligence will empower consumers to make better decisions, and in turn shape the products and services health companies offer.
3) Data Powers Collaboration
I moderated the next panel, “Data Readiness: The Key to Unlocking Industry Collaboration,” which brought Prat Vemana back to talk with Abhinav Shashank, CEO of Innovaccer, about the power of data liquidity. It was a meeting of the minds between leaders representing the creators and consumers of healthcare innovation.
I was struck by the fact that both these creators came from outside healthcare—and both see innovation, collaboration, and the consumer differently than traditional industry insiders.
“Healthcare is the most important thing in our lives, but the industry lacks the data and technology that caregivers need to help patients receive care in the most appropriate ways.” - Abhinav Shashank, CEO, Innovaccer
Shashank set out in his 20s to solve the data liquidity problem in industry generally, but quickly focused on healthcare because of the enormity of the need. Innovaccer’s data platform can get the right information into the hands of the right people at the right time, which also can help improve quality and affordability.
With his perspective from world-class retail organizations, Vemana believes that healthcare’s entire value chain is just as fragmented as its data value chain. For the most part, he believes that incentives are misaligned across the industry, and patients and caregivers pay the price. The shift to value is a game-changer but it’s also critical to put the consumer in the middle of the decision-making and enable everyone and every entity involved in that patients care—health systems, digital startups, payers, life sciences companies, pharmacies—to collaborate.
Shashank and Vemana agreed on the critical importance of bringing stakeholders together digitally to solve the problems that no individual or company can solve on their own. Data platforms can make that collaboration possible, and are driving innovation across the industry at an ever-accelerating pace.
4) Precision Medicine Will Be More Revolutionary Than We Even Thought
For decades, precision medicine has sounded like science fiction. The next panel, “Precision Medicine Unleashed,” described the technologies and the methodologies that are accelerating a paradigm shift in how medicine is practiced. The applications blew my mind.
Moderated by futurist and innovation strategist, Zenia Tata, the panel included four brilliant scientists, Dr. Paul Billings, CEO of Biological Dynamics, Dr. Chris Haqq, chief medical officer at Elicio, Dr. Mahul Amin, VP and medical director at Labcorp, and Dr. Payel Das, manager of deep learning at IBM.
“Precision medicine, which uses genetic, environmental and lifestyle data to tailor therapies to the individual, will transform healthcare for all.” - Zenia Tata, former chief impact officer, XPrize
A convergence of technologies has made precision medicine clinically actionable. Cancers can be diagnosed and even predicted. Tumors can be analyzed by the DNA found in liquid biopsies. Tailored drugs can be developed at an incredibly accelerated pace. Therapies can be targeted to the individual, leading to better outcomes, lower costs and minimal side-effects. And the FDA is helping to speed up adoption of new tools, therapies and medicines.
Throughout history, medicine has been plagued by the ineffectiveness of interventions and the inability to treat certain diseases, like cancer, effectively. Meanwhile, the cost of care and drug development keeps rising. Precision medicine is finally proving its potential by matching tailored therapies to specific individuals. If there’s one thing Silicon Valley has proven it can do well, it’s match-making.
5) Talented People are Drawn to Visionary Healthcare Companies Putting Technology to Work
In the “A Patient 360” session, Lisa Davis, CIO of Blue Shield of California, was under the spotlight directed by Dwight French from Red Hat and Diane Brady of Forbes. Davis’ fascinating background in government intelligence technology made her “sector jump” to healthcare feel all the more inspiring. She saw an opportunity to do good for people in a field she cared deeply about and that fit her values.
“Imagine if we created a healthcare system in which the consumer, the payer, the insurer, and the doctor shared information. We’d get better health outcomes and better experience and we’d ultimately reduce the cost of care.” - Lisa Davis, CIO, Blue Shield of California
It was interesting to hear the health plan perspective on value-based care. Davis commented that payers have a lot of leverage in guiding patients and providers to the right care. To that end, Davis has focused on improving the digital experience of members and network providers with tools and capabilities that bring data sets together and present a holistic health and wellness picture of the patient.
One of the strongest notes in the conversation centered on the importance of attracting talent, particularly women leaders. While there has been progress with more executive and board gender equity, but healthcare leadership generally and technology leadership in particular could do more. Davis has made that part of her personal mission as a healthcare technology leader.
6) When Markets Go Sideways, Smart Capital is More Important Than Ever
Jon Norris, managing director of Silicon Valley Bank, moderated “Investing in the Future of Healthcare, “ a panel of three leading venture capital investors, Shahram Seyedin-Noor, founder and general partner of Civilization Ventures, Dayton Misfeldt, partner at Decheng Capital, and Chirag Shah, principal at Define Ventures.
The range of their firms’ investments highlights the dynamic, innovative future of healthcare. The list includes revolutionary technologies like AI, genomic diagnostics, and synthetic biology engineering, all the way to specialized digital health services like women’s primary care.
“If COVID taught the world anything about our healthcare ecosystem, it’s that when pressed, healthcare can move very quickly.” - Chirag Shah, principal at Define Ventures
The elephant in the room was the correction in the capital markets. Over the past three years, we’ve seen unprecedented investment in and adoption of digital health and life sciences capabilities, as digital transformation sweeps the industry. Part of that flurry of investment came from too much capital chasing too few opportunities, and the participation of non-traditional investors, private equity and hedge funds in earlier stage ventures. Now, the chickens have come to roost for overvalued assets.
None of these investors saw the correction as a bad thing. Some companies will still get the capital they need, while other companies will get the valuations they deserve. Management teams that hit their milestones and remain operationally disciplined will weather the storm. Investors that know healthcare best will prove the value of their partnership. Given the extent of the digital transformation still remaining, healthcare’s appetite for innovation is practically infinite.
Conclusion: The Enhanced Patient Journey
The range of conversations and the display of innovation was head spinning. But as I digested the things I heard, I was struck most profoundly by how different the world will soon feel to the patient.
The paradigm shift from sick-care to healthcare will change the way patients get diagnosed, monitored and treated by the healthcare system. From reactive, episode-driven sick-care, the focus will turn to pro-active and holistic health and wellness over a lifetime. Patients will be informed, engaged, and connected to all their providers across the continuum.
This is only possible because of the convergence of new technologies and the revolution in data-driven collaboration that was on display at TieCON 2022. I can’t wait to see the leaps we make by next year.