Blog | Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A quick trip to the future

I went to the future yesterday and it was boring.

The CONVERGE conference featured leaders in health care and technology who were very excited about the potential for change and innovation in the industry. But most of the concepts they talked about didn't really disrupt my thinking or enter me into a new space (sorry, everyone at the meeting talked that way). Doctors will be more empathetic and practices will be more focused on patient satisfaction. "Wearables" (like the Fitbit) that encourage you to exercise are cool, but no one's figured out how to make people who aren't already healthy use them. Or to the extent that they have, they'll basically be mini versions of the monitors currently used on inpatients. Insurers want to focus on keeping people healthy by collaborating with physicians and paying for value instead of volume.

Are you asleep yet? I was, just about, when Google took the stage, and the future turned from boring to scary. We heard about Glass, of course, and their forthcoming glucose-measuring contact lens, which are both cool, but then the speaker moved on to talking about engaging patients in their health. A lot of the earlier speakers had been wondering about how to do that. From her examples, it seemed that plenty of companies have already figured it out. An acne medication has convinced teenagers to send in a daily photo of their faces, Johnson & Johnson has pregnant women signing up for daily texts, CVS has youtube videos. Notice the theme? The entities that have people listening to their health advice are actually trying to sell them stuff! I asked the speaker whether it was just me or we should maybe be worried about this. Her answer was, basically, yes, it is concerning. (Kind of kicking myself for not thinking to ask whether she had any solutions.)

For the last talk of the day, we got a report from Medtronic's "Hospital of the Future." Or not so much a report, since all the contents are inconveniently proprietary, as a lecture about how it's full of wonderful innovations. Which also seemed a little scary, since the one innovation that the speaker could tell us has made it from the hospital of the future to the real world (somewhere in Europe) is Medtronic-owned cath labs.

So, to summarize, despite the worries of Obamacare opponents, the future of health care (at least according to this conference) is firmly in the hands of corporations.