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Takeaways from the digital health conference

Takeaways from the digital health conference
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A version of this article was originally posted on Chief Healthcare Executive® by editor Ron Southwick, who recently attended the ViVE Conference. This version has been slightly modified.

The ViVE conference is now a memory, and thousands of healthcare leaders seemed to enjoy their time in Music City.

More than 7,500 healthcare leaders from across the country attended the second ViVE conference, well above the 5,000 visitors to the first event last year. ViVE, produced by the College of Healthcare Management Executives (CHIME) and HLTH, has become an annual digital health event. Next year, ViVE is moving to Los Angeles.

Before describing my takeaways, I chose not to include the gruesome fatal shooting of 3 adults and 3 children at the Covenant School.

The horrific event shook Nashville and the entire nation. This disturbed many conference attendees, with some speakers acknowledging the tragedy and the need to address gun violence. ViVE organizers donated $50,000 to families of the victims and also launched a GoFundMe fundraiser.

At such a heartbreaking time, I found it heartening to speak to a number of people – and to hear so many speakers – who genuinely strive to help others, including the most vulnerable among us.

But the shooting is far too important to insert causally into a list of learnings from a health care conference.

ViVE’s roundtables, interviews with health leaders, and discussions with conference attendees contain a lot of interesting information. I leave Nashville with a host of stories that I will post in the days and weeks to come.

But for now, here’s my recap of what I heard, what I learned, and what I hope sticks with me.

1. Staff: Every healthcare leader I’ve interviewed over the past year offered the same answer when asked about talent shortages: It’s a big deal. And leaders said it remained a major concern. Organizations seem to be more receptive to solutions for automating certain tasks, at least in part because they have trouble finding people anyway.

2. Cybersecurity: Clearly, cybersecurity remains a top concern among hospital and healthcare leaders, and a host of companies in the field were present at ViVE. Small wonder. With hundreds of data breaches involving private health data affecting millions of Americans in 2022, cybersecurity and ransomware attacks remain ubiquitous threats.

3. Health equity: This was a major topic at ViVE, with several panel discussions, and health equity is on the minds of many leaders. Even in sessions that did not focus on health equity, presenters recognized the need to close outcome gaps among underserved groups. Equity issues are not new. But several people I spoke with said they see more alignment in the industry to take meaningful action and work across the healthcare ecosystem.

4. Focus on patients and clinicians: Tech companies came to ViVE to showcase digital health products aimed at improving patient care, or at least making it easier for patients to navigate the healthcare system. And these efforts are generally welcomed. But health leaders and panelists advised tech companies to think carefully about making life easier for the doctors and nurses who are expected to use their products. If it adds work to clinicians, health systems will have less interest. I will write more about this in the days to come.

5. Know the company: Healthcare system leaders seem to have less patience for presentations from companies that don’t understand the industry. Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare, returned to a point he brought up at the HLTH conference last fall, though he admitted he got a little criticized for it. He said it’s hard to disrupt the industry from afar. “Tech companies need to immerse themselves” in the healthcare process, Hazen told ViVE.

6. Interoperability: Time and time again, speakers spoke about the importance of sharing data more easily across the healthcare ecosystem to develop a better understanding of patient issues and improve outcomes. Interoperability was a key topic at ViVE and there is a general feeling that it is gaining momentum, although there is impatience for more progress.

7. Mental health: Leaders reiterated that digital health is well suited to help patients struggling with mental health issues and those struggling with addiction. Makes sense, given the shortage of psychiatrists. Some also talked about how digital health can – and should – complement in-person treatment for behavioral health.

8. Regulations and legislation concern: A number of health leaders have raised concerns about proposed regulations that could make it more difficult to prescribe certain controlled substances via telehealth. Some also lamented the addition of regulations on telehealth in general. On the legislative front, a number of people have decried efforts in some states to restrict or outright ban pro-gender care for children.

9. Children: During a panel on health issues affecting children, including the triple demic and mental health, the panelists offered some thoughts that may be of interest to tech companies. They said there is a growing need for digital solutions to help children, but there are fewer tech companies offering products and services aimed at the pediatric market than those developing and marketing solutions for adults. More on this topic next week.

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