HealthSparq CEO Shares Thoughts from 2018 Oliver Wyman Innovation Summit

Great conferences help you connect and be inspired. Last week’s Oliver Wyman Innovation Summit did just that. And since the conference wrapped up, I’ve been thinking about Bill Gates’ quote from his book, The Road Ahead, where he discusses the evolution of personal computing: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

Many of us in this space have been working hard to make health care truly consumer-focused, but frankly, haven’t had the success we want. It feels like we are perpetually in the overestimating two-year period.

Part of this is due to the current system. Think of the days of mainframe computing. Companies invested large amounts of capital into “big iron,” and people had to come to them and wait their turn. Sounds a lot like health care today, doesn’t it? But as that old technology changed and improved, I have hope that health care can, as well. From mainframes to the cloud, technology is radically different. Advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics offer us a chance to distribute the settings of care into communities and homes in ways that previously did not exist.

Ellen Kelsay, Chief Strategy Officer for the National Business Group on Health, shared in her Summit session, “When Health and Wellness Collide: Who Will Address Tomorrow’s ‘Point Solution’ Integration,” something that industry insiders sometimes forget. She said, “people don’t want to be engaged with their health care, they want to be empowered.” I would take it a step further and say people don’t want to deal with health care at all. They want to be healthy and completely avoid interacting with the “system.”

This is where the real challenge lies. How do we integrate health and wellness into people’s lives where they don’t think of it distinctly as “health care,” but rather just something they do? Ideas around doctors prescribing healthy food and insurers paying for or subsidizing that food is one intriguing idea. Another is the ability to perform diagnostics at home, creating convenience for the person and generating valuable real-time data for care givers. Or perhaps a robot that not only monitors patients at home but provides companionship and empathy. All these things are happening today and I believe have a chance to truly change health care.

Ultimately, health care is a huge space with lots of room to improve the experience for people. The keys to real change are going to be moving from the edges to the middle and finding a way to help people stay healthy without them having to “engage” in health care. We must overcome the fatigue people experience from interacting with so many different tools, systems, education solutions, apps and so on. It’s no wonder it’s so hard to get people engaged when the ecosystem of health care is confusing and cluttered.

Back to my Bill Gates’ quote: Assuming he is right, I hope the 10-year clock has been ticking for a while, and we are about to see significant changes in our industry. I believe this is the case and am proud of the work we are doing at HealthSparq to accelerate these changes by creating solutions that are people-focused, easy to integrate and highly-extensible via APIs. Here’s to that future, hopefully arriving sooner rather than later.