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A TRUE Interview with Matthew Holt, Co-chairman and Co-founder of Health 2.0

Matthew Holt is the co-chairman and co-founder of Health 2.0, an organization that showcases and catalyzes new technologies in healthcare. He is the founder and publisher of The Health Care Blog, and contributes to the site frequently. Today, you can follow his musings on the future of healthcare on Twitter, @boltyboy. Holt spoke to Marc Longpré, SVP and partner at FleishmanHillard in San Francisco, about digital health and how companies in the space are communicating to consumers.

  

mholt headshot

Matthew Holt

TRUE: How do you define digital health?

Holt: I think digital health is the wrong term. We ran out of other things to call it, but it means anything that’s digital, including some of the stuff we’re trying to get rid of. I’ve started calling it SMAC health. S is social and sensors, M is mobile, A is analytics and C is cloud. If you think about the new generation of technologies coming into healthcare – whether they’d be on the consumer end or on the enterprise end – they use some form of those five things. That’s how I define digital health.

TRUE: Has the promise of technology improving the patient experience finally arrived?

Holt: I think you can now argue that finally we are making progress. But I think that progress is starting at a very low level. The healthcare system and healthcare organizations are not taxicabs. It’s going to take awhile. But you are seeing three areas where the technology is starting to drive a better patient experience.

The first one is the most obvious, which is the use of online tools for shifting these interactions, so that’s the telehealth stuff. The second is on the provider end, using tools to try to change the patient experience when you get into the provider’s system. The best examples of this are some of the startup urgent care and primary care groups who are able to offer speedy specialty referrals and same day appointments. You’re seeing more and more people trying to build virtual and real time medical groups. The third is the getting you to the right care – thinking about companies like Grand Rounds that are using data to get to the right doctor and then the right diagnosis and finally the right care.

I think all these three are just beginning. So we’re in the middle of the first inning.

TRUE: We’ve seen huge disruption in other industries, but many trying to disrupt the healthcare industry have run into regulatory or compliance hurdles. Is the progress we are seeing now coming from sources that are unique to healthcare?

Holt: You’re seeing startup service organizations as well as straight tech companies. You’re also seeing incumbents trying to offer some of these things either as a defensive or even as an offensive move. That puts health tech companies in a bind, because they aren’t quite sure who their customer is and they are trying to decide. Are they working for the enterprise or are they working for the consumer? That’s a complex equation. Either the market is not that broad or the market changes more slowly. It’s unclear as to how that plays out overall.

I would say though, the biggest opportunity in healthcare is always to strip away profitable patients from expensive places. The most expensive place in healthcare is the hospital.

TRUE: The story around the potential for technology to help the healthcare system and help consumers who are in the system has been convoluted and difficult to tell. How well do you think companies, and the industry as a whole, are communicating the potential benefit to consumers? How might they do better?

Holt: I think healthcare organizations have had a free pass for giving bad customer service for a very long time. Therefore they haven’t had to worry about this too much. Partly that’s down to the historic lack of choice in many areas, and partly it’s down to the organizations not making money directly from consumers. The ones who will do a better job communicating are going to be the ones who are actually trying to fix that. Everyone’s a little scared to say, “You might go to a very famous hospital, but we can do it better, faster, cheaper with better outcomes.” Everyone’s scared to say that because they’re a smaller player. But at some point that’s going to be the answer. You get a better experience, and it’s faster and cheaper to shop at Amazon than it is for you to go to Borders. At some point that’s the conversation.

The industry needs to lay the groundwork and explain what “good” looks like. Only then can you explain that you’re not getting “good” in their current setup.

TRUE: What can we expect? What does this look like in 2020?

Holt: We’re starting the third inning in 2020. The two biggest changes will be the mainstreaming of telehealth. That will not be a fad – it will be happening. The other one will be the mainstreaming of the first generation of wearables. You will be able to see devices around the house that allow you to record diagnostics. You’re just seeing the first generation of that stuff get good; in four years you’re going to see some really interesting stuff. We won’t be able to use it to its full potential. That may be the eighth inning. That changes everything. Continuous monitoring and healthcare by exception, not healthcare by rote. Then you have healthcare when you need it.

TRUE: What are the hurdles that still need to be overcome?

Holt: I think the biggest one is consumer understanding. People understanding about what different experiences could be like. That happened quickly in other areas. That’s the biggest one we need to change. I think it will be changed – it needs more clout from people who care. You’re seeing all the innovation experimentation across the board. The other obvious one is the data mess, but that’s another conversation.

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About the author

Matthew Holt is the co-chairman and co-founder of Health 2.0, and has over 20 years of experience working in health and IT. He started The Health Care Blog in 2003, and founded Health 2.0 in 2007. Through global conferences, developer competitions and leading market intelligence, Health 2.0 promotes innovation and collaboration in the healthcare technology industry.