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The Chief Content Officer for a New Healthcare Conference Shares Her Perspectives on Needed Conversations in the Industry

March 23, 2018
by Mark Hagland
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Constance Sjoquist, the chief content officer at HLTH, shares her perspectives on what it is that the HLTH Conference’s leaders are hoping to bring to the industry in Las Vegas in May

A new conference, “HLTH: The Future of Healthcare,” will take place May 6-9 at the Aria Resort and Casino hotel in Las Vegas. Healthcare Informatics is a media partner with the New York-based HLTH, an organization created a year ago, and which is focused on bringing forward a unique, c-level conference, for policy leaders, provider leaders, payer and purchaser leaders, pharmaceutical executives, vendor executives, venture capital funders, and many others connected to the future of healthcare, and which is the developer of the new conference.

HLTH is the brainchild of Jonathan Weiner, a well-known investor who has created similar conferences in the financial technology (fintech) sector. Weiner joined Oak HC/FT, described on its website as “a premier venture capital fund investing in early to growth stage tech-enabled companies investing in Healthcare Information & Services (“HC”) and Financial Services Technology (“FT”),” as a venture partner in 2014, after a stint as head of Global Business Development for Google Wallet and Payments, and a long track record of creating and managing new ventures in a variety of industries. As Weiner explains on HLTH’s website, “Healthcare needs its own forum. HLTH is my third industry-building initiative designed from the ground up around the technologies and trends that are completely reshaping how the ‘hard’ conversations take place and how actionable solutions are shared. Key to our approach is the inclusion of representatives from across the healthcare continuum that are providing tech-enabled services to drive efficiencies and better health outcomes. In attendance,” he notes, “will be key players, including providers, employers, policy makers, disruptive startups, established vendors, and leading investors. None of the companies—whether startups or established players—bringing these disruptive innovations to market have achieved their full potential. But the implications of their business models and the relentlessness of their teams mean that they will increasingly define the future of healthcare.”

HLTH was created in March 2017. One of its early hires was Constance Sjoquist as chief content officer. Sjoquist had served as an analyst at Gartner for a number of years. A July 2017 press release stated that “HLTH, the first-of-its-kind event covering the innovation in healthcare that is driving substantial reduction in costs and dramatic increase in quality, today announced Constance Sjoquist has been appointed Chief Content Officer. Sjoquist has extensive experience helping companies—payers, providers, employers, pharma, technology vendors, start-ups, investors, and government entities – navigate the complex healthcare landscape and reimagine their path forward.”

In the press release, Weiner stated that, “Given Constance’s deep healthcare expertise, she understands the most significant challenges facing the complex healthcare ecosystem today and has the ability to look outside the industry and reimagine what’s possible. For HLTH,” he said, “Constance is leaning on this ability and expertise to structure the event in a way that delivers value to each attendee, incites participation and spurs transformation. Her unique understanding of the people that need to be brought together will ultimately spur dialogue, partnerships and action that will drive the industry forward.”

Sjoquist spoke recently with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding the development of the conference, and its content. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Tell me about the origins of the conference, and how its content has taken shape?

I was introduced to Jonathan Weiner through a phone call out of the blue. He said, ‘Your name’s come up, you’ve written a lot in healthcare.’ This was over a year ago. He shared his background, and talked about how he had developed fintech content early on, such as around the use of debit cards in retail. And he developed TxVia, which was a mobile platform for mobile payment, for the Android; thinking about how fintech could solve problems for the unbanked. Google ended up acquiring that business, and he led Google Wallet development for a few years. He was an entrepreneur, investor, etc., and was always going to events to meet people, network, and so on. And he found it really unsatisfying that there were all these separate events, siloed events, within industries.

So he started a trade organization that’s still in place today, and eventually put together a marketing organization to promote investment in fintech. And he came up in 2012 with a new catalyst model for a fintech conference. He started out the conference with a hackathon, which is now the world’s largest hackathon in fintech. Within that structure, too, they created a blockchain hackathon before that was well known. And it’s called Money2020. And it’s still the one place where the CEOs, disruptors, incumbents, policy people, in fintech, anyone thinking of taking advantage of new ways of thinking, innovating, partnering.

So Money2020 was the model for the development of this conference. Money2020 has created a variety of mechanisms to ensure maximum interaction among attendees. They have double-opt-in, to help people determine whether an investment is the right fit. And they have a hosted buyer program, where procurement people will submit budgets, real timelines and needs, and we offer for them to attend at no cost, if they meet with six to eight companies. So all the sponsors of this event have an opportunity to meet with buyers. And that’s really valuable, because as you know, it’s really hard for the vendors to meet with the responsible people who might buy their services.

So Jonathan decided you needed to have this matchmaking component, but also content: the most forward-thinking content, with the highest level of professional title, so that people can hear from the people who will actually change the industry—the decision-makers and leaders. So, we’ll have over 100 sessions, over 300 speakers at the c level, in areas from technology, policy, strategy, new products—every speaker is chosen on their merit. We base it on merit: tell us what you’re doing that is innovative, disruptive, transformative, newsworthy. We bring on these 300-some speakers, put them into sessions—it’s like a bingo card of all the things that matter.

I was an analyst at Gartner, and had a pretty good perspective on the parts of the industry, the partners, the future elements that would hit us. So the content is what we lead with. The speakers are the evidence of the content. And media will come because there are all these amazing people who are going to announce things. And that means that people will be on their best game. And that all makes it a catalyst event. It’s a newsworthy experience that takes place over the course of four days. And Jonathan takes up all the hotel, restaurant space, meeting space, and this whole model is meant to say this is an ecosystem event, this is the industry as it’s going forward, and these are the meetings and types of content that have to take place for the industry to move forward.

And everyone who wants to participate steps up. And Money2020 started in 2012. And ShopTalk, the second event, put in place in 2015, is in its third year, on two continents, with all the important decisionmakers and disruptors, in retail digital commerce, with the same concept.

So that brings us to healthcare. After Jonathan left Google, he became a founder of Oak HC/FT, a VC firm, and they’re in fintech and healthcare in the US. They brought Jonathan on as one of their managing partners. They had invested in his business, so he became a partner in their fintech side, and as he was learning about healthcare, he asked, where do people go for their one catalyst event? There’s J.P. Morgan, but it’s kind of mayhem. I’ve been out there. And there are small events, like Health Evolution Summit. And then there are the big events, like HIMSS, AHIP, and 500 siloed events across different areas like Medicare, policy, etc. And so he decided to create HLTH.

And he shared with me the background of all of this. And I was writing about the things we should be doing in healthcare. I was writing things in healthcare that got the attention of a lot of the vendors and the VCs. VCs and investors would call me, asking how they could apply their particular solutions to healthcare. So I was helping the industry to understand that we could think about healthcare the same way we thought about fintech, retailing, etc. And we have these high-falutin’, high-tower ideas. But I was getting down to specifics in terms of the scope. People in the industry didn’t even understand the scope of the venues for solutions. I was writing white papers around the different areas, the different ways in which solutions could be used.

What really caught my attention was when Jonathan said to me, “In 2012, I created, in ShopTalk, the event I wanted to attend myself.” And I myself was always attending healthcare conferences that weren’t interesting enough to keep me off my smartphone. And when he said, “I want to create an event for healthcare that is the kind I’d like to attend,” I said, “I’m in.” People want something new, and they’re very ambitious for change. But there’s been no venue for this. People sort of point to policy as the problem, when that’s simply not true; you can change policy, by the way. There are a lot of educated people in healthcare. We don’t need to belabor the fact that there are problems. We need speakers to stop telling us what’s wrong.

I don’t need to be educated. Instead, I’m going to give you ten minutes to share with the audience what you’re doing to change things—a mini-TEDTalk. Take off your title, your brand, your agenda, and tell this audience what you would do to change healthcare. And if you can’t articulate that, you probably won’t be back here next year. And everybody’s been asked to put something on a list that we’ll put out to media, announcements. And the announcements don’t have to be about product releases; they’re about ideas. We need to get the ideas out. And if we can do this in a series of iterations that can improve year over year, imagine how fast the industry can change towards what we all think is possible.

We’re an incredibly siloed industry. Even the tracks at conferences speak to that.

Exactly. And someone will say, “Well, I’m not policy.” But I’ll say, “I’m going throw you into policy, so you can speak with the HHS officials.” And I’ll also tell them, you don’t know who will be in the audience—investors, VC people, solutions people, policy people. And people may end up in the wrong room. I’m telling speakers we want people to feel they’re always in the right room. And the conversation has to be more systemic than ever. Don’t tell me about your AI [artificial intelligence] technology; I want to find out how AI technology is moving forward various payment models. So why something matters needs to be part of the conversation. In the end, we want to improve healthcare, to improve outcomes for people, improve the system. That’s the endgame.

Are you attracting audience from across the sectors of healthcare? And what size of audience are you anticipating?

Oh yes. We followed the blueprint of 2020 and ShopTalk, in that way. We’re hoping for a few thousand attendees this year, and to grow from there. Above all, we want the Who’s Who to be there. And I’m just amazed at the caliber of people registering; we’re seeing a very high level of attendee. Most people are chief-something; they have a title that warrants them attending at an event of this caliber.

We’ll also have people coming in from outside the industry—from companies like Uber, Lyft, Nokia, FitBit, Garmin, Comcast, Sodexo, companies not normally in healthcare, but know this is all related. We have people connected to the social determinants of health. That again goes back to this bingo card concept. In the end, how can I change healthcare? And you have to get people to stop saying what’s safe and to start saying what the problem and opportunity are. And if we didn’t have this risk-averse mentality, of course, we could move faster.

Healthcare has always been a risk-averse industry, broadly speaking.

Absolutely. Many CEOs are stuck, and they’re comfortable with it. There’s a good portion of the industry that doesn’t have to do anything, and the money still comes in. And Kodak is a good example of a company that didn’t pay attention to digital photography, and they were gone. Now they’ve come back as a digital company.

What kinds of conversations do you think attendees will have that will be different?

The reason I joined HLTH is, not only can I go to the event I want to attend, also, all these people who share new ideas, will be gathered together. And there will be so many presentations and conversations that attendees will be like, wow, I need to rethink where I invest, and where my organization is going. And in addition to the curated events for hosted buyers, etc., on top of that content, should leave people unsettled but also hopefully, super-excited about what’s possible for them going forward.





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Take the Lead to Deploy Emerging Technologies for Improved Outcomes

December 14, 2018
by Brad Wilson, Industry Voice, former CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
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It is a thrilling time to work in healthcare. As the former CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross N.C.), I have had the opportunity to be at the forefront of using new technologies to improve outcomes for our members. Now as a member of the CitiusTech advisory board, I continue that focus on emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), and the potential to accelerate the shift to value-based care and improve the healthcare system in material ways.

AI is starting to make a distinct impact in helping providers deliver more effective care, lower costs and create a more consumer-friendly healthcare system. Blue Cross NC recently piloted the use machine learning, a type of AI, to identify spikes in prescriptions for a costly medication. The company reached out to doctors who had been prescribing the medicine in significant numbers. Alerting just one particular physician practice to a generic equivalent brought estimated annual savings of $750,000 for Blue Cross NC customers. The potential of AI is not measured only in dollars, but cost savings are an important consideration.

Machine learning works by applying sophisticated algorithms to rich datasets from electronic medical records (EMRs), patient-reported data, claims and a host of other sources. To be successful, this requires both access to data and significant investment to support the depth and breadth of data analytics capacity and capability.

Yet, historically, one of the biggest barriers to value-based models has been providers’ and payers’ possessiveness of their own data. There is a good business reason for that possessiveness: competitive advantage. The different parts of the healthcare system do not want competitors to use shared data to steal business. But the guarding of data drives healthcare costs higher and, more importantly, makes delivering better, more personalized healthcare more difficult. In the past, power came from hoarding information; today, there is power in serving as an information hub.  Healthcare providers and payers are starting to understand this and there is more willingness to work together in sharing what has traditionally been closely held information.

As consumers’ voices gain in numbers and decibels, it’s clear that analytics technologies that can lead to better care at lower cost are desperately needed, particularly for payers. But the entire healthcare industry needs to move more rapidly. Health plans need to enrich, deepen and widen their analytics capabilities as quickly as possible. If they don’t, we will continue to see disruptors like Google, Apple, and Amazon enter the healthcare market—companies that have a demonstrated ability to be nimble and maximize the impact of their data.

For both providers and payers, forward-thinking organizations recognize that building their own data analytics solutions is not always the answer. Often there is not enough time, resources or enough of the right talent to deliver the capacity and capability required. Fortunately, robust turnkey solutions coupled with deployment expertise are available to efficiently and cost-effectively integrate data and analytics within an organization’s clinical, financial and administrative processes.

As health plan executives map out their strategic plans, look to these emerging technologies as accelerators for leveraging data to manage risk, optimize performance, engage consumers, enhance population care, and improve clinical outcomes to reduce readmissions and further drive evidence-based medicine. The opportunity is here to transform healthcare delivery in significant ways. Success will go to those organizations that understand the potential of these new technologies and take the lead to deploy them effectively—today. 

Brad Wilson is former CEO at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and as a member of the new CitiusTech Advisory Board. Mr. Wilson joined Blue Cross NC in 1995 as General Counsel and held a variety of senior-level positions before being named CEO in 2010. Under his leadership, Blue Cross NC grew to a $9 billion company serving over 3.8 million customers. Mr. Wilson has also served as Director of the BCBS Association, AHIP and numerous other national and state healthcare organizations.


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Investors Have Strong Interest in HIT Sector, Despite Valuation Concerns

December 13, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Healthcare IT remains a hot investment sector despite concerns about these companies being overvalued, according to KPMG-Leavitt Partners 2019 Investment Outlook, a survey of health care investment professionals.

Looking ahead to 2019, more than a third of respondents (34 percent) said they were most interested in investing in health care IT, followed by care management (31 percent), home health (23 percent), retail-centric medical groups (22 percent) and primary care practices (21 percent).

New York City-based KPMG and Leavitt Partners, based in Salt Lake City, surveyed 175 respondents online from corporations, health systems, investment banks, venture capital and private equity firms between September 17, 2018 and October 21, 2018. Of those surveyed 32 percent were C-suite executives; 29 percent were principal, partner or managing director; 32 percent were vice president or director; 6 percent were analysts/associates and 2 percent held other titles.

“We are not surprised by the great deal of interest in health care IT and care delivery outside the hospital,” Governor Mike Leavitt, founder of Salt Lake City-based Leavitt Partners and former Utah Governor and U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary said in a statement. “As health care continues to march toward value, the emphasis on moving care to lower cost sites and enhanced coordination will continue, and those who can increase quality and lower cost will win.”

According to an October report from Rock Health, 2018 is already the most-funded year ever for digital health startups. Digital health funding in this past third quarter soared to $3.3 billion across 93 deals, pushing 2018 funding to $6.8 billion, already exceeding last year’s annual funding total, which was $5.7 billion, by more than a billion dollars.

Drilling down into respondents’ predictions for investment activity in 2019, in the health care and life sciences market, 96 percent of respondents see either a lot or a moderate amount of investment in health IT and data next year, while a similar percentage (90 percent) see significant or moderate investment in outpatient services. Forty-four percent forecast a lot of investment in post-acute care services, 39 percent predict significant investment in provider services and about a quarter of respondents believe there will be a lot of investment in managed public programs, payer service providers and pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers. Eighteen percent believe there will be significant investment in medical device and diagnostics and medical equipment.

The survey results indicate there is concern that health IT is overvalued, yet investors believe there is some room to climb.

The majority of investment professionals see health care IT investments as an overvalued sector (64 percent), yet 40 percent expect the valuations to increase in 2019 while 51 percent see them staying the same. About two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) think the health IT sector will grow faster than the market in 2019, and three quarters of investment professionals see increasing competition in the health IT market. Investors also estimate that the average purchase price multiple, in terms of EBITDA, will be 12.5 for the health IT sector in 2019. Survey respondents expect ongoing demand for tools to help with consumerism will impact investment and deal making in the sector, according to the survey.

About four in ten respondents believe the healthcare market is experiencing a “moderate bubble,” while 9 percent believe the bubble will likely burst.

Care management solutions for risk-bearing providers, a highly competitive sector which helps coordinate care of the chronically ill or seriously injured, are expected to be the second highest sector for investment behind health care IT, similarly driven by trends of consumerism and increased focus on early care interventions.

Looking at potential drivers of M&A activity in the health care and life sciences sector in the coming year, 64 percent of respondents cited cost consolidation and economies of scale, while 45 percent cited accretive acquisition strategies. Forty percent of respondents see changing payment models as a driver of M&A activity, and 38 percent cited pressure from competition. Other drivers cited by respondents include expansion/divestiture of service areas (25 percent), geographic expansion/contraction (24 percent), revenue synergies (22 percent), need to deploy cash on balance sheet (17 percent), and regulations and legislation (13 percent).

“Deals are largely being driven by the need for savings, economies of scale, and improving cash flow or accretive earnings per share,” Carole Streicher, Deal Advisory leader for healthcare & life sciences at New York City-based KPMG, said in a statement. “Secondarily, there is a bit of a defensive posture motivating investments as health care organizations contend with competition and reimbursement models connected to quality and efficiency, as well as the entrance of tech firms investing in the sector.”


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Report: Massachusetts General Hospital Targeting Various Blockchain Use Cases

December 7, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
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Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers are partnering with MediBloc, a Korean healthcare blockchain company, with the aim to improve patient data sharing and storing, according to an article in CoinDesk.

Per the article, the Laboratory of Medical Imaging and Computation by MGH and Harvard Medical School will be escalating research in a variety of broad areas “from medical image analysis to health information exchange by leveraging our cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning,” according to Synho Do who is the laboratory’s director.

Do specifically told CoinDesk, “In collaboration with MediBloc, we aim to explore potentials of blockchain technology to provide secure solutions for health information exchange, integrate healthcare AI applications into the day-to-day clinical workflow, and support [a] data sharing and labeling platform for machine learning model development.”

Interestingly, MGH won’t be using any real patient data for its research, but rather simulated data, according to officials, since the various institutions that have the real patient data keep it in a way “that can’t be shared securely and often is in various incompatible formats.”

MediBloc’s CEO noted that the company is not only developing a distributed ledger for storing and sharing medical data, but also working on a tool that would convert data now held by hospitals from existing formats to a universal one, per the article.

For this initiative, MediBloc has already gotten partners across Asia, including eight healthcare organizations and 14 technology companies, officials said.

Earlier this year, a testing environment version of the blockchain was launched, and the network is expected to go live before the end of the year before becoming fully functional in the second quarter of 2019. Furthermore, there are also apps in the works that are planning to go live next year, with one of them, currently in a beta testing phase, “designed for patients to sell the information about their symptoms and the prescriptions they get to MediBloc. After that MediBloc will analyze that data and sell the analysis to pharmaceutical and insurance companies,” according to the story.

In the end, the main goal of the blockchain project will be to let patients independently decide what to do with their information.

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