New Year, New Insights: Reflections from the 35th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

Wellness_Mobile-Feb Blog While most people are slowly emerging from the holiday haze, the healthcare investment community kicks off January with the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. Originally an investors’ meeting for select public and private healthcare companies, the event – and the ecosystem of smaller conferences that surround it – now bring an estimated 30,000 people to San Francisco. As I took too many Ubers to stay out of the rain that put a literal damper on the conference, I gleaned several insights from my formal and informal conversations.

Data sets are getting bigger, and their value is increasing proportionally: It’s telling that the IBM Watson Health presentation audience spilled out into the hallway, and that the Tuesday lunch keynote was on the genome and the power of the genetic code. One conference theme was the race to build comprehensive data sets that pull in all types of information, including medical, behavioral, pharmacy, social, genetic and financial to feed analytics, artificial intelligence and even virtual reality innovations. For the behavioral health community, the inclusion of both behavioral health data and information on the social determinants of health makes me hopeful that this data gold rush will provide us with more information and tools to better reach and care for members.

Payors and providers are increasingly developing, investing in, and piloting new tools and technologies; these traditional players are driving the healthcare eco-system forward.

Innovation is not just for investors and start-ups any more: The traditional venture and growth-stage investors are no longer the only entities driving change. Payors and providers are increasingly developing, investing in, and piloting new tools and technologies; these traditional players are driving the healthcare eco-system forward. Take AthenaHealth’s More Disruption Please (MDP) accelerator, which partnered with Startup Health for a standing-room-only demo day and networking event, as an example. Avia, a consortium of health systems working together to vet start-ups, is another example, as is marquee partnerships between health systems like Northwell and IT companies like GE. As the behavioral health market thinks about embracing these new innovations, there are many examples from elsewhere in healthcare that serve as good models.

Technology is increasingly an enabler of services: Last year, the conference’s keynote digital healthcare panel included such companies as Omada, a digital tool for diabetes prevention that provides virtual coaching. This year, companies such as Landmark and ChenMed, both of which use technology to better provide high-touch services, took center stage. Given how these models have their roots in programs like the Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), as well as many of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid CMMI Innovation (CMMI) programs targeting the most vulnerable, these models bode well for using technology to better manage a portfolio of community-based behavioral health services.

Behavioral health is increasingly a focus: Throughout the week, I had conversations with entrepreneurs working in the space, investors looking for opportunities, and payers looking to build their capabilities. Many of the non-profit health systems presenting at the conference mentioned mental health as a priority area for 2017. Some of the companies presenting at StartUp Health’s demo day had a mental health or substance use focus or component. In particular, while 2016 saw rising interest in mental health start-ups, particularly those companies offering eCBT, such as IESO or Big Health, the conference highlighted that substance use is now a growing market, with new entrants like Annum. It is exciting to see that the private sector is alongside the public sector in recognizing that by doing well in behavioral health, we improve all health.

These trends suggest many elements coalescing to empower behavioral health – and all of healthcare – to make 2017 a year of meaningful change. I look forward to seeing how these trends will have played out by next January.

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