As California geared up for Fleet Week, we brought the health parade to the very plush ‘Hangar’ at GE Ventures in Menlo Park on Oct 4th. There’s a jet engine in the Boardroom - this Hangar means business. HXLGG California was a coming together of the ever expanding HealthXL community to discuss healthcare, technology and everything in between. In this week’s blog, we give you the lowdown on the who, what, where and how.
#1 Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) deserves greater adoption and destigmatization
Lipi Roy, Clinical Assistant Professor NYU Langone Health, made a case for FDA approved, evidence-based medications such as methadone, bupenorphine and naltrexone that have been around for the longest time. They aid in bringing users out of opioid use disorder by binding to the same receptors (except naltrexone, which is an antagonist) as other opioids without the associated euphoric effects. It is not as crass as ‘giving drugs to drug users’. Molly Coye, who is on the Board of Aetna, highlighted how long this has been around for, and yet, we see low adoption among clinicians. A number of doctors don’t know how to prescribe MAT and best practices in management of OUD. Dissemination of information and education to all stakeholders is the missing piece. Yuri Maricich, CMO of the prescription digital therapeutic, Pear Therapeutics, showed us how technology can go hand-in-hand with medication in aiding the recovery from opioid addiction. Their solution, reset-O, works by offering CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to assist in the psychological recovery of the patient. Dan Knecht, Head of Clinical Strategy at Aetna outlined some of the ways in which health plans can make MAT and treatments for OUD accessible and widely available to patients. Aetna is seeing progress on its opioid strategy to prevent misuse and abuse, intervene in risky behavior and support members with access to evidence-based treatments. We realize it isn’t enough to bring a group of physician advocates without understanding the needs of the end users - someone who has been through this journey. Jessica Moss, who used to be an opioid user and now proudly sober, challenged our panel about the use of medication to revive people in addiction - as someone who used to be capable of abusing methadone or bupenorphine, she gave us food for thought about some of the challenges in prescribing MAT. All in all, a stimulating and educational conversation for our gathered attendees.
#2 Technology for the sake of technology won’t enable adults with dementia
There are many shiny products out there to support seniors living with dementia. However, a number of them suffer from not being user-centric, and not putting the needs of the patient first. Also read as ‘what do we think will be useful to you and help us grow a business’. Dissuading that notion are GrandPad who have built a dementia-friendly tablet (yep, hardware + software - no tiny charging points or buttons, no small text) that adults with dementia are happily using all over the USA. GrandPad helps seniors connect with their loved ones. Kerry Burnight moved from academia to the private sector to bring GrandPad to life and place it into the hands of older adults. Rajiv Mehta, CEO of Atlas of Caregiving emphasized on the role of the caregiver in the life of an adult with dementia, and asked to shift the focus from health professionals. He emphasized the importance of tools for measurement and data analysis. Tools meant primarily for those workers. Only they, not distant experts, have the tacit knowledge for interpretation and action. Tech or no tech, there is no care without the caregiver. This coming from an ex-techie, you better believe it! Sean Hogan, GM of IBM Watson Healthcare & Lifesciences, who is personally and professional interested in this area, challenged the panelists on whether we were even addressing the right challenges by laying a focus on technology to enable people with dementia. At the end of the day, we were in the epicenter of Silicon Valley and our audience included pharma, med device and investors, so it wouldn’t be lost to explore the opportunity for them in dementia care. Jennifer Liao heads BD at Evidation Health, the Silicon Valley start-up that is doing some cool data analytics work in health. From having worked with a number of adults with dementia on studies they analysed, she found them to not only be very receptive to using technology, but also spent the time and effort to learn the correct ways to do so. That is promising. Richard Caro heads up The Longevity Explorers community that includes circles of older adults who meet regularly face-to-face, as well as a larger “virtual” community of explorers who participate via the Tech-enhanced Life website and email. Lisa Weitzman is a care worker at the Benjamin Rose Aging Institute and gave a voice to the patient, much like Jessica on the previous session. Lisa spoke of the realities on the ground that she sees everyday, and how we cannot forget that this is a human problem that needs humane approaches. Social isolation is the root cause of worsening severity of cognitive decline, and that, is a problem we can and should do something about. Our panelists sure did have their mike drop moments.
#3 Digital Therapeutics are on the brink of unleashing their potential
Digital health evangelists Lisa Suennen of Venture Valkyrie fame and Bob Kocher, Partner at Venrock Healthcare had a fun chat to explore everything DTx (digital therapeutics). From defining it to understanding if they are ready to work as standalone treatments, from questioning the ridiculous amounts of money being pumped into the industry to whether consumers are ready for DTx (or we are still waiting for physicians to bless the products) - no stone was left unturned. Bob recognized Florida Blue as an organization worth emulating for their initiatives in health innovation. They also delved into the prescription and reimbursement landscapes, value based care, pharma- DTx partnerships. Lisa being Lisa challenged every assumption, and Bob being Bob gave us confidence in the opportunity they hold. As an investor in the space, and a seasoned physician, Bob can see that once DTx crack the regulatory and reimbursement codes, they can truly help populations just the way that drugs can, but better- with more data and connectivity. We may be only 2-3 years away from DTx being an integral part of our health and sickness.