My takeaways from HLTH 2022

I had the pleasure of attending this year’s HLTH event in Las Vegas on Nov. 13-16, 2022.

#hlth2022 was the first time I had experienced an event at this scale with attendees that included more than just traditional healthcare/biotech players and investors. Attendance also included tech, consumer-focused wellness, and at a smaller capacity – patients and non-profits.

I congratulate the HLTH team for creating an event that acknowledges how we approach health is changing and that the tools and systems necessary to allow everyone the opportunity to be healthy goes beyond what health insurance traditionally covers. I hope the conversations at HLTH lead to more common language and openness for alignment on the scientific rigour necessary for a consumer product to be taken seriously by traditional health players.

Connecting key health stakeholders from diverse backgrounds is a significant step in the right direction, redefining what is considered “healthcare” and who pays for what is needed. Although consumer and retail products have value, affordability is still an issue, especially if payers are not considering these offerings for reimbursement. Many valuable solutions may never reach those who need them most due to the inability to pay out of pocket.

Further, more efforts are required to help improve benefits communication, patient and caregiver education, benefits communication, and guidance around coordinating whole health care. As discussed during the Sexual Healing panel – language matters – we need to meet individuals where they are. Creating complicated reimbursement schemes or unclear patient pathways further deters the engagement of high-need but historically marginalized individuals.

Reimaging healthcare requires greater awareness and more conversations around the inequities and barriers to access that exist to being healthy. I was happy to hear many talks at HTLH discuss inclusion, health equity and social determinants of health (SDOH). However, I found that much of the heavy lifting and progress around these initiatives still comes from female and minority-led start-ups, non-profits and government. Big healthcare, life sciences and tech need to step up and better support efforts through partnerships, acquisitions, and funding versus building lacklustre duplicates or “check the box on DEI” solutions.

For start-ups and capital providers, HTLH also confirmed that a course correction in funding is occurring. Although many blame COVID for creating a funding ecosystem that led to waste and significantly overvalued start-ups, this trend was already apparent in mid-2019. COVID only added fuel to this unfortunate trend.

I stepped away from consulting with digital health start-ups at the end of 2019 due to my frustration of encountering many organizations that had raised significant funds but were not incentivized or interested in genuinely moving the needle in healthcare. Instead, many start-ups chose to take the consumer route to hit early funding milestones. At this time, I opted to join Veeva for 2 years, a rare example of a Healthtech start-up that raised minimal cash ($7M total) and reached $1 billion in yearly revenue within thirteen years of its inception.

Moving forward, I hope fundraising becomes more intentional and investors take the time to build relationships with entrepreneurs and organizations closely tied to the communities they claim to serve. Further, due diligence needs to focus on more than just financial returns. Considering clinical outcomes, societal impact and addressing unmet needs are also important.

I commend HLTH for providing a platform for many aspects of health, including nutrition, sleep, sexual, mental and dental health. I also appreciate the diverse representation of individuals involved and impacted by the health industry, including rural communities, providers, caregivers, incarcerated individuals and athletes.

Thank you, CoverMyMeds, for the fantastic beauty station, Carrot Fertility for their free headshots, and for Brightside Health (I believe) for providing a hammock for an epic mid-event nap.

Where I struggled at HTLH was how much of the focus of networking and connection was around the consumption of alcohol and unhealthy food. I appreciate that there was a group exercise option offered early on Monday and Tuesday morning and some “wellness” features throughout the event. I would love to see more activities, happy hours and networking opportunities beyond drinks and mingling. I am happy to connect with any organizations interested in exploring this (check out Eat Move Meditate for inspiration).

Thank you, Jerrica Kirkley from PlumeScaleHealthRedesign HealthSamsung NextKomodo Health, and Paytient, for your hospitality and for creating space for intentional connection. Thank you to Matthew Holt, Melissa Faukner and the UCSF Health Hub Digital Health Awards team for helping me with my ticket.

I am grateful for the many insightful conversations with incredibly thoughtful and inspiring individuals throughout my time at HLTH.

Here’s to creating an abundance of intentional partnerships and collaborations in 2023 that allow for improved quality of life for all individuals and decrease the burden and cost of illness on society.