Recalibrating Healthcare Summits
By Stuart Diamond
As the Editor-in-Chief of a medical news site, I attend an endless stream of medical and healthcare conferences. They come in many stripes and sizes. But generally, there are two types. First, there are the technical or professional events – academic meetings where the latest research is presented. For example, The American Association of Cancer Research recently concluded its annual conference, which in part celebrated its 110-year-old history. Physicians from around the country, and the world, attended. Oncology conferences are major events on the yearly horizon. The speed of the development of new research and science in cancer treatments is breathtaking. No one doctor could possibly keep up with it all, no less incorporate the new knowledge into their practices. Thus the conferences are important gathering places, where leading physicians can come together, learn, share therapeutic insights, and network.
Another side of the healthcare/medical scene is the industry conferences. Pre-eminent amongst these is the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. Launched thirty-five years ago, the conference is recognized as the leading healthcare investment symposium in the industry. In 2018, more than 400 companies are expected to attend, both public and private, to deliver presentations to more than 8,000 attendees. The conference provides an opportunity for investors to visit with many inter-related industry leaders in one setting.
For the past 7 years, The Financial Times of London has organized a series of healthcare summits around the world. This year’s lineup includes conferences in New York, London, and Berlin. (The last FT Live Healthcare Summit took place on May 10, 2018 in New York The theme: “Bending the Cost Curve: Promise and Prospects.” More details can be found by clicking here.)
Throughout my own personal, decades-long history of attending conferences there appeared to be an obvious disconnect. The 2017 Financial Times Healthcare Summit was a case in point. It was indeed an impressive conference – important CEOs, thought leaders, academics, and administrators all touting the latest innovations that were about to revolutionize healthcare. However, only a fraction of the innovations in any aspect of healthcare is ever adopted. A reigning example: Four decades after it was first developed, Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are still not universal. (In 2018 my own medical records are scattered all over New York City and I don’t even have access to them. And I am in healthcare.)
The pinhole through which all innovations must pass – whether it is new science, technology, or management plans – is at the actual point of healthcare delivery. It is in clinical practice, where physician and patient meet, that determines the success or failure of any new developments in medicine.
Given the insight, I made the effort and contacted The Financial Times. I proposed an idea, which seemed straightforward enough. Every health conference should have at least one panel with active clinicians to discuss the practicality of the themes presented. Not so much to judge what will work or not – but to provide a backdrop about the issues that all of those engaged in the delivery of healthcare must face, when integrating any innovation into the realities of clinical practice.
The Financial Times agreed – and took me up on my offer to help recruit physicians for the May 10th panel. A testament to the superior journalism of The Financial Times! At least from my point of view.
Below werw the panelists for the May 10th conference with a few comments about each.
Dr. Mia Finkelston, Medical Director, Online Care Group (OCG), American Well. Dr. Finkelston was a primary care doctor in rural Maryland. She is now the medical director of one of the leading telehealth companies in the country. She is a strong advocate of the advantages of Telehealth. At some point in the near future, Medicare will begin paying benefits for telehealth visits for chronic care patients, e.g., diabetes, cancer, etc. That one difference will dramatically change Telehealth’s position in the marketplace. What makes Dr. Finkelston interesting is that she does not work at a major university medical center. Rather she is a straightforward, family care doctor, who works out of her home – and yet is at the forefront of how medical care is delivered.
Dr. Robert Grossman, Dean and Chief Executive Officer, NYU Langone Health. Dr. Grossman is known for his innovative approaches toward medical school education. He is a good resource to delve into questions about how medical students are being trained for the future, instead of the past – both in new science, technologies, and delivery of healthcare. See this link: https://med.nyu.edu/institute-innovations-medical-education/
I also thought it would be important to have an oncologist on the panel. Oncologists, in general, are confronted with formidable amounts of innovation – the science, the technologies, complex delivery models, and even ethical questions.
Dr. Richard O’Reilly (Chief Pediatric Marrow Transplant Service: Claire L. Tow Chair in Pediatric Oncology Research, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) is one of the grand elders of oncology. He was one of the pioneering researchers in bone marrow transplantation for treatment of pediatric cancer. He is one of the true innovators in medicine. It will be interesting to hear from a highly regarded physician from another generation, who faced down the hurdles and blocks to innovation in his time.
Finally, there is Dr. Kenneth Abrams, Managing Director, Physician Executive, from Deloitte, the chief sponsor of the conference. Dr. Abrams is an anesthesiologist and Deloitte’s US Life Sciences & Health Care Chief Physician Executive, with over 25 years of clinical and administrative experience in academic medical centers and integrated delivery systems.
The stories and insights from doctors, whose often face real, life and death decision-making on a daily basis will provide an interesting counterpoint to one of the most prestigious industry healthcare conferences.