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  • Irene Woerner

HLTH 2022: Inspiring emTRUTH to Keep Addressing Priority Challenges

Updated: Nov 30, 2022


A sign advising to keep going

This was my first time at HLTH, healthcare’s #1 innovation event. It was indeed an event! For a first-timer, it can be overwhelming with the sheer number of attendees, different talks, and a large show floor packed with vendors. I met people from startups to well-established organizations, explored the show floor, and came away energized and excited about continuing to make a difference in healthcare. I was particularly inspired by the speakers who focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the pace of innovation, and seamless healthcare collaboration.


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is not a verb


Dr. Carladenise Edwards, former EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Henry Ford Health, said it most concisely, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not the same things. Nor is DEI a verb, as in something you do.”


We know that there is currently unfairness and bias in healthcare, especially in terms of access to quality care, which falls along socio-economic lines and with more underserved communities like women, people of color, and LBGTQIA+ people. Even for people with means, there is often unintended bias when providers treat women or LBGTQIA+ differently or make people feel unheard. The provider-patient relationship works best when it is one of trust.


I wondered why DEI is so often used as an acronym. To improve health equity, we must have inclusion, especially in providing quality healthcare to all. We must also have diversity, where the patient population and how healthcare or pharma is researched, developed and delivered truly represent the population at large. From a technology innovation perspective, especially given the proliferation of AI-based models, we will be codifying bias if training data does not truly represent the population at large. Ethical access and interoperability of diverse training data are key for AI in healthcare and something I deeply believe in.


Talking about diversity, equity and inclusion is important as it raises awareness and collaboration of viewpoints and participants. Beyond talking about it, how do we do something about it? Doing something needs to happen at both the macro (e.g., legislation, strategic planning) and micro (e.g., everyday actions) levels. Everyone is a patient at some point, and we must all try to do our part whenever and wherever we can. As an Asian woman who is CEO and co-founder of a tech startup, I drew inspiration from Greg A. Adams, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Kaiser Permanente, who said, “We cannot separate who we are from how we lead.”


The pace of innovation


While legislation does have a profound impact on healthcare, new business models and technology solutions often outpace healthcare in practice.


An example of legislation with profound impact is Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization which overturned Roe v. Wade. This was discussed in a Women are Healthcare panel, which explored adjustments that should be made by organizations focused on healthcare for women and women’s health as represented by Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew of Allegheny Health Network and Highmark Health, Christina Jenkins of Phoenix Venture Partners, Lori Evans Bernstein of Caraway, Christine Hemmingsgaard of Quilted Health, and Alicia Jackson of EverNow. This was one instance where I wish there were more opportunities for attendees to interact and ask questions of speakers. For example, I am interested in the potential weaponizing of healthcare data (e.g., from menstruation apps, healthcare records, etc.) when there is no straightforward way to understand data governance driving ethical use of patient data with consent.


The concept of patients being at the center and an integral part of their own healthcare journey was very present at HLTH. Shouldn’t the ethical use of patient data also be a foundational component in this age of digital health and transformation?


A point made by Leslie Krigstein of Transcarent was that tech-induced changes are outpacing CPT codes (i.e., standard codes used for medical services and procedures, especially insurance payments). emTRUTH sees this not only for CPT codes but also for ontologies and standards. For example, standards for clinical research and development like OMOP and CDISC do not currently support non-binary as a gender choice. At emTRUTH, we tag these values as emTRUTH-created and make these new values freely available for use to promote greater data interoperability.


Another example is FHIR. We love that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is promoting the use of FHIR. However, FHIR is mainly for EMR data and has been available for ten years. We already see variations of FHIR in the field, which makes data interoperability more complex. This is an example of technology innovation and adoption outpacing legislation. A mentor once told me that patents are looking backward in terms of the protection it affords, while innovation looks forward. I believe this is also true for legislation. How do we bridge this gap between innovation and slower-moving changes like legislation and reimbursement codes? Something that was not addressed at any of the HLTH sessions I attended.


Another pace factor impacting healthcare is the number of large non-traditional players entering the space. I especially noticed the large booths from Best Buy, Samsung, and Verizon. I think these consumer-focused companies will quickly move beyond telehealth (e.g., virtual visits and consults) to more remote patient care in concert with devices and at-home services beyond palliative and hospice.


Collaboration and networking


Collaboration was also implicitly and explicitly discussed at many sessions. Providing good healthcare requires an ecosystem of providers and services. Collaboration and working together always resonate with me because we are stronger together.


I especially enjoyed the interaction and dynamics of speakers on EY’s panel of Developing Integrated Care Systems to Enable Seamless Health and Wellness for All. Kelly Hawk, Principal Health Transformation Architect at EY, was the moderator. David Grady, VP Office of Transformation at Kaiser Permanente, said he really wanted a layer that would normalize healthcare data and push it back to them. Something I felt good about since that is what emTRUTH does.


Why did this make me feel good? Because KP is a closed, integrated health system, that is often held as the example of how integrated and value-based healthcare should work. So, if even KP has this need, I know we are addressing a priority challenge and doing something meaningful to move the needle for better healthcare. Innocent Clement, CEO of Ciba Health, Nabil Chehade, Chief Population & Digital Health Officer at MetroHealth, and Christian Egle, Principal EY Healthcare Leader at EY EMEA, were also on this panel, supplying very distinct viewpoints.


At the end of the day, the best part of HLTH for me was the networking. Everyone I met and spoke with was so open and engaging, each representing a viewpoint from a diverse healthcare ecosystem. The people are collectively the soul of HLTH, and that’s what makes it the #1 innovation event. Looking forward to next year!


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