Convergence and the Future of Healthcare

I’ve just returned from giving a keynote (fun infographic summarizing my content below) at the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA) Convergence Summit. A great meeting of the minds in San Diego- whose theme was ‘Convergence’. The opening keynote was by Dr. Eric Topol, who brilliantly illuminated the emerging and more empowered role of the consumer and patient.

The WLSA is only 10 years old… but has already outgrown its name… wireless (the old term for radio), which has shifted in the health realm to often being called mobile, digital, or connected health and medicine. Just as we don’t refer to music as ‘digital music’ or in finance to ‘wireless banking’… I think that ‘Digital Health’ and other terms will soon just be termed ‘Health’ or ‘Medicine’.

The challenge with many healthcare and biomedical related conferences is that they still fit within relative silo’s… from new ones’ (i.e. ‘digital health’) to many of which have existed in medicine for 100s of years or more (defined by medical and academic specialities (often focused by body part), or in fields such as pharma, health IT or devices).

The challenge, and opportunity… in this age where disease will increasingly be defined at the molecular rather than the anatomic level, the ‘Nosology’ and roles and abilities of patient and provider will shift, as will the means to enable better prevention, diagnosis, treatment and discovery - is the blending across different fields and technologies (including those coming from outside medicine). The layering and overlap and convergence as new players, from young startups and cross-disciplinary entrepreneurs with ‘beginners mind’ to larger players like Apple, Google, and IBM to Walmart and the Oracles of the world, with emerging technologies (ranging from 3D printing, big data, low cost genomics, sensors, drones, synthetic biology and the Internet of Things) is where much of the acceleration and disruption is emerging.

As we look to reinvent elements of healthcare (from the all too often intermittent and reactive ‘sick care’ model of today to a more continuous and proactive approach), it is the convergence of fields and the re-alignment of incentives which will increasingly ‘unsilo’ medicine, take it out of the standard clinical setting, and bring us to the aim of smarter, more personalized, lower friction and better care at lower costs, in both the developed world and democratizing healthcare (and sometimes leap-frogging) across to emerging markets.

For those looking for a deeper dive into the convergence, and potential of the many fast moving technologies to reinvent elements of health and medicine, I hope you can join me and others from across the biomedical, technology and innovation spectrum at Exponential Medicine, our 5th annual program (originally called ‘FutureMed’ — some prior press coverage here), being held this November 9–12th at the Hotel Del Coronado (a very special 1888 era resort on the Coronado beach in San Diego). Apply now to participate, as we will again be oversubscribed. The video below provides a taste of the experience.