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Fall Health IT Conference Schedule

Posted on September 29, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As usual, Healthcare Scene has a really full fall schedule of Healthcare IT Conferences (We’re doing local healthcare marketing meetups at most of them too). The sad thing is that there’s pretty much a conference every week which we’d like to attend and we have to say no to so many. That said, we’re extremely excited by all the events we’ll be attending this Fall. We can’t wait to mix and mingle with some of the smartest people in healthcare IT.

I’m particularly excited by the return of the Digital Health Conference in New York City December 2016. We’ve been working with NYeC, who organizes the conference, since the very beginning to help promote the event. It’s a great event that always brings out the New York healthcare community and others from around the country to talk about digital health and where it’s headed. They always have great keynote speakers and amazing innovations on stage. For example, I saw my first ever live streamed surgery on Google Glass at this conference.

This year they have keynotes from Robert Watcher, MD which many will know for his book “The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age” and Steven Johnson who wrote “How We Got to Now” and “Where Good Ideas Come From.” I think both speakers will provide some interesting insights into healthcare. I’m particularly excited to hear Steven Johnson talk about innovations and where they come from. We can use more of that in healthcare. It will be interesting to think about how healthcare is suppressing those good ideas.

There’s a lot more that gets me excited about the event. They have a session focused on SHIN-NY (The Statewide Health Information Network for New York). You might remember my previous post about the SHIN-NY getting funded as a kind of “public utility” funding model. I’m interested in learning how that’s progressed. I also noticed sessions on 3D printing and the Cancer Moonshot which should be interesting. You can check out the full conference program here.

Since Healthcare Scene is a partner with the conference, we’ve gotten them to offer our readers a 15% discount to attend the Digital Health Conference. All you need to do is use the promo code HCS to get a 15% discount off your registration. The early bird pricing for the event ends October 14, 2016, so be sure to take advantage of the lower price now.

We hope to see a lot of readers at the NYC event or at one of the other EHR and Health IT conferences we’ll be attending. There are few things we enjoy more than meeting readers in person. So, don’t be shy. Let us know if you’ll be there so we can say hi in person.

Physician Data Paradox

Posted on June 29, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

“[Doctors] are overloaded on data entry and yet rampantly under-informed.”
-Andy Slavitt at Health Datapalooza

This quote from Andy Slavitt at Health Datapalooza has really stuck with me. He calls it the physician data paradox. It’s an ugly paradox and is at the heart of so many doctors discontent with EHR software. Andy Slavitt is spot on with his analysis. Doctors spend hours entering all of this data and get very little return value from that data or the volume of health data that is being captured.

My friend Dr. Michael Koriwchak has made an interesting request. In a recent blab interview he was on he said that CMS should only require the collection of data they’re actually going to use.

My guess is that the majority of meaningful use data would not need to be collected if Dr. Koriwchak’s rule was in place. CMS hasn’t really even collected the data from doctors, so they’re certainly not using it. Some of the principles of meaningful use would still exist like interoperability and ePrescribing, but we wouldn’t be turning our doctors into data entry clerks of data that’s not being used.

Think about the reality of meaningful use data collection: CMS doesn’t use the data. Clinicians don’t use the data.

We’ve basically asked doctors and other medical staff to spend millions of hours collecting a bunch of data that’s not being used. Does that make sense to anyone? You could make the argument that the data collection is creating a platform for the future. There’s some value in this thinking, but that’s pretty speculative spending. Why not do this type of speculative data collection with small groups who get paid for their efforts and then as they discover new healthcare opportunities? We can expand the data collection requirement to all of healthcare once doctors can do something meaningful with the data they’re being required to collect.

In fact, what if we paid docs for telling CMS or their EHR vendor how EHR data could be used to benefit patients? I’d see this similar to how IT companies pay people who submit bug reports. Not using health data the right way is kind of like reporting a bug in the health system. Currently, there’s no financial incentive for users to share their best practices and discoveries. Sure, some of them do it at user conferences or other conferences, but imagine how much more interested they’d be in finding and sharing health data discoveries if they were paid for it.

If we finally want to start putting all this health data to work, we’re going to have to solve the physician data paradox. Leveraging the power of the crowd could be a great way to improve the 2nd part of the paradox.

The Best Healthcare Conferences Coming Up in 2016

Posted on June 2, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Brooke Chaplan.

Healthcare facilities the world over have to constantly maintain competent and knowledgeable staff and need to be aware of recent health care advances, discoveries, and much more. Attending a health care conference allows you an educational experience that could be vital to your career. Listed below are multiple health care conferences that will be upcoming in the year of 2016 and are some of the best to attend (See also Healthcare Scene’s list of conferences).

Medical Informatics World Conference
Location: Boston at Seaport World Trade Center
Date: Register in 2016, but the conference is April 4-5th of 2017
The Medical Informatics World Conference focuses mainly on patient engagement and satisfaction. Another topic spoke during this conference is predictive analytics. Leading researchers, scientists, and technology experts will be speaking at this conference. This specific event is geared towards hospital/health care, government, and academic employees.

Quality Grampian Conference
Location: Suttie Centre at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. For the
(Americans reading this, traveling may be far, but you deserve a vacation, and though the 2016 date has passed, there are similar events already scheduled for January 2017 for robotic surgery and more!)
Date: May 23rd, 2016 at 8:45 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
The Quality Grampian Conference focuses on quality and safety in the health care field. Quality Grampian’s fifth annual conference is geared specifically towards health care students and professionals. Quality Grampian is presented by the University of Aberdeen, NHS Grampian, and Robert Gordon University. There is absolutely no charge to attend this health care conference, except maybe some travel costs.

The Digital Health Summit Conferences
Location: Moscone Center, San Fransicso, CA
Date: June 6-7 2016
(This date may be coming up, but look for the Las Vegas Conference hosted in January 2017.)
The digital world is already changing so much about healthcare and jobs in the industry and this conference hopes to show new business owners and entrepreneurs the new world of digital, high-tech health. Full of insightful keynote speakers, panel engagements, workshop sessions and product launches this educational conference goes over the trends and needed technology for making a new venture or clinic successful.

The Future of Medicine – Technology and the Role of the Doctor in 2025
Location: Variable
Date: May 19th, 2016
This conference discussion focused on medicine and its evolving discoveries within the next 10 years. The event was aimed to educate health care professionals and employees and presentations were shown by leading health care experts and doctors. Your clinical staff who may only have bachelor degrees will benefit since it will be going into a lot of new technologies as well. Though it already happened, you can find reviews on what was discussed.

Attending a health care conference is an excellent way to maintain knowledge about leading health care advances. Continuing and furthering education shows true dedication to your profession, which is greatly appreciated no matter what industry you are in.

About Brooke Chaplan
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information on improving health education or gaining a bachelor degree in health information management check out courses online at the University of Cincinnati. Brooke is available via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

Insights from #WEDI25

Posted on May 25, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This week I’ve been spending time at the WEDI annual conference in Salt Lake City. I’ve never been to a conference with a more diverse set of attendees. I’ve really enjoyed the diversity of attendees and perspectives that were at the conference. I was a little disappointed (but not really surprised) that clinicians weren’t part of the event. I understand why it’s hard to get them to attend an event like this, but it’s unfortunate that the physician voice isn’t part of the discussion.

Here’s a quick list of some insights I tweeted during the conference which could be useful to you:

Health IT at SXSW – What Can Healthcare Learn?

Posted on March 14, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

It’s been fun to watch the evolution of healthcare at SXSW. When I first went 4 years ago (wow, I can’t believe that was 4 years ago), healthcare was just trying to find its place in the mass of a conference that is SXSW. I was one of the judges for the health IT startup pitch competition and healthcare had graduated to having its own campus at SXSW. However, the sessions were pretty light and there weren’t that many of the people you’d expect in healthcare IT to be there.

4 years later, some of the people you’d really want at the event aren’t there, but some very interesting startup healthcare IT companies are at the event. Plus, thanks to things like IoT (Internet of Things) and the interest in wearables, SXSW has done a good job featuring many of the health tech startup companies which fit into those larger trends. In fact, health is often one of the biggest parts of these larger trends.

There are so many healthcare IT conferences out there to choose from so I understand why many in healthcare don’t venture to the insanity that is SXSW. Plus, I think that it’s hard for many in healthcare to realize that SXSW is more than just a music festival (something that’s not been true for a long time) and more importantly to convince their bosses that they’re not just going to Austin to have fun.

I personally think that some of the ethos and culture of SXSW are what’s needed in healthcare. One of the key experiences that SXSW tries to cultivate is the mixing of various creative cultures in order to spark new and surprising creativity. That means that sometimes a tech startup entrepreneur will be spending time with a musician or film executive. This mixing of cultures can lead each person to surprising new insights into their business. The startup entrepreneur might find a new way to attract an audience for their product based on something the musician does to spread his music. The musician might learn about new tech that could create new layers to their music from the startup entrepreneur. You get the idea.

Healthcare could benefit from some outside influence. Just to be clear. This doesn’t mean that you throw out the culture that you know. Definitely not. It does mean you get exposure to another culture that can help expand your thinking. Over time we all get somewhat narrow minded in our thinking. Exposure to new ideas helps to expand our minds.

The same is even true within different departments in healthcare. How often does your lab interact with radiology or radiology with your ED or your pharmacy with your clinicians? If you work in a hospital you know what I’m talking about. We get stuck in our ruts and often don’t leave them. It’s nice and comfortable in our ruts and so we don’t see why we should leave them. That’s poison to an organization that wants to innovate. Take a lesson from SXSW and cultivate experiences and opportunities for different cultures to mix and learn from each others unique perspectives and experiences.

#HIMSS16 Twitter Round Up #4 – Keynote Speakers

Posted on March 4, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today HIMSS 2016 had 2 keynote speakers that were well worth the price of admission. They both entertained, informed and inspired. Here’s a few insights from each from my live tweeting their sessions (the first is a must read for those who care about marketing and the HITMC community):

Dr. Jonah Berger

Peyton Manning

How amazing that sportscenter was reporting from the HIMSS conference on what Peyton Manning said in his keynote and how that related to his chances of returning or retiring? Pretty crazy stuff indeed.

My final thought on HIMSS 2016 (Although join us for this video discussion (blab) about HIMSS 2016 next week):

Meet the HIMSS Social Media Team – #GoesBeyond

Posted on February 19, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A few weeks ago, I took part in an initiative that Greythorn (Full Disclosure: Greythorn pays to post jobs on our Healthcare IT Central job board) started around the great hashtag #GoesBeyond. Using that hashtag they’re asking people to recognize people in healthcare IT that are doing amazing work. You can read my first #GoesBeyond post that recognized the work of Steve Sisko.

For my next #GoesBeyond post I want to recognize the whole HIMSS Social Media team. Many people don’t realize how much work this team puts in to make HIMSS one of the most social media driven conferences in the world and far and away the most tweeted healthcare conference in the world.

That’s why I’m highlighting the whole HIMSS social media team for #GoesBeyond. I hope many others who read this will take part in the #GoesBeyond effort and highlight other people in the healthcare IT community that deserve recognition. There’s nothing better we can do for the community than to show gratitude for each other.

The HIMSS social media numbers don’t lie. Check out the Twitter activity alone around HIMSS:
HIMSS-Social-Media-Growth
While most people are familiar with the @HIMSS account which boasts 74,753 followers (and growing), I’m sure that many don’t realize that the HIMSS LinkedIn group has 166,325 members. These are extraordinary numbers and they don’t happen by happen stance. This kind of growth only comes through consistent focused effort in creating and sharing amazing content and engaging and facilitating the discussion on each platform.

What’s impressive is that it’s not a large team that makes all this stuff happen. Here’s the 4 main team members:

Say what you will about the HIMSS machine, what makes this group of social media ninjas special is that they truly do care about healthcare and want to find the best way to improve healthcare through the use of technology. Each one of them truly is a mission driven individual.

A great example of this is their work creating the official HIMSS16 Hashtag Guide. A lot of social media people could have easily just hopped on some generic hashtags that anyone could have created around the buzzwords at the conference. Those hashtags would end up being as meaningless as the buzzwords themselves. Instead they created hashtags which represent directions we need to head and goals we should achieve.

For example, they used #Engage4Health to represent patient engagement, but that we are engaging patient with a clear purpose. The #HITworks hashtag is another great example where they’re working to extract the clear value that technology can provide healthcare. Of course, the #IHeartHIT hashtag which started last year tells the personal stories of how technology can impact healthcare.

My favorite place I’ve seen the HIMSS social media team “go beyond” is in the imagery they’ve created. Take a look through all the images shared on the #HIMSS16 hashtag and you’ll see that many of the best ones were created by this team. It’s no wonder that this team was recognized with the HITMC Award for Best Social Media Program last year.

HIMSS is right around the corner. Good luck to this team as they try to curate more tweets than anyone can handle. Not to mention all the new video activity we’re going to see on Periscope and Blab. They’re certainly worthy of the #GoesBeyond hashtag.

About #GoesBeyond
In this series, writers take time thank an individual who #GoesBeyond expectations to make an impact in their community or industry. Read other posts in this series on LinkedIn and Twitter, then write one of your own on your favorite blog, LinkedIn pulse, Medium or other platform. Use #GoesBeyond and @mention the person who has made such a big difference, then copy this paragraph so others know how they can participate, too.

Doctors and Patients are Largely Missing at #HIMSS16

Posted on February 16, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently got an email from someone asking me if I knew of practicing doctors that would be at the HIMSS Annual conference in Las Vegas (Or as we affectionately call it, #HIMSS16). I was sadly struggling to find an answer to that question. In fact, as I thought back over my last 6 years at HIMSS conferences I could probably count on my hands and feet how many practicing doctors I’d spent time with at HIMSS.

Consider that HIMSS attendance has exploded over the years and I won’t be surprised if HIMSS attendance passes 50,000 people this year. No doubt I only meet a small subset of the attendees, but there certainly should be more practicing doctors at the event. It’s unfortunate for our industry that they’re not there since their voice is so crucial to the success of healthcare IT.

I’m sure HIMSS has a count of how many doctors (MD or DO) are at the event. However, those numbers are skewed since I know a ton of MDs and DOs who attend HIMSS, but they’re not actually practicing medicine anymore. They’re CMO’s at vendors or startup entrepreneurs or clinical informaticists or something else. Many of them never even practiced medicine after residency. Nothing against these people. Many of them have amazing insight into what’s happening in healthcare. However, they’re not dealing with the day to day realities of practicing medicine.

I understand why many practicing doctors don’t attend HIMSS. It’s hard for them to get away from the office and justify traveling to a conference at their own expense. Plus, HIMSS registrations aren’t cheap. I don’t know why at this point HIMSS doesn’t give practicing doctors a free registration to the conference. Even if they did this, I know some practicing doctors who have attended HIMSS that went away disenfranchised by the disconnect between what they heard at the show and what they experienced in their offices. It’s no surprise why they don’t return to future shows. However, keeping them away isn’t the way to change that disconnect. Having them at the conference is the way to fix the disconnect.

A similar commentary could be applied to patients at HIMSS as well. I’m always a little tentative to say that patients aren’t at HIMSS since all 50,000+ attendees are or have been patients in the health care system. So, patients are at HIMSS. However, there’s a difference between someone who’s been a patient and someone who’s at HIMSS to represent the voice of the patient.

There has been some efforts to include more patients at HIMSS, but it’s still an infinitesimally small number compared to the 50,000 attendees. One solution is for more of us to be more of a patient voice at HIMSS. The other solution is to bring more patients who will be advocates for that voice.

This isn’t to say that HIMSS is a bad event. It’s a great event. It just could be better with more doctors and more patients present. If we can’t bring 50,000 people together and 1300 exhibitors and do some good, then something is really wrong. I’ve seen and written about some of the amazing announcements, initiatives and efforts that have come out of HIMSS. I’m sure we’ll see more of that progress again this year.

Plus, let’s also acknowledge that many of the 1300 HIMSS exhibitors and 50,000+ attendees spend a lot of time working with and consulting with doctors and patients when creating, evaluating and implementing healthcare IT solutions. In some ways a vendor or hospital CIO who’s talked to hundreds of patients or hundreds of doctors represents the voice of the patient and the doctor much better than 1 patient or 1 doctor sharing their own “N of 1” view of what’s happening in healthcare.

The reality of healthcare and health IT is that we’re talking about extremely difficult challenges. That’s why we need everyone in the same boat and paddling in the same direction. HIMSS is that event for healthcare IT in many ways, but could even be more valuable if more doctors and patients were in attendance.

Meet Steve Sisko (aka @HITConfGuy and @ShimCode) – #GoesBeyond

Posted on January 28, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The healthcare IT recruiters at Greythorn (Full Disclosure: Greythorn pays to post jobs on our Healthcare IT Central job board), have started to share stories on a new hashtag called #GoesBeyond. As part of this effort, they’re highlighting people in healthcare IT who go above and beyond and deliver something special. Check out this great #GoesBeyond featuring Regina Holliday to see what I mean. I’m all about the idea of recognizing people who are doing great work and contributing to healthcare IT in a way that goes above and beyond, so I thought I’d join in on the fun.

Over the past couple years I’ve been impressed by the work of Steve Sisko and his efforts to go above and beyond on social media. If you don’t work in the payer world, you might not know the name Steve Sisko, but if you participate in healthcare social media you probably do know Steve’s aliases @HITConfGuy and @ShimCode. Not only is Steve prolific on social media, but the quality of information he provides is off the charts. I’m always amazed how quickly Steve can pull up a high quality resource during Twitter chats or other social media engagements.

As part of Steve’s creation of the @HITConfGuy Twitter account, he also launched the blog HITConfGuy.com. On this blog Steve provides his unique mix of humor and high quality content to both entertain and inform those of us who spend time at healthcare IT conferences. However, I believe that Steve’s posts on HIT Conf Guy are even more valuable to those who don’t spend their time traveling to healthcare IT conferences as part of their career.

A great example of this is Steve’s 30 tips for attending the HIMSS 2016 conference in Las Vegas. This is so chalk full of tips, I just laugh when I see other people trying to post about tips for #HIMSS16. I think to myself, Steve’s already posted all the tips you need and he’s likely done it better than what others throw together last minute. You might also want to check out his post on social sharing at healthcare IT conferences like HIMSS and you’ll bust a gut laughing at his useful (and some not so useful, but funny) Totally Unofficial HIMSS Hashtag guide.

Beyond all his work providing tips, tricks, and humor around healthcare IT conferences, Steve has spent countless hours curating what I’d call his list of healthcare IT lists. If you’re looking for who to follow in healthcare social media, his lists can help you. If you want a list of healthcare IT resources, he likely has one. He even put in an extremely large amount of time into filtering through the mass of #HIT99 tweets to create the #HIT99 list.

The most amazing part of all of these efforts by Steve is that he doesn’t get paid anything to do it. Maybe he has some longer term aspiration of making these efforts into a business (I don’t know either way), but to date he’s done all of this to contribute to the healthcare IT community. In fact, I’ve often heard Steve bristle at some of the things that happen on social media that were so revenue driven. Steve really does want to improve healthcare.

That’s why I’m highlighting Steve Sisko for #GoesBeyond. I hope many others who read this will take part in the #GoesBeyond effort and highlight other people in the healthcare IT community that deserve recognition.

About #GoesBeyond
In this series, writers take time thank an individual who #GoesBeyond expectations to make an impact in their community or industry. Read other posts in this series on LinkedIn and Twitter, then write one of your own on your favorite blog, LinkedIn pulse, Medium or other platform. Use #GoesBeyond and @mention the person who has made such a big difference, then copy this paragraph so others know how they can participate, too.

Connected Health Conference Tops Itself–But How Broad is Adoption? Part 2 of 3

Posted on November 6, 2015 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space. Andy also writes often for O'Reilly's Radar site (http://oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

The previous section of this article introduced this year’s highly successful conference, along with some reports from its lead sponsor, Partners HealthCare in Massachusetts. This section looks at some controversies.

A shiny techno-optimist view was offered by two leaders of the computer industry. Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is famous for suggesting that 80% of what doctors now do could be replaced by technology. Joichi Ito, Directory of MIT’s Media Lab, reinforced this claim by pointing out how much productivity scientists gained by replacing manual number-crunching with digital calculators. “The less subjective decision-making we have,” Khosla said, “the better health care quality will be.”

With diagnosis and prescribing thus handed over to smart machines (some descendant of IBM’s Watson, in my imagination), doctors can focus on building relationships with patients. It’s easy to parody the role of empathy in health care, but realistically, empathy is the one thing that we’ve found to make a difference in chronic care. One hospital in New Orleans achieved a 45% reduction in readmissions through interventions that reduce social isolation and other barriers such as transportation problems.

Furthermore, technology will not act alone: it will allow the delivery of care to move down the cost stack from specialists to general practitioners and from doctors to nurse practitioners.

However, a couple decades of research stand between us and the empathic, tech-supported future. Khosla expects a 20-year evolution, starting with systems that just recommend questions to rule out rare conditions, and devices to monitor patients. More specific interventions will come with the growth of data. Another speaker pointed out that recommendation systems are currently good enough to recommend movies we might like, but not to recommend what medication we should take.

A lot of data crunching in the health care space goes to predictions that have dubious validity and may even be obnoxious, such as guessing what your health patterns will be on the basis of your credit rating or the kind of car you drive. Thomas Goetz, former editor of WIRED Magazine and now an investor in medical research, stressed the importance of treating patients as partners if we want them to participate in big data research efforts. The subjects of experiments will demand full transparency about what we’re looking for.

The obverse of the coin was persuasively delivered by Ezekiel Emanuel from the University of Pennsylvania, the self-declared token techno-skeptic at the conference. He laid out a few narrow areas where we can expect technology to improve outcomes (or at least reduce costs) over the forseeable future: medication adherence (although he also wise-cracked that most people would do better on half their current medications) and preventing a useless trip to the hospital during the final weeks of life. Everything else we try to do relies on a long chain of technological and workflow changes that will be hard to put into place.

But mainly conference speakers firmly believe that technology is already making a difference, and are building businesses around them. Technologist Rosalind Picard found a possible indicator of epilectic seizures that had been missed by clinical research. Muse makes a headband that trains you to relax by showing your brain waves. And the social aspect of health is being avidly addressed, whether through simple phone calls to isolated elderly people (The Silver Line in Britain) or helping people with mental health problems communicate online anonymously (Big White Wall).

The anonymous communities of Big White Wall, of course, update practices that go back to the earliest days when ordinary people got onto the Internet in the 1980s. And the practice seems to work: CEO Jen Hyatt says that 73% of members share an issue there for the first time in their lives, and 95% of members report feeling better.

The final section of this article will generalize what I discovered at the conference.