Highlights from Health 2.0 Europe

At the start of this week, Health 2.0 Europe began. Previous held in Berlin, the event has now moved to London. Having been to Health 2.0 Europe last year, Health 2.0 Middle East and Health 2.0 Silicon Valley this year, I was pleasantly surprised to see many new faces at the event. I didn't recognise the majority of delegates.

Great to see such enthusiasm, and looks of surprise and amazement on people's faces as they watched demos on the stage. I've seen so much in this space myself through running the Health 2.0 London Chapter, that I didn't see what the fuss was about. I then realised that I'm part of a bubble. Whilst being able to use an app for medication adherence may seem 'normal' to me, for the vast majority of people, it's still something they've never seen before.

I wasn't able to attend every session, so these highlights are from sessions I did attend. Additionally, if you want to get a flavour of Health 2.0 Silicon Valley, you can read my posts about Day 1, Day 2 & Day 3.

Day 1

Back to London, in the first session, Improving and Enriching the Patient-Provider Relationship, 3 out of the 4 demos were from US companies. That led to some in the audience feeling surprised.

However, the reality is that there are far fewer companies in this space in Europe vs the USA, even fewer when you are looking for high quality companies with a high quality product or service to demo on stage. Whilst the conference could have perhaps had only EU companies on stage, the conference would have probably been over by mid-afternoon on Day 1.

As part of the first session, it was encouraging to see a real patient on stage sharing their experience.

Next up from NHS England, were Tim Kelsey and Geraint Lewis giving a double keynote on what's happening with NHS data. Care.data is one of the big initiatives that was mentioned. For a fascinating and thought provoking article on care.data which just was published yesterday, take a look here.

The session on Health 2.0 for the brain was well received. Jon Stamford, himself a Parkinsons' patient said that the best app is the one that people will want to use. So true.

We had a session called NHS Compass with Alex Abbott and Tracey Watson who shared their one year plan to open the NHS up for business. One great question from the audience was whether NHS England would have any influence over the local trusts to buy products & services from SMEs? It didn't sound like they have any influence, and the question was for the most part, avoided. We heard from Tracey that NHS England are likely to set up a 'Centre of Excellence' and new processes and procedures as part of the plan to help entrepreneurs navigate the NHS. Many entrepreneurs in this space have left the NHS to pursue their ideas without getting entangled in bureacracy, processes & procedures. To be fair, the NHS is extremely complex, it employs 1.7 million, and it's going to take time to change such a large organisation. Could you or I do a better job of opening up the NHS to startups? Maybe, maybe not. The task of doing so is immense, so kudos for the NHS for starting to change. 

However, myself and other entrepreneurs aren't interested in hearing about the IT failures of the past, or the internal problems facing the NHS today. They simply want to know exactly which person they need to speak to if they have an app that could help the NHS. They want to know what tech solutions the NHS is willing to pay for. Why doesn't NHS England have one website that lists all the current 'wants', just like GSK Consumer Healthcare does?

Now, when it comes to the catering at Health 2.0 Europe, many delegates told me how they were impressed with the food. However, Inga Deakin's tweet during one coffee break made me smile. Even when I worked at GSK, vending machines were stuffed full of fizzy drinks, chocolate bars and crisps.

One of the most inspiring sessions of the entire conference for me was the 'Empowering patients session'. The audience loved hearing from Maria Gjerpe, a patient from Norway who raised $1.2 million for a clinical trial using crowdfunding. Now that's what you call courageous leadership. We need more people like her within the healthcare system itself. More on here story here.

Day 2

The first session was on Sensors & Tracking: Quantifying the Self & Listening to Your Body. One of the speakers, Adriana Lukas who runs Quantified Self London, pointed out that whilst self-tracking leaders to greater self awareness, most people stop tracking after 3 months. I heard a new term mentioned during this session, Email Apnea. Yes, many of us stop breathing whilst reading an email.

In the session on Health 2.0 Tools for Doctors & Hospitals, we heard from Chris Farmer on how it can be a challenge for doctors in the hospital to share data with each other, i.e. medical photography due to consent models. Chris also told us that sometimes, they have to use 7 or 8 different software applications to view data in a single clinic. When I hear from people like Chris, I realise that we have people on the inside of healthcare systems who are equally as frustrated with the status quo when it comes to not having access to the right technologies.

Many of us have ideas but we often need someone to invest in our idea. Financing Health 2.0: Who's Stepping Up? was a fascinating and candid discussion. It is very challenging here in Europe. Every time a startup in Europe asks me about getting funding, I remind them of something I read in the Startup Genome report published in Nov 2012, "Even developed ecosystems such as New York and London have more than 70 percent less risk capital available than Silicon Valley". When you add the scarcity of risk capital, the fear of failure, and the challenges of doing business with the NHS, I don't find it surprising when I see European entrepreneurs heading to the US in order to follow their dreams. I find it sad, that after quitting my job in 2012, and becoming a consultant in the field of Digital Health, I still don't have any clients in the UK. The only organisations who pay me to work for them are all outside of the UK. As much as I'd like the country of my birth, the UK, to succeed and prosper, I now encourage any startups that ask for my advice, to also consider either Silicon Valley or an Emerging Market. There are even entrepreneurs in the UK who give up on their ideas here, since they aren't likely to make any money from them. 

A great talk from Richard Smith, about the rise of chronic disease in the world, and that a lot of patients don't take their drugs. Many in the area of Digital Health see apps as a possible path towards behaviour change. I remain unconvinced, and this post by Nir Eyal on why behaviour change apps fail to change behaviour is one of my favourite things I've read in 2013.

The final session of the day was Not your mother's Health 2.0, covering the topics that health tech conferences don't actually have on the agenda. I loved all of the demos. Mark Steedman, an expert in End of Life Care, remarked that we don't study how people die. He also told us that most people want to die at home, but actually die in hospital. Mark challenged the entrepreneurs in the audience to develop technology that could help End of Life Care.

Ever wished you could check how much alcohol is in your blood before you drive a car? Dr Gautam Mehta has developed a gadget that plugs into the headphone jack of your phone that will allow you to do that.

So, what was it like?

In conclusion, fascinating to see how much this scene in Europe has progressed in just a few years. It's encouraging for those that want to support European entrepreneurs, and inspiring for those who have ideas but have yet to make the jump into doing their own startup. The Twitter stream was very active at this conference, and I hope that this event has triggered new conversations here in Europe. I was impressed to see how much energy there was during the final coffee break of the conference. One suggestion for next year is to have a patient in each session. I believe having a patient in each session would provided much needed insights into what they actually need (and want to use!).

Lots of energy during the final coffee break on Day 2

Lots of energy during the final coffee break on Day 2

We can come up with so many innovations, but the ultimate question is, "Who is going to pay for it?". Whilst many of my friends have left Europe to either head to California or an Emerging Market, there are rays of hope here. One UK startup, uMotif, was on stage twice at this conference. Once in my pre-conference workshop on Sunday, and again on Monday on the main stage. I remember when I invited them to demo at my Health 2.0 London event on mHealth back in September 2012. It's been amazing to see them go from strength to strength. Just recently, they beat hundreds of other startups to win Cisco's British Innovation Gateway award, with a prize package worth $200,000.

So, it IS possible to succeed without being in Silicon Valley.

Can't wait until Health 2.0 Europe 2014? We have 3 Chapters in the UK. Health 2.0 Manchester & Health 2.0 Birmingham. In terms of the Health 2.0 London Chapter, which I run as a volunteer, we now have 540 members. I've already scheduled 4 events for 2014. A big thanks to the ICTKTN for sponsoring our events. The events are kept small as we've found it works well in 2013. If you are interested in attending, don't be put off by the fact that all of the events are full. Join the waiting list, as many people registered can't attend due to work & family, so people on the waiting list usually get a space. 

  • Jan 22nd - Digital Health: How do we avoid 'Digital Exclusion' in Health & Social Care? 
  • Feb 19th - Digital Health in UK hospitals: Hope or Hype?
  • Mar 18th - The Internet of Things: Could this be the catalyst for innovation in the NHS?
  • Apr 16th - Does giving patients more data actually increase engagement & improve outcomes?

[Disclosure: I have no commercial ties with the companies listed above, apart from Health 2.0, which uses me as a consultant from time to time]

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