Here, Finn Partners Global Health Practice Head @Gil_Bashe sits down for a virtual chat with his longtime industry colleague and friend – talking health system lessons to be learned from digital health, the next big thing in health technology, and the freshly crowned #1 influencer’s advice for engaging on social media.
Gil: First, congrats on being tapped as the #1 HealthTech Influencer among 100 top connectors! As you know, the U.S. has a very fragmented health system. What do you think payers, hospitals and pharma companies can learn from the digital health community?
John: Innovation and disruptions seem to be two of the key “wish list” words that find their way into the healthcare dialogue. Unfortunately, we all want change but few seem willing to upset the status quo. Perhaps this stems from the fear that change might make a broken system even worse – but digital health teaches us three key lessons that might drive to solutions.
First, we need to seek out eclectic stakeholder voices to solve problems. The echo chamber doesn’t advance the discussion or result in new solutions. Clinicians, scientists, patients, innovators and even outliers must be part of the discussion.
Second, traditional pharma, hospitals and payers have impressive abilities to validate innovation and reach consumers – but the real opportunity for change-making lies in coupling that skill with outside, “lightning-bolt” innovation. The digital health movement is a wonderful opportunity for two powerful forces to come together and fill each other’s needs.
Third, the very nature of innovation is fragile: it is, by its nature, an “outlier” from the mainstream. Yet we often seek an intellectual average or consensus to evaluate innovation – which leaves us with more of the “mushy middle” than real and impactful change.
GIL: We see so many new, easy-to-use-and-apply technologies available that can improve patient care – from bed monitoring technologies such as EarlySense, to wearables, and even clothes that share data. Yet, we see much of the healthcare system waiting on the sidelines. What is the catalyst for change – for the system to engage?
JOHN: The key problem with digital health is that it’s often seen as more of a novelty. Or perhaps it’s closer to an athletic “bonus” than a true clinical imperative. The driver of change will be new apps and devices that address clinical needs and are validated by data. I’m seeing too much “fun” or “cool” technology driving so-called health innovation. Let’s face it, a 65 year-old man with metabolic syndrome is very difficult to get off that couch; a step tracker combined with a few reminders isn’t going to do the job. But switching step counting to gait evaluation in Parkinson’s Syndrome to optimize drug therapy is an example of transforming an athletic option into a clinical imperative.
GIL: You seem to be comfortable working with traditional pharma and cutting-edge innovators in helping them dip their toes into the world of digital health and navigating social channels. Are both equally open to this path of communication? Do you think that smaller entrepreneurs embrace social channels more readily or is that a misperception?
JOHN: The magic of the tweet! We all look toward those 140 characters as a powerful tactic to reach millions. The biggest difference, in my opinion, is that legal and regulatory issues less encumber smaller entrepreneurs than larger companies. My sense is that the larger companies actually have the greater opportunity to leverage social media because they can harness broader resources. But they generally regard social media as more “media” and less “social.” Their communications on Twitter and Facebook are sterile and cold and very rarely social. Today’s entrepreneurs recognize that social media is actually more “social” than “media” and build relationships that support the brand.
GIL: You have an incredible career journey from creative director at a major medical advertising agency to digital health consultant. What have you learned about leveraging Digital Health and Health/Tech to reach out and make new connections – around issues and ideas? What is the best way for people to pursue these new virtual connections?
JOHN: I’m a big fan of social media, particularly Twitter. Many people fear Twitter because they feel that they have nothing to say – but my key observation about Twitter is that it’s a great listening tool! It’s less about what you have to say than what you might want to learn about. You’re free to follow anyone and a quick hashtag search will provide a very current sense of what’s going on around a given topic or category. It’s a vast and timely resource to “connect” with many influencers. Twitter can also be a perfect partner to Google. A Google search will give you breadth and depth about a topic; a Twitter search adds a temporal component. Together, they are a powerful tool for discovery.
After you’ve done some listening, Twitter then serves as a way to begin a virtual conversation with the world. From friends to the famous, Twitter is the conduit that connects ideas and people to help change the world.
My advice is simple: try it. And if you need any help, you can always reach out to me @JohnNosta.