Big Connected Health Symposium: What Video Games, Social Networking, and Other Tech Innovations Are Doing for Healthcare

Partners HealthCare’s Center for Connected Health is holding its sixth big Connected Health Symposium in Boston this week, and there’s definitely more optimism here that information technology is becoming more mainstream in healthcare than in years past. The big focus of the conference is on technology that is used to extend healthcare outside of traditional clinics or hospitals into the homes of patients—something often called telemedicine or, at least at Partners, connected health.

Telemedicine got a big boost when IT was identified earlier this year in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the economic stimulus) as playing an important role in improving quality of care—and perhaps most urgently—reducing healthcare costs. Currently there are provisions in bills under consideration in Congress that would create incentives for healthcare providers to adopt, say, remote patient monitoring and teleconferencing technologies. Indeed, the healthcare reform train is moving fast in Washington nowadays, and major players in the telemedicine market such as Philips Healthcare and Intel—which both have strong presences here at the symposium—are working hard to jump aboard and ensure that technologies that allow connectivity between patients and doctors are part of the agenda.

This symposium is interesting because it attracts a rare mix of physicians, entrepreneurs, hospital administrators, academics, and technology executives. Big names in tech like Google, Microsoft, and Verizon Wireless have sent executives here. Meantime, there are plenty of folks from Harvard, MIT, and the multiple research hospitals in town involved in the discussions to add a strong clinical or scientific perspective to the conference.

I’m also seeing or catching wind of new innovations from the gaming and wireless industries that have the potential to help patients stay healthy in their homes. (However, I have to say that the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, replete with its great big crystal chandeliers and Romanesque columns, makes an incongruous backdrop for someone talking about how an academic used the popular video game Warcraft in her medical research.)

Here are five of the VIPs who spoke here on Wednesday at the symposium:

—Daniel Palestrant, CEO of Sermo. Palestrant, a surgeon by training, has led the growth of Cambridge, MA-based Sermo into an online community of 120,000 physicians.

—Paul Bromberg, vice president and general manager at Philips Healthcare. Bromberg, whose office is in Framingham, MA, heads Philips’ remote patient monitoring unit.

—Ben Sawyer, founder of Games for Health, based in Portland, ME. Sawyer, a devoted gamer who plays Rock Band and other games in his spare time, does R&D on gaming technologies that are designed to improve healthcare.

—Jamie Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe. PatientsLikeMe, based in Cambridge, provides an online forum and community for patients with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, depression, and multiple sclerosis to share information about their illnesses with each other.

—U.S. Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat representing Massachusetts. Though I wasn’t around for his panel, Markey and Partners CEO Jim Mongan talked about healthcare policy and politics in Washington.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of the themes emerging from the symposium that I think are particularly interesting:

—Philips’ Bromberg noted that 24 percent of patients treated for heart failure are … Next Page »

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