12 Questions to Celebrate 12 Years: An Interview with Matthew Holt

by GRACE MOEN – Content Writer for Health 2.0 covering news, trends, and reflections. 

The flagship conference by Health 2.0 is coming in on it’s 12th year! In celebration, Grace Moen, writer for Health 2.0 News, sat down with Founder and Co-Chairman Matthew Holt to discuss acquisitions, unicorns, Michelle Obama, and important topics that need more airtime. 

The 12th Annual Fall Conference will take place Sept 16-19 in Santa Clara, CA. Early Bird tickets are still available here. 

Congratulations on joining the HIMSS family! Can you tell us a bit more about what that means for the company and for the conferences?  
Thanks. We are very thrilled that as large and as influential an organization as HIMSS decided to partner with Health 2.0. They in many ways represent the mainstream that we had already begun to be getting involved with. But with HIMSS’ reach we can be more impactful, more quickly. And of course we think we have a few things to teach them about new technologies, and maybe even a few new ways of doing business!

At last year’s fall conference you and Indu introduced the 5 Drivers of Decentralized Health Care: (1) The new interoperability: FHIR and blockchain, (2) Novel modalities and analytics, (3) New entrants, (4) Business model disruption and policy shifts, (5) New environments. How do you envision any or all of those will evolve in 2018?
You don’t have long enough for this answer! But I think with Apple’s move to set up personal health records and Epic opening its APIs, all the interoperability standards will rapidly come to the fore in the next year or two. There’s also quicker evolution in business models than many people realize, with the integration of technology with virtual and physical clinical services happening at quite a pace. And we haven’t really figured out what the giants like Google, Apple, and Amazon are going to do. So those are my two spaces to watch for this year.
– Read more about the 5 Drivers of Decentralized Health Care here.
– Watch Matthew and Indu’s Opening Keynote at the 11th Annual Fall Conference.

Speaking of Google, Apple, Amazon etc, let’s talk about the role the tech giants are playing in health care now. We’ve seen a lot of new players enter the game this year — do you view them as saviors with their glimmering resources or partners to the folks who’ve been in the trenches from the start?
Health care information technology is one area where the Silicon Valley tech giants and even the more general tech behemoths like IBM & Siemens have really struggled to become core players. There can’t be many industries where the dominant tech brands are located in rural Wisconsin, Kansas City, or suburban Massachusetts. However, over time as the monitoring of people with chronic illness and the ability of sensors and new interfaces like voice and robots become extremely common place in the home, you have to imagine that the players who control that ecosystem will develop the alliances and the technology necessary to change the way health care is delivered. Long term the big Tech Giants will likely do what they have done elsewhere and try to capture all the value they see, but in the medium term they need to partner with or acquire tech firms that have done a lot of niche work, before coming up with their own solutions.

Smartest acquisition of 2017:
I think the most interesting one was Roche’s acquisition of MySugr. Not only is this a fairly large scale M&A activity for Europe, but for the first time a drug company has bought one of the new disease specific management platforms.

But obviously the smartest acquisition was HIMSS buying Health 2.0!

China surpassed the US in unicorns last year – what do you make of such extreme evaluations? Bubble? Or can the US learn a thing or two?  
I’ve lived in America for about 28 years and I’m still baffled about the place. I’ve been to China twice, and I have no idea what’s going on there!

Favorite consumer tracker to date:
I’ve tried and failed on about every tracker out there. But since 2010, I have consistently used the Withings (now Nokia) scale and can (and sometimes do) track my weight, daily, weekly, or month to month. So I guess the one that I actually use is my favorite. My wife uses her Apple watch for everything (even driving directions on her bike) and I’m impressed by how it motivates her.

You and Indu often say that health happens everywhere. Where would you like to see care delivered where it doesn’t already exist?
More care delivered in the home using data analytics, technology, and human support. Better access to care for the homeless outside of the hospital emergency department. And more basic infrastructure to support care in Puerto Rico.

Least “sexy” technology that made the biggest impact last year?
The clear winner here is CoverMyMeds. Few people including me really understood what they were doing, but they were building an important electronic bridge between EHRs used in the clinic and pharmacies, enabling automatic prior authorization of drugs. It doesn’t sound sexy but a billion dollar acquisition by McKesson was probably pretty sexy if you were a shareholder!

What, as an industry, are we not collectively talking about, but should? What needs more airtime?
The impact of economic determinants of health such as job loss, financial stress, and housing insecurity on the people who come into our health care system. Symptoms of this such as the opiate crisis and the homelessness crisis are  becoming extremely visible in certain parts of the country, and the health care system is both taking the brunt of it and unable to do much about it.

How do you define value in healthcare today?
Today, sadly, it means what can I get paid for via the obfuscating Medicare or insurance fee schedule? What it should mean is, what’s the right use of services and care that will lead to the best experience for the patient over the long term.

Policy prediction – talk to us about the single payer system. Will we get there? How soon?
Old cynics think that America will never get there and they’re probably right. However, data that we commissioned from Zogby late last year shows that most Americans and more importantly almost all Democrats are much more interested in single payer than they were just a few years back. That’s the reason why so many leading Democratic senators, including most of the likely candidates for President in 2020, have signed on as supporting a single payer model. In addition, if you read any one of the hundreds of articles written in 2017 about the working class Trump voters the thing they most hate about Obamacare–once you get past the name–is that it seems to have high premiums, high deductibles, and limited access to doctors. A single-payer system like Canada’s has no premiums, no deductibles, and free choice of doctor. So you have to expect that if that message was ever clearly communicated to those voters, it might be a pretty popular.  Having said that, who knows what the politics of the next three years (or even the next 3 months!) will bring, and there’s absolutely no certainty that we will have a single payer system in the next 5, 10 or 50 years. This is America…

Who is your dream Health 2.0 guest?
I think we’ve had the absolute who’s who of our space. But I know Indu would say Michelle Obama…

The 12th Annual Fall Conference will take place Sept 16-19 in Santa Clara, CA. Early Bird tickets are still available here.