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Wired Health Highlights by Gary Monk, Havas Lynx

Gary Monk of Havas Lynx recently attended WiredHealth 2014 in London here is what he thought about it -

“Like a lot of conferences it could have turned out to be a massive waste of a day.  It was actually rather good!

There were high quality content and speakers alike, with plenty of networking opportunities.

Here are my highlights and reflections:

Russell Foster talked about Sleep and Health.  OK we all know the 2 are interlinked but his examples had depth.  The interesting connection with mental illness, particularly schizophrenia where he claimed sorting out the sleep issues results in a 50% reduction of paranoia symptoms.  He explored the related idea that sleep issues could be, in some cases, an early warning of impending mental illness.  In itself enough to keep you awake at night.

Billy Boyle talked about dogs detecting breast cancer and Owlstones efforts to digitise the process of ‘smelling out disease’.  It was great and also tough to hear Billy’s personal story and his belief, that with the right funding, in 18-24 months from now, portable personal diagnostic devices will be available that detect disease on our breath.  We can argue how long before these are widely available and able to provide accurate screening for a multitude of conditions but it is clear this exciting day is coming.

Ellie Kaplan talked Alzheimers disease.  You may already have seen the diagnostic app she presented.  It uses an infrared eye scanning technique to understand where people are spending time on sets of related images.  The results, on the surface at least, seem staggering. All of those who scored less than 50% in the app went on to develop Alzheimers compared to none of those who scored over 67%.  I guess you could call it a game albeit a pretty serious one.  Ellie also emotively highlighted the massive lack of patient advocacy in Alzheimers.

I loved Tali Sharots presentation, even though her vivid slide of the faeces hitting the fan was not for everyone.  Her articulation of the challenges in changing human behavior was powerful.  Warnings have limited use especially in teenagers and those over 40 years.

‘The cigarette now is certain, the Lung Cancer in 20 years is not’

The 3 keys to changing behaviour

(1) Immediate Reward (2) Social Incentive (ie competition or not letting your social group down) (3) Progress Monitoring.

It is striking how using the right technology, in the form of games or apps can pull each of these 3 levers

John Coates left his job as a trader to study stress in traders. He explained in a very scientific way how simply consuming information arms our fight or flight response.  It may seem obvious that traders get stressed when they learn the market has nose dived (unless they have shorted it I guess)  but there is more to it.  I see great application of this in the workplace, ensuring optimum stress levels for performance and psychological well being.  He suggested the ancient delphi maxim Know Thyself should be applied to the QuantifiedSelf,  highlighting the importance of us getting in touch with our biochemistry


Sonny X Vu predicts wearables will evolve into, well something we want to wear...

Sonny X Vu predicts wearables will evolve into, well something we want to wear…

Bill Davenhall gave us some ‘geocontext’ around our health destiny.  We are constantly reminded it is shaped by our Genetics (30-40%) and our Behaviour (40-50%) but the much neglected member of the trilogy is our Environment (20-30%). An interesting talk on Geomedicine and the risks based on where we live.

I picked out a key theme of patient empowerment from Bruce Hellman’s talk.  The GP’s emerging role as ‘a supportive health coach’ and the patient being an informed custodian of their personal health data, willing for it to be shared, as long as it is on their terms

Andrew Thompson is the CEO of Proteus, you know, the ‘microchip pill’ people.  Literally microchips as apparently they are just small potatoes.   It was a big company with big funding delivering a compelling presentation on the internet of things and how our medicines should be part of those connected dots.   I have to say I have not yet seen much successful use of Proteus technology in Pharma, although the use cases I have seen are based around an old model of monitoring the naughty patient, to make sure they take their medicines as prescribed by the good doctor.  Definitely one to watch though.

Sonny X Vu  who runs a wearable device company, had a less than objective pop at, in his opinion, the ‘uncool’ Google Glass but did make a good point on ‘wearability’. Humans need self expression and material appeal,  yet wearable devices usually start with the technology and end up encased in crude plastic.  This struck me as the antithesis of Steve Jobs who forced function to follow form so it will be interesting to see if the apple iWatch is ‘cool’ when it surfaces.

I liked Sonny’s comment, or at least my interpretation of it  ‘Activity tracking is such a version 1.0 feature – there are some very exciting use cases on the way, we just don’t know what they are yet!

Krista Donaldson reminded us that technology can make a massive difference to peoples lives, particularly in the developing world and yet does not have to be expensive

Alexander Seifalian showcased the power of nanotechnology and regenerative medicine, including the versatile power of carbon nanotubes. One example was the laser targeted destruction of cancer cells, using light to activate the process.

Peter Hames from Big Health won the start up award with an app for Insomnia, called Sleepio.  It is engaging and effective with clinical trial data behind it.  Others are on the way apparently for anxiety and depression.  He took a swipe at Big Pharma, based on his own experience where the only therapy his doctor would offer him was sleeping pills.  A timely reminder that the Pharma business model needs to evolve.  If patients can be treated successfully by technology for insomnia, depression and anxiety (amongst others) then surely they should reach for the app store rather than the drug store?

So overall a great day, my only mild criticism was there could have been more discussion in the main room. The Twitter feed at #WiredHealth was buzzing. It would have been good to be able to channel some questions via Twitter to the speakers.  It is only a mild criticism as I appreciate getting the CONTENT + NETWORKING + DISCUSSION in 1 day would be a tough ask.

And while the content may not have been entirely ‘new news’ to those that follow healthtech, the speakers insights, opinions and rich examples were often valuable and inspiring.  Definitely a refreshing change from some of the boring pharma conferences.

The challenge now is applying some of this technology and thinking to meet the emerging business needs of the Pharma industry.”

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