First Health2.0 Chicago Local: a successful event combining innovations and first-hand experience

[This post is from Aging2.0 team member Wen Dombrowski, MD]

The first ever Health 2.0 Chicago Local conference was held this past weekend. It brought together entrepreneurs, clinicians, technologists, and investors to foster health tech innovation in the Midwest and beyond.

Unity Stoakes of Startup Health. Image: Wen Dombrowski

One of the recurring themes I heard was the importance of entrepreneurs having first hand patient or caregiving experience.

For example, the CareMerge care coordination tool was created because the founder experienced pain points when his mother became seriously ill but he did not have access to a convenient source of her medical information.  He encourages enterpreneurs to walk in their customers’ shoes in order to accurately identify the problems to be solved.

With this in mind, the team at InnovateLTC all went through Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training to get first hand experience with what is involved in taking care of functionally limited older adults.

I also met several individuals who were motivated to inventors and entrepreneurs because of their experiences caring for loved ones with dementia or other disability.

Several presenters described technology trends that are relevant to our aging population:

Asif Khan of CareMerge challenged attendees to go beyond developing games for entertainment to focus on solving aging and healthcare issues, because the latter are fundamental like food and shelter.

Dr Lyle Berkowitz of Northwestern Memorial Hospital called for the need to improve care coordination not just between specialty doctors, but also between outpatient providers, emergency rooms, and pharmacies.  He also noted that medical device companies will be increasingly making more devices to support home-based healthcare.

Alicia Heazlitt of InnovateLTC pointed out the rapidly growing aging population nationally and internationally.  Additionally, she raised a call to action to commercialize technological advances that are just sitting on shelves at academic centers so that aging consumers can benefit from it. 

Unity Stoakes of Startup Health gave a fantastic talk about two dozen trends transforming the health tech industry. We are “at the beginning of an amazing cycle of innovation & opportunity” and will see a future of “Mash Ups” with “HIT + Life Science + Mobile + Pseudo Device + Data + Personalization + Location + Genetics…” 

Personally I agree that previously disparate disciplines will converge into developing exciting products for consumers young and old, including the monitoring sensors and brain exercises that Unity mentioned in his trends list. 

Jasmin Phua reminded entrepreneurs and developers to recognize that “mobile” isn’t just about smartphones, but rather a myriad of new ways to collect and access data….we literally need to think outside the box to develop novel solutions.

Hannah Chung of Sproutel gave an awesome talk about her user-centered design approach to make interactive toys for children with chronic illnesses. It would be neat to apply her user-centered design approach to create age-appropriate products for older adults.

This well organized conference was especially impressive given that it was put together by two dedicated volunteers  —  Chicago Health Tech’s Jasmin Phua and Subbu Arumugam.  A big shout out and congratulations to them for this accomplishment!

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