Next Edge Summit 2016 Recap

recapEarlier this week I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel at the Next Edge Summit in Boston. The two day event’s theme was “Reimagining the Patient Journey.” Much of that re-imagination came through the lens of technology, and specifically artificial intelligence and its role in creating and delivering personalized health interventions. The focus stems from the expertise of Next IT Healthcare, which presents the summit.

I couldn’t possibly do justice to the many insightful speakers who presented by summarizing their work, but I would like to mention a few key themes that kept arising during the sessions:

Ownership of health data. There seemed to be consensus that patients should own their data, but also a recognition that at least from a practical perspective, that’s not always how it works. It came up many times that the portability and availability of patient data had critical implications for how an artificial intelligence agent might be able to learn and prescribe.

AI as “office staff,” not physician. One presenter mentioned that she sees AI agents similar to the staff in medical office–critical to the patient experience, a key input and output of information, but not the ultimate diagnosis maker and subject matter expert. This characterization seemed to resonate with most people.

The importance of personalization and context. For an AI agent to do an effective job, it has to have good baseline data not just about the population but about the individual. It also needs to engage the patient in a human-like way. The folks at Next IT Healthcare had some great stories about the rapport that patients form with the AI agents, as well as evidence that people are sometimes more honest with the agents than with a live physician.

Autonomy versus regulation. A few speakers mentioned that patients need to be able to say no to health recommendations, and to have lots of choice along their journey (high autonomy). Others, such as my co-panelists, suggested that more external regulation can help people achieve desired outcomes. I think I fall somewhere in the middle and would say that sometimes regulation makes sense, but often autonomy rules the day. And in introduction to my last theme, I’d add that whether regulation or autonomy is the better choice depends to some extent on the potential for patient motivation.

Is motivation necessary? On my panel, “Behavior Change Isn’t Everything, It’s the Only Thing,” we had some disagreement about the importance of motivation in the behavior change process. I of course think it’s the crux of the whole thing. Fellow panelist Phillip Graves of Shift Consultancy argued that motivation is negligible if behavior change can be achieved via other factors (I hope I’ve done his argument justice with that). And Dr. Tom Morrow of Next IT Healthcare focused more on the need for constant course correction, similar to how a parent raises a child, in order to ultimately achieve lasting change. It was a pleasure to partially but not completely agree with two experts under the excellent moderation skills of Noel Khirsukhani of HealthGrid.

I’d definitely attend the Next Edge Summit again.If you were there, I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the key ideas that came out of discussion. Do you agree with my take?