The Top 10 Healthcare Innovation Events of 2014

It’s been a wild year at MedTech Boston. We’ve grown our staff, covered dozens of events, interviewed hundreds of fascinating medical professionals and innovators, and published pieces on everything from hackathons, to insurance policy, to mHealth, to reforming the cost of care. We appreciate you taking the journey with us, and we can’t wait to keep expanding next year.

In case you missed out, here’s a little snap shot of the past year – 10 of our favorite innovation events, from the Boston area and beyond:

1. Boston’s Blue Button Innovation Challenge

Iris Xu (left), Steven Young (center), and Michael Tomko (right) present “Visit-to-Visit” to the hackathon mentors. Photo credit: Ajay Major.

Iris Xu (left), Steven Young (center), and Michael Tomko (right) present “Visit-to-Visit” to the hackathon mentors. Photo by Ajay Major.

Hosted by Tufts and organized by MedStart and MIT’s Hacking Medicine, this hackathon started 2014 off on a great (and realistic) note. “We’ve had a lack of ambition in health care innovation because we’re too focused on money and getting acquired,” keynote speaker Dr. Sachin Jain, of Merck and Co., said. “It’s not because we don’t start out ambitious. It’s that we become isolated and we feel like we’re the only one facing these obstacles. That’s when we start to lose the ambition.” Many solutions presented in the final pitch-off turned out to be concussion-related.

2. The 2014 Google Glass Challenge

Todd A. Theman, a surgical resident in the integrated Harvard Plastic Surgery training program at Harvard Medical School, took home the “Lean and Mean” award for his pitch “Expert on Call.” Photo by Poncie Rutsch.

Todd A. Theman, a surgical resident in the integrated Harvard Plastic Surgery training program at Harvard Medical School, took home the “Lean and Mean” award for his pitch, “Expert on Call.” Photo by Poncie Rutsch.

After months of pitching and voting, 13 finalists presented ideas for using Google Glass in the medical setting. Among the winning pitches was one from Todd A. Theman, a surgical resident who presented the idea of using Glass as a tool for physicians in under-resourced areas to connect with specialists. Lilit Sargsyan was also acknowledged for her pitch, called RemoteGuide, which allows ultrasound specialists to provide remote expertise to an area without experts. Don’t worry – the event will be back this spring with a vengeance. Submit your ideas now!

3. HxRefactored

Photo by Christine Coulter.

Photo by Christine Coulter.

This year’s 2-day design and technology conference was co-hosted by Mad*Pow and Health 2.0 (it was also the brainchild of one of our featured women in medtech, Amy Cueva). The event provided conversations about healthcare.gov, patient activism and design in healthcare settings.

4. The Primary Care Innovation Challenge

2014 Primary Care Challenge finalists from left to right: Gina Luciano, Cole Zanetti, John Moore, Ajay Kohli, Rebecca Glassman, and Howard Haft. Photo by Jenni Whalen.

2014 Primary Care Challenge finalists from left to right: Gina Luciano, Cole Zanetti, John Moore, Ajay Kohli, Rebecca Glassman, and Howard Haft. Photo by Jenni Whalen.

Dr. Gina Luciano of Baystate Health won this live pitch-off event with her innovative plan to rework primary care residency programs. “It’s about time that primary care is recognized for the cool that we are,” said Marci Nielsen, the pitch-off moderator and CEO of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative. Along with Luciano, five other innovators presented ideas varying from a heart failure platform to using positively deviant patients to guide those struggling with chronic illness.

5. TEDxBedminster

Richie Etwaru, the TedxBedminster organizer, opens up the event with a brief talk. Photo provided by Etwaru.

Richie Etwaru, the TEDxBedminster organizer, opens up the event with a brief talk. Photo provided by Etwaru.

TEDxBedminster brought together thinkers from the healthcare, marketing, culinary and music industries. Although everyone wasn’t strictly healthcare-focused, writer Shreya Iyer found much to cover in each of the talks. “Michael DePalma, a proponent of The Human API – a health data integration service hoping to evangelize and articulate the future of preventative healthcare- believes that healthcare needs to emulate a car. You read that right: a car,” she wrote. Take-aways included thoughts on prevention, millennial power, aha moments and social media.

6. Boston Children’s Hospital’s Innovation Tank

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Daymond John moderates the Innovation Tank. Photo provided by BCH.

Moderated by Shark Tank host Daymond John, this live pitch-off featured pediatric healthcare solutions from three finalists, all vying for prize money. The high energy event included pitches from HubScrub, a device that cleans catheters, reducing infection; CareAline, a company that produces sleeves and wraps to help pediatric patients manage central lines; and Kurbo Health, an app that helps kids live healthy lives through coaching and games. In the end, all three finalists were awarded prize money.

7. Exponential Medicine 2014

Exponential Medicine attendees. Photos provided by Arshya

Exponential Medicine attendees. Photo provided by Arshya Vahabzadeh.

Writers and physicians Arshya Vahabzadeh and Alia Rashid highlighted four key learning points from this California-based conference: a need for context, using data for good, transitions in the way healthcare is practiced, and the future of innovation. “Remarkably, the biggest changes in healthcare, a field ripe for disruption, may not come from hospitals or physicians at all – they may come from technology companies, entrepreneurs and innovators,” they wrote.

8. TEDxBeaconStreet

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Nancy Oriol, HMS Dean for Students, receives a standing ovation at TEDx Beacon Street. Photo via @CRICOtweet.

It was a year of TEDx’s for us, so we headed to our local TEDx for insights on 3D printing, enchanted objects, patient dummies, metabolites and healthcare policy. Our intern, Brendan Pease, was particularly intrigued by GlowCaps. “These enchanted objects are regular prescription bottles with one modification: when it’s time for patients to take their pills, the caps glow,” he wrote. “In a preliminary study on the novel technology, patient adherence rose 27% when regular prescription bottles were given GlowCaps.”

9. The 2014 mHealth Summit

Photo by Dr. Stuart Hochron.

Photo by Dr. Stuart Hochron.

The buzz at this year’s mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. revolved around two things: relatively low-tech solutions for care coordination, and the remarkable potential of EHR analytics. Experts talked telehealth, analytics (combining EHRs and social media), automated psychotherapy and next fronteirs for startups. “The bar was set very low for this year’s startups,” Dr. Wesley Valdez of Intermountain Health said at the event. “Many were doing the same things with monitoring or analytics, and it’s easy for bigger companies to copy their ideas and make the same product better and faster, and sink you.” Hey, there’s a lot of room for improvement in 2015.

10. The Stop Ebola Hackathon

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ProxiMe team members: Jessica Aubrey, Ellen Ball, Shauna Biggs, Sean Doyle, Adrian Gropper and Jim Wright. Photo by Krina Patel.

In the midst of the many hackathons we covered, several rose to the top as being particularly relevant. This CAMTech event, which focused on finding solutions for particularly difficult-to-solve problems in West Africa, produced several useful solutions for Ebola. The winning team, ProxiMe, designed a voice controlled, low-cost bracelet worn by patients to monitor heart rate and temperature, alerting healthcare workers of potential problems. The award-winning Team RESCUE offered a modular, turn-key, fully operational, scale-able Ebola treatment unit that could be assembled on site within 48 hours, accommodating both patients and their families.

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We hope we’ll see you back online in 2015 for more exciting conversations about healthcare innovation, improvements and pain points.

Jenni Whalen

Jenni Whalen

    Jenni Whalen is the Executive Assistant of Editorial at Upworthy. She was previously MedTech Boston's Managing Editor and has an MS in Journalism from Boston University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University. Whalen has written for Greatist, Boston magazine, AZ Central Healthy Living and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other places. She has also worked as a conference planner, ghost writer, researcher and content developer.

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