The views and opinions expressed are those of the author personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
Reflections on TEDMED 2013
Unpacking my TEDMED experience will be challenging, much like it would be to unpack HIMSS or CHIME conference, but in some ways more difficult. At HIMSS and CHIME, you walk away tired and overstimulated, but have a sense that we’re all in this together. Walking away from TEDMED, I am exhausted mentally from all of the stimulating presentations and conversations, but I have a sense of being the bad guy.
TEDMED is a TED conference dedicated to science and medicine innovation. I attended this conference in conjunction with The Breakaway Group’s annual conference, which was very good and stimulating as well and was a great beginning to the TEDMED experience.
As we transitioned from The Breakaway Group to TEDMED, I had high expectations of people sharing collaborative ideas and experiences on how we can make healthcare better. I was not disappointed. There were some great ideas expressed at TEDMED. Phenomenal medical and scientific research is being conducted all around the world and it was well presented on the TEDMED stage and in The HIVE.
The HIVE was similar to the vendor floor at HIMSS, but at a much smaller scale. There were only 50 vendors present, all startups in healthcare. None were allowed to reach out to attendees beforehand and they were not allowed to bring propaganda other than their business cards. Each was given a 50-inch monitor and a small table to show their product. There was no sales pressure at all — attendees were able to approach the vendors and ask exploratory questions without pressure. That was a refreshing experience.
TEDMED was comprised of 10 sessions each lasting about two hours. In each session were several speakers who had their 20 minutes on the big red carpet. Big data, medical research, community health, indigent care, global health, and even end-of-life issues were discussed and presented from various perspectives. It was thought-provoking to say the least.
The one sense I left with — and perhaps the biggest discussion at dinner with other attendees and guests of Xerox Health — was how both physicians and hospitals were looked at and talked about as being a big part of the problem and not a part of the solution. There were physician presenters sharing personal stories of what they have done that is cutting edge, but there was absolutely no representation from any hospital or health system on stage. There was an entrepreneurial spirit there and TEDMED clearly puts the future hope of our healthcare system in the hands of entrepreneurs.
We can all agree that our current healthcare system is unsustainable. Farzad Mostashari spoke at The Breakaway Group event, and while he represents CMS and was talking about the end of fee-for-service, he also said that none of us know exactly what the payment model will look like in five years. He acknowledged that more government was not the answer, but a partnership with payers and providers alike working together to blaze a new trail. He was not asked to speak at TEDMED, probably because he represents the establishment.
I believe very strongly in the capital system and encourage innovation and starting something new and creative, but that innovation has to be partnered closely with hospitals and with our government. That part was clearly missing at TEDMED. As a result, I believe it took away from its effectiveness.
The mission of TEDMED can be derived from its website. "In its core, TEDMED is a celebration of human achievement and the power of connecting the unconnected in creative ways to change our world in health and medicine." Did they achieve this mission? I would say yes, but did they connect the unconnected with the right people?
Next year, I hope to go again. I will send TEDMED some suggestions about how it can stick it to the man a little less, and instead maybe partner with the man and talk to the man about news ways of doing things. It sounds like the man is listening.
Bill Rieger is chief information officer at Flagler Hospital of St. Augustine, FL.