Changing the Face of Innovation

Indu Subaiya, MD, MBA, is CEO and co-chairman of the HIMSS Health 2.0 business unit producing global conferences for new health technologies and bridging relationships between emerging technology companies and healthcare organizations to commercialize innovation and improve health and healthcare. During medical school, Indu felt drawn to improve care efficiency by trying to create a medical record-sharing platform. That path led her to meet healthcare consultant Matthew Holt and to co-found Health 2.0, a conference and media company showcasing digital health technologies. “Health 2.0 has become more than a conference,” says Indu. “It’s a global community and a movement that’s now over 10 years old. It’s about how healthcare can be more human-centered – by creating technology that’s focused on the user experience, relies on data to drive intelligent decision-making and plays well with others.” 

HIMSS: What do you see as the most important new innovations in digital health?

Indu: At Health 2.0 we’ve thought deeply about this question – and developed what we call "Five Drivers of Healthcare's Decentralized Future" As an example, I’m really excited about new technologies that use Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) interfaces with the EMR and connect consumer applications into medical data, like Google Home and others. That’s another area that’s so exciting – new entrants coming into healthcare, including Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, bringing us new modalities to interface with healthcare records, like voice artificial intelligence.

And technology is creating better referral networks for vulnerable populations. If a provider sees a patient with a need beyond the clinical setting, there are now companies providing directories of services, whether it be housing, food, transportation or other needs. This remains a big problem where traditional care models intersect with people’s everyday lives. We need better information and technology solutions so providers can connect patients to social services and resources. 

HIMSS: What are the most pressing needs you see on the healthcare horizon?

Indu: Mental health, particularly in young people, is a huge issue. So many digital tools already exist but aren’t widely used. Much of mental health is about coaching or “checking in.” That process doesn’t have to be cumbersome, like going to a provider’s office.  We can do it through a video visit, chat, digital coaching and other solutions. 

Opioid addiction is of course another pressing need. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation set up a fantastic innovation challenge called RWJF Opioid Challenge – and launched it at Health 2.0’s WinterTech conference in January 2018. It’s a call for tech-enabled solutions to connect opioid users, peers, caregivers, families, and others with resources that can make a difference. The foundation teamed up with Catalyst at Health 2.0 to call on innovators, developers, entrepreneurs and other bright minds to create tools that support people affected by the opioid epidemic. 

Medicaid is another big need. The Kaiser Family Foundation says one in two children in California are on Medicaid – but they’re not an outlier. National statistics shows 46 percent of children under 19 are Medicaid enrollees. When it comes to technology infrastructure, Medicaid needs a massive overhaul.  We need both information and technology to fix this problem. 

HIMSS: Can you give us a preview of your HIMSS 18 closing keynote at the Innovation Symposium – “Health  Happens Everywhere”?

Indu: First of all, HIMSS is at a really wonderful juncture in its history – with the vision of new leadership moving forward. It’s exciting to be here representing a small part of the organization as Health 2.0. It’s like being the tip of a huge sword!

My “Health Happens Everywhere” keynote at HIMSS18 is about creating novel partnerships between healthcare and other organizations in the community. How can institutions open up their walls and let innovation and partnership in? It might mean co-developing technology with a new company or partnering with local schools, libraries, or others. We’ll give examples of models. 

The wider message is that health is a vital part of life. The most exciting technology solutions address what we most care about – whether it’s shopping for food or caring for family members or other human needs. There’s a role for more efficiency and support. We’ll talk about how care delivery systems can make this happen by partnering and taking advantage of new types of collaboration.  

HIMSS: Where did you get your passion for advancing health innovation?

Indu: I went to medical school and thought I’d be a practicing doctor. But in my third and fourth year, I was impatient for change to happen at a system level. While I loved interacting with patients, I felt my talents were better suited to reforming at a macro level. I was thinking I’d create a connected health IT platform for doctors and patients and caregivers and data would flow seamlessly – and I’d be done in two years, and everything would be solved! My path to being an entrepreneur-led me to meet my partner Matthew Holt in 2006 and start Health 2.0. I certainly wasn’t trying to be a conference Producer – but when we held a gathering for other entrepreneurs, I realized my own technology idea was not a bad one, just not well thought-out. Many others were tackling the same problem statement and trying to solve it in a million different ways. My way of solving it was ultimately to bring people together with Health 2.0.

HIMSS: Any final thoughts?

Indu: Around 2009, there was a moment that completely changed my whole concept of my role with Health 2.0. The federal government was investing in open data and there was a big push to stimulate the entrepreneurial ecosystem. I got an email from Todd Park, CTO of U.S. Health and Human Services at the time, saying basically, “We need the Health 2.0 community. The government or big tech can’t solve this alone.” That’s when I felt prouder of the role I was playing – and realized what a responsibility it was!  

It’s been a pleasure to bring people together across sectors – not giving lectures but creating conversations among peers. And leveling the playing field where a student can talk to experts or senior executives. At Health 2.0 – we’re all equal. It’s democratization in healthcare in action.

In its early years, Health 2.0 took a kind of oppositional stance to HIMSS. That’s part of the disruption of healthcare - to challenge what you perceive to be the status quo. What’s evolved and why we’re part of HIMSS is realizing it’s not about the innovators versus the existing industry players. We’ve got to work together because healthcare needs fixing. It’s a massive, global problem statement. My role right now is to support Hal Wolf and the rest of HIMSS leadership in architecting that change.