SXSW 2019 Provided a Roadmap for Better Health Care

by Gene Fitzpatrick

Several themes and topics were reported from SXSW 2019 that can contribute to creating a healthier world. Rapidly advancing science and discovery, augmenting technology and inspiring empathetic leaders, citizens and businesses potentially providing the building blocks for better individual wellness, preventative health behavior, and a more efficient health care system.

Staying healthy vs. Getting Better

“If you want to have a better health care system, invest in better care for the elderly and keep kids off sugar,” mentioned Trevor Price, Founder and Partner at Town Hall Ventures in a session about investing in new health-focused start-ups. The sentiment about keeping people healthy instead of waiting to treat sickness was echoed throughout SXSW, including from David Feinberg, M.D., Vice President at Google Health. Feinberg indicated how the ability to share data in diagnostics can help identify conditions or sicknesses earlier to help treat before they become serious. He cited retinal scans from an eye doctor as an example, and how technology now allows that scan to interpret more than just vision. Technology allows data to be shared and analyzed instantly. A comment from a physician in the audience also referenced similar instances where evaluating an individual’s microbiome could also provide insights to many health issues. It has been a common theme growing over several years as the health care system moves to value-based care, working to keep people out of hospitals and preventing avoidable diseases such as type 2 diabetes. If we can adapt to health behavior changes, predicting and identifying health issues earlier and better, we can prevent diseases and detect risks earlier to avoid serious stages of illness.

The Robots Can Help

Our technological advancement as a civilization continues to grow exponentially. That advancement is key to keep us healthier and avoid serious health conditions. In addition to the diagnostic tests stated above, wearables can help predict risk factors including irregular heart rate, oxygen levels, blood sugar levels, stress, and more. Video chat doctor visits from home or your local pharmacy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week are already available. Home monitoring devices are all becoming common protocol in health care thanks to the technology that feeds them. This year, SXSW unveiled robot assistants, many which can detect the owners emotional and mental state to track well-being. Tools are available to help us stay healthier. LG unveiled prototypes of their CLOi series of robots for every type of application from homecare to lawncare. And tēmi was a relatively inexpensive robot that can perform the simplest of tasks at ease. One can only imagine how easy it is for tēmi to monitor an elder or remind you to take your medicine, something our teams have already started to ideate around. The tools are here to help create better health behavior.

The tools are here to help create better health behavior.

Making It Happen

SXSW is also no stranger to political showcases. Nearly every politician running for something coincidentally was part of SXSW panels and discussions, many cited how to foster better systematic health care primarily in the United States. Whether it be a more universally covered government-funded system or an encouraged corporate program covering employees, political POVs were front and center at the conference including sessions from former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate, Howard Schulz. Leaders from all political sides seem to agree that more efficient and preventative care is needed. Big companies may also be realizing that caring and empathy are portentously marketable as Rohit Bhargava, Founder of the Non-Obvious Company, unveiled his non-obvious trends for 2019. It is good business for companies to provide employees outstanding health care coverage or help remedy and fund solutions to social ills. While many still disagree about funding and organizational structure, the ability to provide better health care and early health behavioral change for everyone is there.

Leaders from all political sides seem to agree that more efficient and preventative care is needed.

We Are Ready

SXSW unveils some scary theories about advancing technology such as the continued erosion of personal privacy, increased reliance on intelligent machines, and decreased human interactions. However, despite the concerns, there are many opportunities to be optimistic about especially when it comes to health. For Ogilvy, this moment is tremendous because this technological growth, trending behavior, and identification of potential challenges educate us on how to create better health programs. If we take the vision for a healthier future, the tools to achieve that vision, and the means to connect them, we continue to be a valued partner to our clients and pioneers for a healthier world.