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The Collaborative Revolution: d.health Aging Americans Summit 2018

America is aging—fast. By the end of the decade, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under 5 for the first time in history. By 2050, the former will outnumber the latter 2-to-1. This demographic shift requires changes to every aspect of American life, starting with healthcare. “As we get older, […]

America is aging—fast. By the end of the decade, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under 5 for the first time in history. By 2050, the former will outnumber the latter 2-to-1. This demographic shift requires changes to every aspect of American life, starting with healthcare.

“As we get older, no matter how good we are at keeping healthy, our bodies need more care,” Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Vice President of Connected Health at Partners HealthCare, says. Indeed, older people face a variety of challenges in living happy, healthy, productive lives, and the tendency for increasing medical issues with advancing age is just one. The growing number of happy, healthy and productive older adults is undoubtedly good news, but it’s not always treated as such.

“Policymakers and to some degree economists see a huge burden” in the aging of the Baby Boomers, according to Dr. Christine Cassel, who recently completed her term as Planning Dean at the new Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine in Pasadena, California. “In fact, they ought to be seeing a huge opportunity.” After all, older Americans already contribute some $7 billion per year to the economy, a number that’s sure to rise. “It’s not a niche market,” adds Cassel, former American Board of Internal Medicine President and CEO.

Seizing those opportunities, however, and enabling older Americans to age successfully is a multifaceted endeavor that requires collaboration across several fields. The annual d.health Summit, organized by the University of Rochester and co-hosted by West Health, has become a crucial venue for such collaboration, bringing together world-class leaders across technology, healthcare and policy to disrupt aging.

“In the traditional healthcare industry, disciplines are very siloed from each other,” says Mary Modahl, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at telehealth leader American Well—and one of the featured speakers at next month’s d.health Summit. “Getting people to the table isn’t hard. Where it gets challenging is that old patterns of doing things are tough to break.”

The fourth d.health Summit, set for June 6 in Boston, aims to do just that, bringing together leaders from across the health, technology, finance and policy fields to turn the most vexing issues facing older Americans into the most promising opportunities. “It’s really a constellation of the top thought leaders around,” Kvedar says, “It’s so eclectic in a really positive way, and inevitably when you bring people like that together, new concepts and ideas fall out that wouldn’t have if you hadn’t brought them together.”

With relatively even representation of leaders from the worlds of finance and business, health IT and startups, clinical and research, and policy and advocacy, d.health offers a forum to build those relationships. “More collaboration among disciplines is really important, and d.health has been at the forefront of thinking about it in this way,” says Cassel who will deliver a keynote address at the Summit.

The gathering will feature other leading academics, entrepreneurs, advocates and policy experts, reinforcing and highlighting the importance of reaching across disciplines to build a better world for older Americans.

CVS Health’s Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Troyen Brennan will deliver the closing keynote. His company is moving to close a major vertical integration with Aetna, announced recently, that promises to revolutionize healthcare delivery in the U.S., motivated in no small part by the synergies and opportunities presented by the aging of the population. CVS Health, along with Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has also announced its plans to expand a partnership with the ride-hailing company Lyft to provide a way for enrollees who don’t have adequate transportation to get to their neighborhood CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. “A growing number of Americans live in areas where medical care is beyond reach, even when they have health insurance,” Brennan said of the pilot program, in a recent Forbes article. “We are committed to addressing issues that are inextricably linked to health outcomes and which are greatly improved when people have access to pharmacies.”

“Aging is one of the areas most ripe for innovation and collaboration,” Modahl says. “The Baby Boomers are retired or retiring and account for the great majority of costs in our healthcare system. At the same time, Boomers as a generation have been very innovative and willing to try new ways of doing things and new technologies. It’s a moment when it’s possible to reimagine some of the ways that care can be delivered to people as they age.”

Boston’s Latest Revolutions

The site of the d.health Summit—Boston—highlights the sort of collaborative interdisciplinary efforts that d.health seeks to foster. The birthplace of the American revolution is now at the forefront of the revolution in successful aging. Named one of last year’s top 10 best cities for successful aging by the Milken Institute’s Center for the Future of Aging, Boston made one of the earliest commitments to becoming an age-friendly city in an age-friendly state. Led by Alice Bonner, Massachusetts’ Secretary of Elder Affairs and a d.health speaker, Boston continues to pave the way.

“They’re working through really all of the things you might hope for at a city level,” Kedar Mate, another d.health speaker and Chief Innovation and Education Officer at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, says. “They’re working on the senior repair program, getting folks low- and zero-interest support services to make repairs. They’re helping with senior housing. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is creating mechanisms for older adults to both use the subway and door-to-door paratransit services. Those things set a baseline for how to become age-friendly.” And they’re happening in “a real bastion of healthcare science,” John A. Hartford Foundation President Terry Fulmer notes, a city blessed with “an array of extraordinary health centers and world-class scientists.” An environment where “people bump into each other all day long and just come together. They know one another because it’s a tight-knit community and they are really inclined to collaborate across sectors and universities.”

“At the same time,” Modahl adds, “Boston and Massachusetts are leaders in digital technology. We have a longstanding presence in the area, and we’re experiencing a renaissance right now.” Among those is Rendever, a Cambridge-based virtual-reality startup emerging from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Rendever offers senior-living communities a powerful VR platform allowing residents to virtually travel the world with their neighbors in real time, an engaging new social experience they can use to check off bucket-list items without so much as going outside. The system features separate tablet controls for caregivers to lead the experience, saving older residents the trouble of learning how to use a virtual interface.

Making the Business Case

Rendever is among the promising healthcare IT companies and startups from around the country and world that will be exhibiting at the d.health Summit. Others include BurnAlong, which offers online wellness and fitness classes, focusing on community, and uniquely drawing members from all age groups and fitness levels; OrCam, a pioneer in the field of artificial vision and creator of MyEye, a discreet assistive technology device helping older visually-impaired adults maintain independence by assisting with reading, identifying objects and recognizing faces; and UnaliWear, whose classically-styled Kanega watch offers support for falls and medication reminders, and leverages artificial intelligence to learn the wearer’s lifestyle and offer predictive, pre-emptive support.

“There are opportunities around delivering services—clinical and non-clinical support—to older adults where they live,” Mate argues. “That is an area where technology companies and startups are going to provide additional services in the future, because the market is going to be there.”

“Business is a very integral part of the interdisciplinary team,” Fulmer says. “We want value-based care, and without Wall Street, sometimes you can’t even get started. We’re working very hard on the business case.”

“The big challenge of our time is to create scalable solutions to these issues, and that requires policymakers, payers, technology makers, healthcare professionals,” Mate says. “The issues that affect older adults really reach across housing, food security, transportation, well beyond the traditional healthcare boundaries. There’s no really logical way of doing that work unless you form relationships across these different sectors and disciplines.”

There is still time to get a seat at the table and join your fellow leaders in building those connections. MedCity News readers can attend the June 6 Summit with $150 off registration with promo code MEDCITY150. Don’t miss the opportunity to help revolutionize the American healthcare industry and improve the lives of older adults.

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