In its second iteration, HLTH, touted as the “Largest and Most Important Conference for Health Innovation” (the conference organizers’ words and capitalization, not mine), was a 6,000+ casino- storming crowd of innovators, investors, health system leaders, payers, disrupters, healthcare providers and others looking for inspiration and activation to improve and fundamentally redesign the delivery of care, the patient experience and the identification of game-changing health and medical innovations.

Here is what we experienced:

Biz dev, biz dev and more biz dev. The hallways were full of people showing off their tools and technologies in an effort to attract investors, partners and acquirers. BUZZ!!

The programming served a few fundamental purposes: to deliver notable leaders whose presentations set the stage for the future, progress reports on what’s working and not, and inspiration of where healthcare and delivery is headed. The sheer number of industry and government leaders—Mark Cuban, Seema Verma, Lloyd Dean* and Margo Georgiadis*—brought the vision and the star power. Just a sample: Adam Boehler, former HHS deputy administrator and director of CMS’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, anticipated that fee-for-service will all but end within five years.

Key themes and topics prevalent throughout the meeting included defining digital therapeutics and telemedicine and how they are regulated; the importance of integrating health tech into the current workflow; how we’ve entered the age of genomics; and pharma’s role in the digital health transition. Consumer DNA/genetics testing continues to be a focus; the CEOs of 23andMe and Ancestry had primetime speaking slots at the meeting. Also woven into nearly every session was discussion around the need for all digital health technologies – remote patient monitoring, AI/ML, telemedicine, electronic health records, etc. – to work together in one cohesive digital health ecosystem. (MedCityNews had a track of programming, as the trade has rolled one of its freestanding events into HLTH.)

One theme that was touched on consistently across the presentations and discussions was the need for trust. As a Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) board member, I presented during an executive roundtable hosted by the Healthcare Executive Group (HCEG) mentioning that if I got a nickel for every time I heard “trust” during HLTH, I’d be able to pay my health insurance premium for a month. Trust is essential to enable the adoption of technology that will transform healthcare. In this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, the need for engagement with consumers and healthcare providers during this change was abundantly clear. Ensuring that data is secured, de-identified and never tracks back to the individual are keys to building that trust.

We heard from many companies that the gathering is a unique for its sales and biz dev opportunities. According to one, “HLTH is great for us. We have had many potential customer meetings. There is nowhere else that is designed for this--sales activities that are fundamental for our business.” Although packing the meeting into a few days and a single Vegas strip hotel conference center left some people feeling overwhelmed, the saving grace was the opportunity for one-on-one meetings.

If you are in health tech and involved in collaboration, related business development and partnerships, HLTH is a place to be. Year 3 of HLTH will be held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in Oct 2020. Year 4 of HLTH in 2021 will be held in Boston.

Lynn Hanessian is chief strategist, Health.

*Edelman client