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At SXSW, Hipsters Look for Healthcare Tech Tipping Point

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, March 13, 2012

South by Southwest, the conference that made Twitter a household word, now has its sights set squarely on the business of healthcare.

In other words, get ready for more technology-fueled disruption than ever before. At the expanded three-day health track at the annual three-ring film/music/tech circus in Austin, TX, healthcare payers were front and center this week, clamoring for change—or at least trying to get in front of the parade of patients.

"We have good doctors, and we have insurance companies that want to fund the right thing, but it's not working, and all the trends are going in the wrong direction," says Michael Golinkoff, executive vice president of specialty programs at Aetna.

In the current atmosphere of fear and loathing existing between payers, providers, and patients, Golinkoff and a small army of other speakers urge big and little actions to create an atmosphere of trust.

Aetna used SXSW to make a big splash, sponsoring an iTriage "PowerUp" Lounge stocked with healthy snacks, in stark contrast to the usual Texas fare. To create more buzz, Aetna sent a guy in a giant iPhone suit to walk around the SXSW lobby and at parties.

At SXSW, out on the digital frontier, it's all about creating buzz. This conference makes the recent HIMSS event in Las Vegas look like a convention of librarians.

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2 comments on "At SXSW, Hipsters Look for Healthcare Tech Tipping Point"


PJoseph (3/14/2012 at 10:54 AM)
Hey, Tom Noland and Shankar Ram of Humana. If Humana is serious about really helping customers, why did you send me, a long-time Humana customer, a paper calendar with pretty pictures on it? Is that an idea from your innovation center? How does that help me be healthier? How does that reduce healthcare costs? Is sending me a calendar the best way to spend your 20%? I don't think so. For your innovation center, hire people from Zappo's and Netflix, not healthcare, who really know how to motivate me to change my behavior, reward me for doing what's best, and make me feel good about it. Align your SXSW speeches with action, please. Change to healthcare delivery cannot happen without bringing in successful people from OUTSIDE healthcare.

Doug Naegele (3/14/2012 at 9:37 AM)
The line "Smartphones are no panacea..." is a great one, in that it acknowledges that not all patients are healthy, upper-income iPhone users. SmokefreeTXT, a product Infield Health built for the National Cancer Institute, works on SMS specifically to reach a non-smartphone market: teens. Let's remember that the very people who need health advice are sometimes not carrying shiny iPhone 4S's. Doug Naegele Infield Health