At SXSW, Hipsters Look for Healthcare Tech Tipping Point

Scott Mace, 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.

Scott Mace

Scott Mace is the senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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