Digital health futurist Fard Johnmar talks how unleashing the digital health innovation virus will help spread game changing ideas in healthcare.
Does digital health have a silo problem? Clearly, there’s a lot of collaboration and conversation currently happening globally around health technology. New accelerators are being launched regularly. People are sharing digital health news on social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. Events like HIMSS, Health 2.0, NYeC Digital Health Conference, TEDMED, and others have become vital sources of relationships and discovery for many.
Yet, despite this volume of activity, much of it still exists in digital or physical silos due to factors such as the volume of content being produced about digital health, the costs associated with travelling to U.S.-based conferences — especially for those in Europe, South America and Asia — and other factors.
Fard Johnmar, founder of the digital health innovation consultancy Enspektos and co-author of ePatient 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Health Care, has long believed that unlocking innovation in health requires exposing more people to disruptive ideas, helping them find each other and separating signal from noise. This is why Johnmar created what he calls the world’s first virtual digital health conference, digihealth pulse Virtual 2014. The virtual event is designed to enable attendees to learn from some of the most innovative people in digital health and engage in wide-ranging discussions about important issues in digital health.
Recently, HIT Consultant spoke with Johnmar to learn more about unleashing the digital health innovation virus, the role of a digital health futurist and what he’s seeking to achieve via this virtual conference.
HITC: You describe yourself as a digital health futurist. What is your definition of a digital health futurist and what role do they play in the transformation of healthcare?
Fard Johnmar: I describe myself as a digital health futurist because I think carefully about how technology will influence health and wellness. Specifically, I look for patterns and meaning behind the events or news of the day in order to help executives in health understand what’s coming in digital health and why it matters.
I believe futurists can play an important role in healthcare because they can help people define the future and operate successfully in a very uncertain landscape. This helps with a range of activities, from strategic planning, investments, business operations and more. From a consumer perspective, they can help people understand what’s coming and important issues related to how they can (and should) navigate the fast-moving technology landscape.
HITC: What do you mean by unleashing the digital health innovation virus?
Fard Johnmar: Well, I’m a firm believer that simply being exposed to a new idea, concept or way of thinking can be very beneficial. I’ve seen this first-hand during internal corporate innovation events held by health organizations. Often the people attending rarely have the opportunity to see each other, talk about their work, or hear — in a sustained way — about things going on outside the company. Often people leave those events excited because they are thinking about old problems in different ways or get an idea for a new product, service or initiative.
When I talk about unleashing the digital health innovation virus, I’m referring to this process: exposure, excitement, idea generation and execution. Innovation infection happens at conferences all the time. And, because of social media, more people are being exposed to ideas presented during live events. But, nothing beats actually being in the room, asking questions of presenters and—most importantly— having access to conference materials. With DHPV 2014, we’re hoping to spread the digital health innovation virus to a lot more people, which will hopefully result in some great things in the future.
HITC: You’ve described this as the world’s first virtual digital health conference, but organizations like HIMSS have conducted online events in the past. What makes this different and unique?
Fard Johnmar: I’ve attended a range of conferences and events in the past held by organizations like Health 2.0 and SXSW. What makes these conferences valuable is the energy and excitement people feel when they have the ability to hear from innovative people like Esther Dyson, founders of successful startups like Derek Flanzraich of Greatist and others. Another benefit of these events is the opportunity to meet new people and re-forge relationships. But, there’s another class of events, I’ve attended (and produced) like the great Meetups held across the country by people in the health technology space which are more intimate and provide lots of networking time. With digihealth pulse Virtual 2014 (DHPV 2014), we are seeking to combine the best features of both large-scale and intimate conferences in terms of speaker quality, the ability to connect with others and more. We’re not pretending that we can replace face-to-face contact, but we’re hoping that people who meet during DHPV 2014 decide to continue these relationships offline — even during conferences held in the real world. So, by the “first” we’re really referring to the scale of the event, the diversity of speakers and the ample, structured connections that will be available to attendees during the conference.
HITC: So, what can people expect from the virtual event? Are you simply showing webinars, or something else?
Fard Johnmar: We thought carefully about how to organize the event so that it would be at once familiar and unique for attendees. Like other conferences, we have plenty of live sessions, which people can attend remotely via webinar. We also have breakout sessions, which we’re calling premieres. Essentially, these are pre-recorded Webinars that will be released during the conference. However, premieres will also be interactive because presenters will be standing by to take questions from attendees — live for about 20-25 minutes after the Webinar recording concludes. We have some very exciting speakers lined up, including Esther Dyson, Matthew Holt, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, Unity Stoakes and Ryan Beckland.
In addition, some speakers have agreed to participate in what we’re calling virtual roundtables on different topics like Big Data, innovation, interoperability, startups, using digital health among the underserved and more. Attendees will be able to ask speakers questions and discuss these topics amongst themselves. We’ve also made it easy for people to connect with each other during the conference.
All presentations, Webinars and transcripts will be made available to attendees for about 6 months after the event concludes.
HITC: We’re based in the United States, but we have a broad (and growing) international audience. Are there any benefits for people living outside the U.S.?
Fard Johnmar: Yes, reaching people living outside the U.S. was a major reason we launched DHPV 2014. Since my book was published, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of people from Europe, South America and Asia. I’ve learned that people in those parts of the world are working hard to bring digital health innovation to their governments and people. Yet, it can be especially difficult for these folks to access information and insights about digital health. This is one reason I think you’re seeing your international audience grow. Moreover, the expenses associated with traveling to the U.S. for Health 2.0, Stanford Medicine X or another major conference can put these events out of reach. We’re hoping we can help a larger number of people not only be exposed to innovative ideas, but forge connections with individuals they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet.
Johnmar’s concept of unleashing the digital health innovation virus via exposure, connections and collaboration is an interesting one. Will it work or is it another conference entering an increasingly crowded conference landscape? Only time will tell.
If you’d like to register for the digihealth pulse Virtual 2014, click here
Disclosure: HIT Consultant is a featured media partner of the digihealth pulse Virtual 2014