New York, New York, it’s a health tech town (Part 3/wrapup)

Part 3: When is a Summit only a hill? And The Pioneers overload the Conestoga Wagons.

(Disclosure: TTA was a media partner of DHS at CEWeek. We also remain a proud sponsor of and provide volunteer services for Health 2.0 NYC, the presenter of Healthcare Pioneers. Our readers should know that these relationships do not exclude this Editor from noting the thick and thin of both events, not rendered in pale pastels.)

Digital Health Summit @ CEWeek

Four floors up from a busy show floor, and after interviewing Tal Givoly, CEO and Oren Fuerst, PhD, Executive Chairman, of startup health information company Medivizor (Part 2), assistants moved attendees into the room for the start of the New York/CEWeek edition of the Digital Health Summit at 11:30 am. It opened with a fairly anodyne presentation by the Executive Director of the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC),  an organization which has been ubiquitous at recent meetings of NYC biotech groups and gatherings eHealthy. The goal of NYCEDC is to make NYC a place for tech companies to develop and to stay, since NYCEDC’s point of view is that tech is the underpinning of every business in the NYC. It’s also to stem the tide of bio/pharma companies leaving or having only ‘shell’ presences in the city (Pfizer, anyone?) Mentioned were the Applied Sciences Initiative projects behind the controversial Cornell University-Technion development on Roosevelt Island, the NYU Consortium in Brooklyn, the ‘wet lab’ for biotech in Harlem, CUNY at Sloan-Kettering and Columbia’s engineering school expansion. It was a good time to sample the lunch buffet before the crowds came, and select an aisle seat near the front.

Onward to the main presentations. The first panel, ‘Digital Health Takes New York’, was moderated by Eric Taub of the New York Times. The director of hearing wellness of Etymotic (see Part 2) kicked off well with audio of daily living’s assaults on the ears: 90dB in your average subway station, earphones turned to the max blast. The company’s focus is on hearing protection, assistance and safe headphones especially ‘kid friendly’. MD Revolution‘s CEO presented ‘RevUp’, a self-tracking platform for patients and employees that adds a genomic/DNA/blood test twist to the usual menu, but failed to differentiate this platform from the gaggle already out there. The head of Aetna’s new CarePass patient platform, launched only in the prior week, touted their aggregation of 20 health and fitness apps including Aetna iTriage as well as independents BodyMedia, Fitbug, JawboneUP, LoseIt! and Withings. Currently Aetna members have easiest access, but it is available free to non-Aetna members as well. Not answered was the speaker’s rhetorical question– ‘the last thing I want is an insurer to have my info’–a significant barrier to sustained consumer engagement. This panel went and felt long, and this Editor looked forward to a short break.

At 12:30 or so, there was a group gathering at the back of the room with plates of food. At the panel’s conclusion, the chatting started. But no, there was no break. The small gathering was ‘shhhd’ loudly from the podium, and the next panel seated, immediately.

‘Incubating the Next Great Idea’ was frankly, not as advertised. While Brian Cohen of NY Angels (investor group) tried to keep things moving, the prolonged presentation for Aetna’s Healthagen misfired. It was nearly back to back with CarePass, so it felt like one long Aetna commercial. For the press-heavy audience, the CTO’s statement that Healthagen was ‘home-grown’ and incubating their own was not entirely credible. Healthagen (iTriage) was a major Aetna acquisition into what was then their Emerging Businesses unit in 2011–and the name adopted in February for this unit [TTA 25 Feb].  This Editor was also quite aware that the previous day, Healthagen held panel meetings with rounds of health tech entrepreneurs at Health 2.0 Matchpoint|East — no one could expect that their aims would be entirely altruistic or advisory (More on Matchpoint–Part 1). It limited the time for Ximedica, a medical product development company, which works a fairly specialized niche. Brad Weinberg of Blueprint Health gave their standard introduction to their accelerator program–or perhaps it’s overly familiar to this Editor. Where The Next Great Idea was coming from was hard to determine in what seemed to be a very long 40 minutes.

More gathering and snacking at the back of the room at the end. More chatting and…what’s this, networking with the speakers? But no, there was no break. The ‘shhhing’ emanated loudly from the podium, and the next panel was seated, immediately at approximately 1:25pm.

‘Five Technologies We’re Betting Your Health On’ –the Aging Population (GreatCall), Big Data (Audax Health), Consumer Platforms (Medivizor), Genomics (Life Technologies) and instead of Robotics, Telemedicine (MDLive)–was moderated by the lively Ned Russell of Saatchi & Saatchi Health. Life Tech was up first with their Ion Torrent genomics sequencing analysis tool to find the genes associated with health or disease. This technical presentation was off target for the audience, judging from the MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) reaction. Medivizor was up next in a much faster-moving presentation (see Part 2). MDLive presented their telemedicine model for patients, practices and payers. GreatCall is quite familiar to our readers for not only their Jitterbug simplified cell phone, but also their new suite of health and safety services around 5Star mobile PERS and mHealth apps. Closing was a discussion by Audax Health of population health management and the power of ‘big data’ in conveying customer experience and driving mass personalization–but their Zensey smartphone personal health platform and health assessment was like looking at another rose bush in a large garden. The panel discussion was short with your Editor failing to note any Q&A. GreatCall has tested mHealth messaging and has experienced tremendous uptake; Audax’s real market is directing its information to ACOs, IDS and other ‘evidence-based medicine’ models.

Again, there was a short-lived gathering at the back of the room. But by 2:10 pm, that crowd was sparse and quiet–and the chairs, never full, were largely unoccupied from a peak of perhaps under 100 people when double that were expected. No break, more shushing from the podium, and it was on to ‘Sports and Fitness’…and this Editor was also moving on, having been onsite since the press preview at 8:30am. She never did return for the three remaining panels jammed in before the FashionWare high-tech fashion show at 4:30pm.

Back onto the show floors, which were even more crowded than at 11am–and to some needed personal catchup before traveling uptown to Healthcare Pioneers before 5pm.

Takeaway on this Summit that became a Steep Hill:

  • CEWeek is a gadget show with health tech a small part, scattered among iPad accessories, audio, connected GM cars and giant TVs. Gadgets and tech are what the attendees, most of whom are press plus industry execs, want to see.  It isn’t the place for 20 oz. Porterhouse-with a Side of Creamed Spinach-Topics, but Bite Sized Sizzling Steak Tips. 
  • FashionWare should have led the day–but maybe didn’t because it was 1) on the show floor and 2) thin on the ground (Part 2). It should not have closed a long day of panels when the show floor was still humming and participants longed for a drink and a nosh at the evening’s floor cocktail party. The room was also up four floors, and because of the site layout, a little off the beaten track.
  • Too much! Too many corporate style PowerPoint presentations, too technical, too little panel discussion and audience Q&A. Less would have definitely been more.
  • Little New York focus. Most presenters were from out of town. There’s a wealth of up and coming, entrepreneurial New York health tech companies, but you wouldn’t know it from these panels.
  • No breaks and opportunity for networking. The presentations became a forced march. The glow of smartphones increasingly illuminated audience faces. People started to depart if only for the bathroom and to grab food and water, at the very edge of the room, evidently not to return. Conferences are now all about networking breaks, meeting, greeting and tweeting. Even small meetings now have a Twitter feed projected at the front. There also should have been a side room set aside for breaks and networking meetings.
  • No sponsor demos or display tables. While Qardio, PSiO and Beddit were sponsors, only Qardio was on a panel.
  • Adults should never be shushed like children. From the podium. Ever.

Healthcare Pioneers at AlleyNYC

Mobbed. Long lines at check-in and the noise level way up. The small meeting room at this co-working space was packed with entrepreneurs, HIT experts, developers, funders, healthcare implementers, doctors, consultants, marketers and patient advocates. Over 120 participants were meeting, greeting and tweeting. Health 2.0 NYC is a 3,000 member Meetup, and their monthly (or so) meetings tend to have a core of ‘regulars’. Here were the regulars and more, including eight sponsors, many with tables jammed in the back of a room that could comfortably hold 75 or so.

Presenters/panelists included Steven Kaplan, MD and Tal Givoly of Medivizor, plus Michael Weiss of Crohn’s Disease Warrior Patrol who were then brought back for a panel after a 20 minute plus refreshment and networking break. The panel discussion was moderated by Simon Sikorski, MD who is also a physician-entrepreneur, founder of Healthcare Pioneers and the Healthcare Marketing Center, and later joined by Bill Guthrie of Patients With Power. Alex Fair of Health 2.0 NYC, the host, wound it up with an introduction of Matthew Holt, co-chairman of the national Health 2.0 group in San Francisco, an invitation to continue over drinks at a down-the-block watering hole, and acknowledgement of the many volunteers that make an H20NYC event happen.

It may have ended way over time, the AC may have been minimal, but who cared? If you see the video (raw footage only) it looks unruly as heck, but the audience was engaged to the max, quieted down when there were presentations (they could not have been shushed on a bet)…and had to be shooed out the door as the room was literally being cleaned and set back in order. Quite a lively–and energizing–contrast to the earlier part of the day–and one that exemplifies the vibrancy of NYC-based health tech.


  • A little too unstructured and the chairs weren’t comfortable (not that your Editor had one, no no no)
  • Too small of a room–the Conestoga Wagons were full to overflowing
  • Too many sponsors–but it kept the ticket price low

Part 1–Matchpoint|East

Part 2–CEWeek


Categories: Events - Reports and Latest News.


  1. Thanks for the review Donna. Indeed the Pioneers event was imperfect, but we learned a good deal and will improve for next time!

  2. Donna Cusano

    There were significant physical limitations in the room as well (known going in, as a smaller event was there a few months ago; the AlleyNYC people could not have been nicer). It was a different format and organizing team. Lessons learned…but even in this format, the contrast to DHS couldn’t have been greater.