The 12th Annual Yale Health Care Conference took place Friday at the Yale School of Management, attracting several hundred attendees from multiple sectors of health care.
Each year, health care professionals, students and alumni have the opportunity to spend a day listening to speakers, attending panel discussions on health care issues and engaging with entrepreneurs and experts in the field. The theme of the 2016 Conference was “Creating Value and Sustaining Gains: The Next Decade in Health Care.” The theme remained a common thread as speakers and attendees alike discussed the need for changes in the field — which is often considered resistant to change — as technological capacity and globalization increase.
“This is our time to define how health care is going to be provided in the 21st century,” said Toby Cosgrove, keynote speaker and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. “To not participate in that would be to miss a huge opportunity.”
The conference itself is almost entirely student-run, said Amy Woodrum SOM ’17 SPH’17, a member of the planning committee. The conference functions as both a valuable learning experience and an important networking event for students and professionals alike, conference volunteer Susan Choy SPH ’17 said.
The Executive Panel discussion focused on the work of three health care entrepreneurs. Each speaker presented creative solutions they had conceived to combat issues plaguing the health care system in America, including the costly effects of unnecessary Emergency Room visits, difficulties consumers face in finding the most effective and cheapest prescription medications and the barriers individuals with behavioral health problems or depression encounter in accessing treatment. The speakers emphasized the challenge of reforming the industry from within.
Pramod John, a speaker on the panel and founder of Oration, a prescription management application, pointed out that while technological solutions could save consumers massive amounts of time and money, not all professionals in the health care industry are in favor of overhauling the current systems.
“There’s this incorrect notion that the health care industry wants to fix itself,” John said. “What people need to understand is that one man’s inefficiency is another man’s profit.”
In addition to the Executive Panel and the keynote speakers, there were two hourlong time slots for 16 different breakout discussions. These smaller sessions, which attracted crowds of around 20 to 30 people, allowed audience members to chime in and discuss their views on topics ranging from hacking in health care to the evolution of drug pricing.
Cliff Cavanaugh and Martin Aboitiz, the CTO and CEO of HealthJump, a medical record consolidation and exchange service, led a discussion on using big data mining and analysis in order to improve personalized medicine. Aboitiz praised the panel format and the opportunities it provided to interact with the audience and network with students and professionals. In particular, there were many students interested in talking about where the industry is headed in the coming years, and what the new business models are, Cavanaugh said.
While technology and “telehealth” — the use of digital communication to interact with physicians and medical experts — were major themes of the discussion, not all attendees agreed with the positive light in which many of the new improvements to the field were portrayed.
“Conferences like this emphasize the heavy technology, late intervention, high profitability approach, while I would like to bring health care more to its roots,” Ali Moravej SPH ’17 said. “Yale likes to engage a lot of stakeholders, but not all of these partnerships are going to be aligned with patient needs.”
In the nine months preceding the conference, the planning committee and volunteers picked the topics, contacted speakers from both academia and industry and worked through the logistics, Choy said.
With the 2016 conference wrapped up, next year’s planning committee, co-chaired by Woodrum and Lisa Carley SOM ’17 SPH ’17, commences discussions in a few months.
“The conference has done a really good job historically of keeping up with what is a very dynamic industry, and in the span of 12 months there’s going to be a lot that changes,” Carley said. “So our challenge looking to next year is, ‘How do we continue to monitor and understand what’s going on in this industry, so that next years conference reflects it?’”
Correction, April 13: A previous version of this article misstated the date of the conference. In fact, it was held on Friday, not Saturday.