A neuroscientist. An artist. A researcher sequencing the baboon genome. An artificially-intelligent triage nurse. Only at WIRED Health would this diverse group share the same stage. And while diversity was a striking element of this year’s program, there were also similarities in the themes that emerged, with much discussion on the power of collaboration and the ever-evolving intersection of analogue and digital. Within these discussions, some key ideas stood out:
Global health is fundamentally about people and we’re all invested in it. Jeremy Farrar inspired the audience by speaking to our individual and collective ability to drive change, particularly in addressing the threat of epidemics. He reminded us that we are not just passive observers of history and that while epidemics like Zika bring new threats to global health, we must also remember the success stories that demonstrate the impact we can have. He cited the 3.3 million malaria deaths that have been averted through collaborative efforts across borders and industries as an example of how we can drive positive change in healthcare when we bring people together.
Digital is a democratizing force in health. Digital advancements have not only disrupted but also democratized health, driving the shift towards personalized medicine and, as Mahiben Maruthappu said, helping pivot healthcare systems towards a proactive ‘one size fits one’ approach to care. This movement towards personalization has been well-reported, and this year’s WIRED Health discussion highlighted how digital advancements remain at the core of a culture in which the individual consumer is increasingly more empowered – and enabled – to take an active role in managing his or her own health.
Embedding the ‘maker mindset’ in healthcare. The reinvigoration of craft and the ‘maker movement’ has hit every industry and health is no different. But what’s interesting in health is how the evolution of digital tools, like 3D printing, has enabled ‘health makers’ to bring ideas to life in ways that were never before possible. I was inspired by the anecdotes Anna Young and José Gómez-Márquez shared of frontline healthcare workers, particularly nurses, who are making (pun intended) a difference in patient experiences by creating tools that improve the delivery of care. These can be small things like an IV port cover that’s perfectly tailored to fit a five-year-old patient, or more elaborate solutions that deliver efficiencies in the ER.
WIRED Health 2016 reminded all of us that embracing experimentation, and creating cultures that support curiosity and collaboration, can drive digital advances that tangibly change how all of us engage with our health.