m.2014 in Four Words: User Experience, Behavior, Social

m.2014 concludes a set of three great conferences that started with Rock+Health and TedMed. To me, m.2014 crystallized what those at the forefront of mobile, health, and innovation are working on that is most effectively and dramatically changing the ways people get healthier. As I think back on the experience, it kept revolving around these key phrases:

User Experience

We’re all aware of how broken our health system is. In many ways, patients and their outcomes are at the very end of a long list of priorities. In referring to the usability of our health system, Malay Gandhi must have said “crappy,” about a hundred times, and could have said it a hundred more.

This underscores one of the themes that the m.2014 panelists brought up: that improving the user experience of any system is where the VC dollars are focused. That’s where the investments are because that is where the greatest need is: whether it’s AliveCor making EKGs usable and easy for anyone with a smartphone or HelloDoctor making patient records quickly readable by anyone, bringing ease and utility to a system this complex and jargon-filled seems like an unquenchable thirst.


The next big movement is an extension of the user experience thread. It is the drive to deploy systems that are better engineered to understand and manage behavior within the health sector. There is a general acceptance that there will be plenty of wearables and technology items made cheaper, faster, and better that any startup could. So it’s not really about startups creating more gadgets.

One great example is Doximity, which is changing medicine via a social network that’s about to cross 50% penetration among U.S. doctors. Not only are the company positively affecting doctor behavior, but its ability to connect a nation of professionals in this new way is leveling the playing field. Co-founder Nate Gross said that his system is especially beneficial for women doctors, who are effectively circumnavigating the old boy’s club with this new technology.

With the decline in hardware manufacturing, almost all the startups are trying to use the always-on nature of connected health devices to “swim upstream,” from managing data with meaningful and valuable UX to managing the behaviors that create that data, ostensibly into better data generated by better behavior.

One interesting insight is the ability to understand and manage the behavioral patterns of the FDA. One speaker used a monopoly board as a visual aid to explain that the FDA likes to see startups take small, incremental steps to a larger health goal, and as long as they continue to have conversations and keep preparing reviewers for the next step, eventually companies can create valuable sets of approved technologies.


Last, but certainly not least (says the guy that leads our social practice), was the openly discussed value of social to innovation. In the open social Web, we were lucky enough to host Jeremy Anderson, who leads Twitter’s health practice, and Ryan Olahan, who holds the same position for Google. They both painted a vivid picture of how dynamic their platforms are for people engaging in the lively conversations around managing health.

The numbers of some of our chronic condition conversations are staggering: Cancer has more than 30 million conversations, heart disease: 9 million, and over 8 million conversations about diabetes. The HCP conversation around Twitter was interesting: there are around a million doctors on Twitter. One person who works for a pharma brand asked about the value of these doctors. While there was a great discussion around conferences, I think it also stands to look at the doctor conversations on Twitter, especially at the intersection of traditional media (such as TV) and social media.

A relatively small portion of the overall CNN viewing population actively uses Twitter, but those who do provide an endless stream of thought-provoking moments that add perspective and value to the larger conversation created and consumed on TV. From this perspective, the HCP population on Twitter is a massively untapped resource in a ton of traditional avenues: including unbranded sites, communities, and all the printed information that brands send to doctors now. Could a doctor who’s not on social media put a price on the value of knowing the trends of what other doctors are saying about their specialty?

Aside from the open social Web, much of the talk among start-ups at m.2014 was around a larger overall trend we see in social: the move to smaller-group and closed-group social. Social dynamics still play a very important part in understanding illness, coping with illness, and getting the right treatment. We look for communities to help us have the right conversations to make us better.

More and more, people are not interested in sending out a status to 250 Facebook friends about the 10,000 steps they just took. But they definitely want to send that to a few friends who have Fitbit, or a few family members who are also trying to increase their fitness.

If anything, m.2014 should have given attendees—those in technology, pharma, and within our agenc—a new sense of excitement about what’s being built and about to be built in health tech. Because it will all be easier to use, matched to who we are, and helping us get better, with help from the people who matter in our life.

And then the blue angels flew over!

– Michael Leis, SVP of Social Strategy