Nine From ViVE: Takeaways From the Digital Health Conference


This 4-day event drew thousands of health care leaders to Nashville, Tennessee; in this column, Ron Southwick, editor of Chief Healthcare Executive, shares his thoughts from conversations and panels in Music City.

A version of this article was originally published on Chief Healthcare Executive® by Editor Ron Southwick, who recently attended the ViVE Conference. This version has been lightly edited.

The ViVE Conference is now a memory, and thousands of health leaders seemed to relish their time in Music City.

More than 7500 health leaders from around the country attended the second ViVE conference, well above the 5000 visitors at the first event last year. ViVE, produced by The College of Healthcare Management Executives (CHIME) and HLTH, has emerged as an annual digital health event. Next year, ViVE moves to Los Angeles.

Before outlining my takeaways, I chose not to include the horrific fatal shooting of 3 adults and 3 children at the Covenant School.

The horrific event rattled Nashville and the entire nation. It disturbed many of those at the conference, with some speakers acknowledging the tragedy and the need to address gun violence. ViVE’s organizers donated $50,000 to the victims’ families and also started a GoFundMe fundraiser as well.

At such a heartbreaking moment, I found it comforting to talk to a number of people - and hear from so many speakers - who are genuinely striving to help others, including the most vulnerable among us.

But the shooting is far too important to be causally inserted in a list of learnings from a healthcare conference.

There are plenty of worthwhile insights from ViVE’s panel sessions, interviews with healthcare leaders and discussions with those attending the conference. I’m leaving Nashville with a host of stories that I’ll be publishing in the coming days and weeks.

But for now, here’s my rundown of what I heard, what I learned, and what I expect will stay with me.

1. Staffing: Every health care leader I’ve interviewed over the past year has offered the same response when asked about shortages of talent: it’s a big problem. And leaders expressed it remains a top concern. Organizations appear to be more receptive to solutions to automate some tasks, at least in part because they’re struggling to find people anyway.

2. Cybersecurity: Clearly, cybersecurity remains a top concern among hospital and health leaders, and a host of companies in the field had a presence at ViVE. Small wonder. With hundreds of data breaches involving private health data in affecting millions of Americans in 2022, cybersecurity and ransomware attacks remain ever-present threats.

3. Health equity: This was a major topic at ViVE, with several panel discussions, and health equity is on the mind of many leaders. Even in sessions that weren’t centered on health equity, speakers acknowledged the need to close gaps in outcomes among underserved groups. The issues of equity are hardly new. But several people I spoke with said they see more alignment across the industry to take meaningful action and to work across the health care ecosystem.

4. Focus on patients and clinicians: Tech companies came to ViVE to pitch digital health products aimed at improving patient care, or at least making it easier for patients to navigate the health system. And those efforts are generally lauded. But healthcare leaders and panelists advised tech firms to think carefully about making life easier for doctors and nurses who would have to use their products. If it’s adding work to clinicians, health systems will have less interest. I’ll be writing more about this in the coming days.

5. Know the business: Health system leaders seem to have less patience for pitches from companies that don’t understand the industry. Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare, returned to a point he made at the HLTH Conference last fall, even as he acknowledged getting a bit of flak for it. He said it’s difficult to disrupt the industry from afar. “Tech companies have to immerse themselves” in the process of health care, Hazen said at ViVE.

6. Interoperability: Over and over, speakers talked about the importance of exchanging data more easily across the health care ecosystem to develop a better understanding of patient issues and to improve outcomes. Interoperability was a key topic at ViVE and there’s a general sense that it’s gaining momentum, even as there’s impatience for more progress.

7. Mental health: Leaders reiterated that digital health is well suited to help patients struggling with mental health issues and those battling addiction. It makes sense, considering the shortage of psychiatrists. Some also talked about how digital health can – and should – supplement in person treatment for behavioral health.

8. Regulation and legislation concerns: A number of health leaders mentioned concerns about proposed regulations that could make it more difficult to prescribe some controlled substances through telehealth. Some also bemoaned added regulations on telehealth in general. On the legislative front, a number of people denounced efforts in some states to restrict or outright bar gender-affirming care for kids.

9. The kids: At a panel on health challenges affecting children, including the triple-demic and mental health, panelists offered some thoughts that may be of interest to tech companies. They said there’s a growing need for digital solutions to help kids, but there are fewer tech firms pitching products and services aimed at the pediatric market than those developing and marketing solutions for adults. Look for more on this topic coming next week.

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