Last weekend, Boston hosted 500 cutting-edge health care practitioners, academics, researchers, app developers and students – and all of those appellations applied to some of the participants simultaneously.  The fifth annual Medicine 2.0 conference, organized by Gunther Eysenbach, provided a rich learning environment including several engaging keynote speakers and four tracks of presentations all day for two days.  To get a sense of the varied topics and the liveliness of the weekend, check out the program, the photos and, of course, the tweets (just stay away from the “egg” profile hashtag spammers).

Jamie Heywood, of Patients Like Me gave the opening keynote, questioning the value of traditional medical research and the traditional understanding of evidence-based medicine– while in the heart of the Longwood Medical Area (Harvard Medical School and the Harvard teaching hospitals).  Some of his examples were compelling: describing the ways in which the PLM community is able to “crowdsource” research much faster than traditional medical research is able to.  He used his classic example of lithium off-label use for ALS symptoms: 500 PLM members confirmed that this treatment did not work – and the traditional research confirmed their results, much later, at much greater cost. I asked Jamie right before he spoke if he had more current examples (I hear the lithium example regularly) and he did not disappoint: in a slightly different vein, he explained how medical research in the traditional model of animal experiments has not yielded results that are easily replicable (he’s tried – with lots of mice), and how, in his view, we need a significant paradigm shift in order to have population-based experiments yield actionable results on a regular basis.  These experiments, of course, are tied to the tremendous volume of self-measurement collected and searchable on the Patients Like Me website.  (Coincidentally, there was a quantified self conference taking place on the West Coast at the same time as Medicine 2.0.)  PLM members average 18% fewer visits to the emergency room, and are more in tune with the sources of their own well-being.  As data is brought out of silos and shared in novel ways, Heywood posits that we can all improve our own health and well-being.

Breakout sessions on Saturday included business lessons for app developers courtesy of a panel including Jen Dyer (@endogoddess), a scoping study of online video by health care providers by Margaret Hansen citing Ed Bennett’s inventory (which has moved to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, by the way), and Bertalan Mesko’s discussion of his social media course.  He teaches live and on the web, and is reaching students all over the map. I caught up with Berci after this talk for a quick video interview – watch it here: Hallway Conversation with @Berci at #med2.

Susannah Fox, Lisa Gualtieri, Joe Graedon, Heather Wellington and Dan Hoch presented a terrific panel discussion on patient-provider collaboration for patient safety.  Susannah shared her slides on data regarding use of the internet for health care decision making by the general public and also posted about Day One of the conference.  Heather Wellington shared the story of her twin sister’s recent death, at the age of 27, perhaps occasioned in part by the delay in transferring her medical records from one institution to another.  The other panelists shared their perspectives on how providers can elicit patient stories, and how patients can best share stories in a manner that may ultimately help others.  This, to me, was one of the key memes of the conference, building on some of the conversations begun at HealthCamp Boston, the unconference that preceded Medicine 2.0.

One more knockout presentation worth mentioning was the SMART platform app store for health – presented by Ken Mandl (an old college chum).  The modular architecture of the system sounded impressive, and allows for agile deployment of apps within an EHR that may be easily modified and updated over time.  It seemed to me like a rational approach to marrying “big iron” EHR systems with the easily configurable apps that tend to reside on our phones and in the cloud.  

The parallel tracks highlighting startups and their apps alongside research studies addressing the potential of this brave new world and the business models needed to bring them to the right people kept the energy going all day at Medicine 2.0.

See my upcoming report from Day 2 of the conference as well.