Two Disparate Meetings – #CES2014 and #JPM2014: Each Addressing Healthcare’s Future

January 29th, 2014
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The 32nd annual JP Morgan Healthcare conference, held in San Francisco’s Westin St. Francis Hotel from January 13-16, was a posh affair by industry standards, with only select companies having been asked to present, investors as the key target audience, and a fertile ground for deal-making touted as the primary offering. An event characterized by (mostly) men in conservative suits, the 7,000+ attendees were jammed into the Westin’s narrow halls struggling to get a seat to hear the latest news from pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device manufacturers. Meanwhile, deal-making discussions, media interviews and satellite “meet-ups” occurred in the nooks and crannies of just about every hotel in a 5-block radius from the Westin.

About 570 miles southeast, CES was also held earlier this month and took over Las Vegas, as 150,000 attendees tried in vain to see all of the products exhibited within nearly two million square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center and nearby hotels. CES couldn’t be more different from the JP Morgan conference: the emphasis in Las Vegas was on the newest technologies in a variety of consumer products: from televisions to automobiles to cameras to 3D printers. The dress code was decidedly different from JP Morgan, with a much more heterogeneous crowd. Celebrities were easily spotted amongst the hordes.
What could these two conferences possibly have in common? Though CES will always feature a variety of products unrelated to healthcare, we are starting to see increasing overlap, a reflection of the convergence that has been occurring in the healthcare industry for several years. Companies from the IT, materials sciences, electrical engineering and related industries are recognizing opportunities to apply their technologies and expertise to problems in healthcare. And pharma, biotech and other healthcare companies (including finance-related enterprises) are realizing the value of reaching out to the “tech” and, importantly, the consumer segments.
In terms of the convergence:

  • CES was the first of the events to move toward the other when it began to feature digital health companies on the exhibit floor — most of which target consumers rather than clinicians — with a focus on fitness and wellness rather than diagnostics or therapeutics.
  • Growth in the digital health area at CES has been robust with annual increases in the number of digital health exhibitors.
  • CES is home to the Digital Health Summit, a two-day “conference within the conference” that features a variety of industry and academic experts discussing topics from innovation and technology to policy to medical practice.
  • JP Morgan in San Francisco this year debuted a Digital Health session, and we suspect that future years may include a dedicated track for companies in this space.
  • There was also a JP Morgan conference talk from Jacob Reider, Acting National Coordinator of Health IT for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • As Timothy Hay noted in his recent Wall Street Journal article, “Google Ventures Says JP Morgan Health Conference Changing With the Times, health insurers, predictive analytics companies, software developers and other health IT companies are beginning to consider the conference a “must attend” event in order to be part of the overall healthcare conversation.

As some of the topics at the two conferences merge, so do the participants (regardless of wardrobe). The number of industry executives attending both events (in most years they occur in the same week) seems to be increasing. Companies like Illumina (sequencing), Masimo (medical devices) and Withings (connected devices for health and wellness) – to name a few – recognize the importance of enhancing awareness of their brands with consumers as well as with investors and potential strategic partners or acquirers.
At Popper and Company, we’ve discussed many times the blending of emerging consumer digital health innovations with established pharmaceutical and healthcare delivery companies. Do you have a new, innovative idea to add to this exciting healthcare mix? To learn more about how we can apply our expertise on your behalf, please subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter. Alternately, send me an email – and let’s discuss!

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About the Author:

I co-founded Popper and Company more than ten years ago to help life science companies at all stages of development and of all sizes address inefficiencies in health care. Along with my team members, I focus on helping clients develop and implement strategies that enable the application of technology and processes to improve health care in novel ways, often through the establishment of relationships with industry partners. Click to send me an email.