Kaiser Permanente Health Camp: My First "Un-Conference"

As a prelude to the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco, I went to Kaiser Permanente's HealthCamp today, located at their amazing Garfield Innovation Center.  Being a scientist, I've attended my fair share of conferences over the past years, but none prepared me for what I experienced today at my first "un-conference". First, for those who don't know, an un-conference has no set agenda; the sessions are made up by the attendees the morning of the conference.  This way, the topics covered throughout the day truly reflect the attendees' interests.

First up, were three introductory talks by leaders in the Health 2.0 community.  Dr. Robert Pearl, from Kaiser Permanente set the tone for the day when he described a sign he noticed over a decade ago at Oregon Health & Science University that read "Quality, Service, Cost".  Dr. Pearl said that the 20th century mentality for health care could only focus on 2 of the 3 at any given time.  But now, in the 21st century, we need to address all three simultaneously.  Dr. Pearl challenged the notion that doctors are old-school, or that they are unwilling to learn new technologies, claiming that they are constantly looking for innovation.

A common theme in the opening talks was best summarized by Dr. Kaveh Safavi of Cisco, who said we need to distinguish between "personal care" and "in-person care".  Dr. Pearl agreed, and believes we are on the cusp on integrating tele-medicine in the emergency room, so that patients will have more, and faster, access to specialists, which will streamline medical care.  Patricia Perry, of Intel, concluded the opening remarks with her insight into "Aging at Home", where in-home patient medical monitoring and video-based doctors' visits can actually improve medical care for senior citizens.

I spent the rest of the day floating around to different sessions, trying to absorb as much information as humanly possible.  I heard some really interesting concepts being discussed, such as creating a "LifeScape", which is the intersection of our different worlds: such as work, health, and communication.  People thought that to be truly innovative, we had to find ways to create "stealth health", where healthy decisions are simply a consequence of another easier choice.  One design example was a school's lunch line: research shows that if apples are placed before the sweets in the line, kids are more likely to make the healthier choice.

In another session, I learned about a cool new social media site called Aardvark, which answers users' questions by connecting them with "experts" in the field.  So opposed to crowd-sourcing your question to your friends on twitter, now your questions gets directed to the people who may best answer it.

Self-tracking was a popular topic, and I see more and more people unleashing the power of personal data.  I heard the battle-cry for more effortless sensors, where data is collected without any extra work by the user.  But I found out that many people still aren't interested in the nitty-gritty details of the data.  Rather, they wanted all personal metric information to boil down to one measurable "health score" -- a single number that defined their health.

All in all, a solid day of innovation, great conversations, and a heck of a way to kick off Health 2.0 week.  Lastly, the organizers did a fantastic job with the event.  The un-conference format is great way to initiate dialogue and get involved.  I'll definitely be back to HealthCamp next year.

Stay tuned the rest of the week for my updates from the Health 2.0 conference!