I along with e-Patient Dave, Dan Hoch and Danny Sands, attended the second Health 2.0 Northeast meeting in Cambridge, Mass. on Tuesday night (Oct. 7, 2008). It was an initially well-attended event, with up to 150 people who came out to network (old-school style!) and listen to some presentations on local startups.


The first presentation was by the always-charming Ben Heywood, one of the co-founders and driving forces behind PatientsLikeMe.com. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a log for the past 2 years, you should already be familiar with PLM and its focus on data-driven records, looking for reliable trends in a number of disease conditions. Their latest condition is called “mood” and unfortunately clumps a bunch of mental disorders (which are distinct entities, so I’m not sure why they refer to them as one) together. Heywood spoke for about a half hour, outlining PLM and some of the great work its doing so far.

Heywood also spoke a bit about their Openness Philosophy. PLM makes money by selling the data you give them to pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers. These companies buy the data not for marketing purposes, but for help in their R&D efforts. It’s a unique, sustainable business model, assuming the companies actually do find value in the data (as I suspect they do).

After Heywood’s presentation was completed, Wade Roush, Chief Correspondent for Xconomy, stepped in and introduced the panel. Each person spoke for about 10 or so minutes about their company and was asked a few questions by Roush, who was on-the-ball as the moderator.

First up was Matthew Jarman, Vice President, Corporate Development, of American Well. American Well is a company that allows you to talk to a doctor anytime online via a chat application. It’s a fee-for-service company and I’m not sure how well it does when free alternatives, like MedHelp.org are available.

Aaron Day, Chairman & CEO of Tangerine Wellness spoke next about his company’s focus on helping companies with a wellness program tailored to losing weight. An interesting focus on corporate America, but unfortunately wellness programs and employee assistance programs are the first benefits to go (even with a positive ROI) in tough economic times. Despite the current recession, Tangerine is reportedly doing well.

Stan Nowak, President of Silverlink which uses old-school technology (the telephone!) to send automated reminders to people via the telephone about health issues. Companies can use the service for everything from health education services to medication compliance reminders. The platform is very customizable and user-friendly.

Jack Barrette, Founder and CEO of WEGO Health started out at Yahoo! Health. After figuring out they weren’t going to quite “get it” when it comes to the opportunities available in health topics, he struck out on his own and has created a social network of “leaders” or health advocates in dozens of health conditions. I like the idea of “expert” recommended resources in health, given the vast quantity (and varying quality) of material available online. I think WEGO has some good legs to stand on, but is a fairly quick and obvious candidate for acquisition by a savvy e-health company.

Robert Reid, the President of Endovascular Forum, finished off the presentations of the roundtable. The Forum is a doctors-only social community online where endovascular doctors can go and present cases and engage in consultations with one another.

The presentations were good, but most people I suspect came for the roundtable Q&A and I felt like too much time was spent on the presentations and too little time on the Q&A part. The room was packed when the event began at 6:30ish, but had virtually cleared out (more than half were no longer in the room) by the time the Q&A began at 8:00pm. Thirty minutes for questions just wasn’t enough time.

One of the best questions/observation came from none other than our own e-Patient Dave, who noticed that there was very little consumer focus in the companies presenting. When people hear terms like “Health 2.0,” they assume you’re talking on some level about social networking and empowering users with their own creation and networking tools. None of the companies at this event, except PLM, seems to do that. That’s not the companies’ fault, but it was an interesting observation nonetheless.

The pre-event social hour was perhaps the best part of the event, allowing people to meet and talk to others interested in the Health 2.0 world in the Boston area. It was a good event and I’m likely to attend the next one.

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