As one of the largest and most prestigious conferences of the year, the 2021 J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference proceeded in a virtual format for its 39th year. As might be expected, many of the topics centered on developments related to COVID-19, including telehealth and vaccines, but there was a broad array of interesting sessions designed to appeal to the wide-ranging attendees with an estimated 400 companies presenting to more than 8,000 participants.
While the in-person interaction between entrepreneurs, VCs and seasoned leaders was certainly missed, the keynote addresses and many of the presentations provided valuable insight on the status and future of the healthcare industry.
Below, Fogarty Innovation team members Marga Ortigas-Wedekind, Mike Regan and Gayle Kuokka share a few of the insights that most resonated with them.
Keynote speakers champion social change
As always, the keynote addresses featured a prominent lineup that included Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. chairman and CEO; Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co.; Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State; and Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of CMS, general partner of Town Hall Ventures and board chair of United States of Care.
Inclusion, company culture and diversity where among the speakers’ overarching themes. Jamie Dimon and Ken Frazier discussed access and availability, both on an economic and healthcare delivery level, during their joint keynote. For example, in hiring processes, most job descriptions still require four years of college even if the work doesn’t necessitate that level of education.
Jamie noted that when companies put that requirement in place out of thoroughness, it blocks a wide swath of people from opportunities for which they’re uniquely qualified. “The world is filled with talented people and skills can be gained in a variety of ways. We should look for more creative ways to unleash this talent,” noted Mike.
Condoleezza Rice continued the theme in her keynote address, a Q-and-A session, where she made many powerful points about mentorship, diversity and inclusion, and leadership, often referring to her own life experience. For example, she compared her experience as a young black woman Russian expert in the government, straight out of academics, to mentors at companies who are trying to guide more junior employees.
As a mentor, it’s important to transfer your authority to young mentees to get them started. For example, when George Bush first introduced her to Mikhail Gorbachev, he made a point of announcing that she knew more about Russia than anybody else on the team. “As a mentor, you’re really creating that platform for your mentee to take off in his or her career,” noted Marga.
On the theme of diversity and inclusion, Condoleezza encouraged people to remember that their mentors and role models may not look like them. She also mentioned the importance of changing your hiring patterns and expanding your network. “She shared that it’s not just about race or differences; it’s about finding the common ground and then starting the dialogue,” said Marga.
Andy Slavitt pointed out another important social issue in his address by focusing on the importance of paid medical leave, given that essential workers, including healthcare workers, often go to work even if they’re sick because they can’t afford not to. Considering that nearly half of the workforce can’t work from home, it is harder for such workers to have the ability to quarantine as needed.
Company presentations cover valuable updates, including rapid adaptations during COVID-19
The company presentations covered a host of topics, from the importance of robotics and the digitalization of dental care, to the acceleration of virtual care.
Many shared how they adapted with new operating models and products as COVID-19 forced them to accelerate innovation where feasible. For example, Teladoc had a banner year, completing several significant acquisitions, including InTouch Health and Livongo. And Hologic amplified its business by pivoting from a sole focus on women’s health to also addressing the pandemic by converting its Pap smear readers into test readers for COVID 19 in record time.
Attendees also heard from hospital systems, which emphasized a goal of being more innovative to realize direct value from medical technology. “A common theme was that hospital systems want to invest in new technologies to improve access, lower cost and improve outcomes for all, which means these institutions may be a source for earlier stage capital going forward,” said Gayle.
Finally on the investment side, one clear theme was that investors will continue to look for the “enduring differentiation.”
“There are so many digital companies, that VCs are trying to determine the critical differentiation users need to see,” concluded Mike.