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  • Interview With Stephen Lieber

    IMG_2778In June, the 10th eHealth week brought together minister delegations, entrepreneurs, industry leaders as well as other healthcare advocates under one roof in Amsterdam. The conference was focused on 3 topics: empowering people, social innovation & transition and trust & standards. During this time we had the opportunity to have a conversation with Stephen Lieber, President, and CEO of HIMSS, about the current progression of technologies in healthcare in both Europe and the US.

    Aline Noizet: Hi Stephen, nice to have you here. In your opening remarks this morning, you talked about adoption of digital health in Europe and the U.S.  You said that, although new technologies seem quite advanced in the U.S. the adoption is not as fast paced as we expect it to be by now. What do you think is the reason for this gap?

    Stephen Lieber: It’s not system-wide. I can find examples of the most sophisticated level of medical care supported by the most sophisticated technology. At the same time, I can find many many hospitals that don’t operate at that level, same with physician practices. My physician, for instance, has electronic medical records. All my records are digitized, yet she doesn’t communicate with me electronically; she calls me up and I have to come in for results. You can find examples in the United States of sophisticated technology in adoption and use, but you’ll find other countries where it’s more widespread. I don’t think you’ll find anything in the United States that you can’t find in Europe, especially in the Nordic region, in Scandinavia. The Northern European area has a very long history of digitizing records and using electronic record keeping for healthcare.

    AN: Telemedicine is a good example of technology that is more adopted in the U.S. than in Europe.

    SL: One of the things that we have to deal with that you don’t in Europe, for example, is distance. People here may think they have distances but they don’t. What I mean is that the ability to get to a specialist when you need a specialist or you need any kind of care is not affected by how far they are. Whereas, in the United States, there are many places where there are no medical facilities for miles and miles and miles. So you have to use telehealth, telemedicine in order to deliver care, especially specialized care to very remote areas.

    AN: What do you think of the role of education in the adoption of those new technologies?

    SL: Yes, we are really trying to bring a common level of education and knowledge to all parts of the world by bringing in faculty from Asia, Europe, U.S., etc. The whole idea is that there’s an exchange of knowledge so that everyone has a good understanding of what others are doing. I think there are a couple of things you’re trying to accomplish with the educational programming.  One is to share new ideas.  The other is you’re trying to change the mindset from, “This is the way we’ve always done it” to “Oh, there are different ways to do it.”  People who sit in our educational programs may not take that exact approach and do it that exact way they are being taught, but it will at least open their eyes up to different ways that it can be done. Our hope would be that, when they go back into their usual setting, they will ask questions like, “Why are we doing that?  Why aren’t we utilizing these tools that we know are available?” and then, “How do we incorporate them?”

    AN: Let’s talk about interoperability. It was the central topic in the previous editions of ehealth week. Could you give us an update on where interoperability stands now?

    SL: The issue of interoperability  really boils down to standards. Meaning that there are technical standards written into the products, so that when the data comes out, it comes out in a format that can be read and incorporated into somebody else’s product with ease.  That’s what interoperability is. The problem we have is that healthcare is very complex.  There are so many different devices and people involved using many different kinds of electronic tools.  A cardiologist has an information system that’s very focused around cardiology. That’s different than an information system that the pharmacist has around prescription drugs. Yet, they’ll still need to communicate because the cardiologist issues a prescription out of his or her information system that needs to feed into the pharmacist information system. That’s just one example.

    It’s estimated that in a typical hospital setting they run hundreds of different systems because there are so many different departments, so many different functions all of which are associated with all of the possible things you could do in health care. The achievement of absolute universal interoperability so that everything talks to everything else on every level of detail, is an objective that is probably not reachable.  Now, what we focus on are the most critical components of health information that we need to make sure gets communicated: allergies, drug interactions, things like that. What has been developed is a fairly, globally recognized set of data elements that we all agree on.  Every system has got to be able to read that.  We’re making great progress towards the issue of interoperability because there is that common understanding that there’s a high-level sort of umbrella set of data that we all agree needs to be shareable and exchangeable.  As a result, four years ago, we talked a lot about interoperability and interoperability standards.  We still touch on it, but we really are moving on and communicating the message to the commercial side.  That’s non-negotiable.  You got to be able to do that.  Now, we’re focused on a higher level and more sophisticated level of what we can do with the data versus just getting to the point of being exchangeable.

    AN: The cloud is helping a lot in that respect too.

    SL: It helps, absolutely.  It provides standardization of data storage.  You also have a significantly more secure and lower cost of investment, because everybody is not buying their own storage or is able to share. I think that some advantages of cloud computing that will be brought to interoperability.

    AN: HIMSS organizes conferences all year long. What do you learn from each of those conferences? What do you learn in Europe to apply to U.S., and U.S. to apply to Europe?

    SL: The thing that I’ve learned and that I get reminded of is how similar we all are in our healthcare systems.  When HIMSS first started doing events outside the United States 10 years ago, everybody said, “You don’t understand.  Our healthcare system is so different than yours.” Well, people get sick or get injured, they get treated by doctors and nurses, and hopefully they get better.  That’s the same everywhere.  Are there differences in who owns the hospital or how it’s paid for?  But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the use of technology to improve quality.  The thing that I take away from all of these events is that we are talking about the same things. We are talking about cloud computing.  We are talking about analytics.  We are talking about interoperability.  That’s one takeaway, that the commonality and the similarity. The other thing that I learn is a better appreciation for the barriers that exist in settings that are preventing doctors and hospitals and other care delivery professionals and organizations.  What is preventing them from getting to that higher level of quality, that safer care?  In Germany, for instance, it’s actually a low level of financial investment.  They’re just not investing in the information technology. In the Netherlands, the barrier, the complaint is the products need to leapfrog and jump and become even more sophisticated because they’ve been adopted already and people are using them.  Now, it’s like, “Okay, what’s next?  What’s the next thing that we’re going to able to do?”  I think that’s the other thing that I take away is understanding what we are faced with in different countries, in different parts of the world.

    AN: Before HIMSS, you were the CEO of Emergency Nurses Association.  We recently held a very successful session during Health 2.0 Europe on how the new technologies are impacting the role of nurses.  From your point of view, you’ve seen that evolution, so how do you think it evolved and what’s left to do?

    SL: I was the CEO of that association from 1989 to 1998.  It was a time when there were just the very early discussions around datasets in emergency nursing.  There were very few to know actual information system tools.  There was no electronic medical record, and it was the early conversations about recognizing that computerization was coming to healthcare and coming up with standard terminology in datasets.  Twenty years plus later, it has come to the point where nursing is probably the biggest advocate for digital health records and electronic tools in helping make decisions and advise clinicians. What I’ve seen is really going from the Stone Age to the Modern Age in healthcare, especially with nursing. Today, they are one of our bigger communities that are engaged with us at HIMSS across most of the world.  It’s not true in all countries that nursing is recognized as the constant, the professional that’s always there at the bedside or in a physician’s office, the professional that spends the most amount of time with the patient.  And so, nursing has recognized that technology absolutely is their friend and their tool. They are just huge supporters and a great advocate for the use of technology in healthcare.

    Perfect Your Pitch and Get Funded at Traction 2016!


    The U.S. presidential candidates have each claimed that the future of health care in America is among the top four most important campaign issues. While the presidential candidates fight for our votes, you could be competing as well, only for your startup’s chance to breakthrough in the digital health community, and demonstrate your company’s potential to prominent investors.

    Enter your startup in Health 2.0’s Startups Pitch competition, Traction today and give your company the perfect opportunity to pitch to a room full to the brim with attendees looking to get involved with your startup. You’ll work with experts to perfect your pitch so that it’s flawless by the time you hit the stage. Investors will be so impressed they’ll be left with no choice but to invest in your company!

    Traction 2016 will be kicking off the Health 2.0 Annual Fall Conference on Monday, September 26th, 2016 at 8 AM. This competition recruits companies ready for Series A in the $2-12M range. Teams will compete in two tracks, consumer facing and professional facing technologies.

    When you participate in Traction you will increase your media exposure while forming connections with leading investors, and gaining the opportunity to get advice from a our group of expert mentors to further refine your business model.

    Ten teams will be selected as finalists in mid-August for the two different tracks. These finalists will be paired with exceptional mentors to help them prepare for the stage at the Fall Conference, and TWO startups will claim the title of 2016’s Startup Champ’s.

    The application deadline is Friday, July 22nd at 11:59PM ET.

    So what are you waiting for? Enter your company NOW  to be selected as one of the ten finalists to pitch live to venture capitalists, angel investors, government officials, and healthcare industry experts at Health 2.0’s Annual Fall Conference!


    Health 2.0 Faces the Challenge of Consumer Health

    Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 4.00.28 PMHealth 2.0 Europe 2016: Closes with a successful participation with attendees and speakers from the five continents

    • Mediktor, spanish application, winner of EC2VC Investors’ Forum with more than 42 investors present
    • In 2015, digital innovation in health has mobilized 4,800 million in funding in the United States
    • Health 2.0 successfully moved exchange and discussion among all actors of the ecosystem: physicians, patients, pharmaceutical, nurses, insurance companies and entrepreneurs

    The 7th edition of Health 2.0 Europe 2016, the largest European Meeting in digital health, organized by Health 2.0 in Barcelona in collaboration with Mobile World Capital Barcelona, ​​Biocat and the Agència de Qualitat i Avaluació sanitaries of Catalunya (Aquas) took place in Spain early this month. Throughout the three days, 120 speakers shared and discussed the latest developments, trends, insights and experiences in the adoption of digital solutions in the Healthcare System. 52 demos were presented, and more than 42 investors looking for new start-ups with pioneering and innovative proposals attended the event.

    Health 2.0 Europe 2016 Has Met the Challenge of Bringing Together the Elite of Digital Health

    This 2016 edition of Health 2.0 Europe, gathered more than 500 professionals and brought on stage speakers with innovative approaches, integrating the point of view of health services consumers and how it is empowering them. The international director of Health 2.0 Europe, Pascal Lardier concludes at the end the event: “Insurance companies are increasingly involved and reimbursement of health applications is a reality. During the conference we have seen and share three clear examples in the new reimbursement program 2015: Tinnitracks, Emperra, and MySugr “. This, according to Lardier, “is a clear indicator that health applications are being incorporated into clinical practice by professionals and users and it also indicates a change in mentality of the society: we are prepared to become health consumers “. There is a change of trend in the sector and with the new 2.0 health solutions coming to market that offer more options, more comfort, more services, users are increasingly more willing to pay for their health.

    Dr. Rafael Grossmann, digital health pioneer surgeon (he performed the first surgery documented with Google Glass) has contributed its vision and experience with the use of innovative solutions that are supporting both the clinical practice and the patients. Dr. Grossmann was one of the keynotes and participated in some roundtables.

    Dr. Grossmann has been one of the most requested speakers at the meeting and it’s clear for him that “everything that facilitates the doctor-patient interaction and contribute to shorten distances should be incorporated into daily practice, and it is imperative that these applications and platforms optimize access to specialists and time of visits. It is also imperative to limit unnecessary visits, especially taking into account that the lack of professionals in the next 30 years is estimated to be around 125,000 only in the US, “says the specialist.

    In the same line, Joan Cornet director of mHealth at Mobile World Capital Barcelona said during the Health 2.0 Europe 2016 “in a few years hospitals as we know them today must only attend acute pathologies and it should exist every day more telemedicine platforms and remote monitoring solutions for the doctor to supervise his patients, on the other hand are responsible every day for their health and self-care.”

    Cornet participated with Jorge Juan Fernández García, director of d-HEALTH Barcelona, Biocat and Pēteris Zilgalvis, director of the Health and Welfare Unit of the European Commission in a debate about the digital health European Ecosystem

    A 360º Glance of Health 2.0: A Sector That Keeps Growing and Maturing Every Year

    Since the first conference in Europe in 2010, the sector has undergone a profound maturation process. “Now more than ever it is time to involve all stakeholders and to integrate different approaches and solutions in order to increase the adoption of digital health. This is where Health 2.0 will continue to focus its energy, through the organization of conferences and challenges, consultations with health systems, or projects with the  European Commission,” says Matthew Holt, co-chairman of Health 2.0, “Another symptom of maturity of this sector is the increasing and continuous flow of investments.”

    According to the co-chairman of the conference: “we have seen a significant increase in the number of doctors, nurses and health professionals in general that are using these technologies,” Holt says. “A good benchmark is the number of attendees this year, which exceeded 500 professionals and especially the greater involvement from the pharmaceutical industry, whose numbers of attendees duplicated. This shows that, although they were already aware of the need to develop their activities beyond manufacturing and selling drugs, they are now getting in the game and seek more comprehensive solutions to accompany the patients and improve their outcomes,” said Matthew Holt.

    Another aspect applauded during the conference was the participation of younger and younger attendees and new generations that were being incorporated into this 2.0 environment and language. Health 2.0 organizers themselves highlighted BloodPlus, an application developed by a group of young entrepreneurs, who were 15 years of age, which aimed at increasing the number of blood donations, rewarding donors with attractive activities.

    Health 2.0: Meeting Point Between Digital Health Entrepreneurs and the Most Active Investors in the World.

    One of the objectives of Health 2.0 is to be a platform connecting investors and start-ups, that’s why took place the EC2VC Investors’ Forum and Pitch Competition.During this meeting, 10 start-ups have pitched their projects to 42 investors, in order to prove the viability of their project. The 2 winners were were Teckel Medical for the seed category and SilverCloud Health for the growth funding category! Teckel Medical is an app which provides a preliminary medical diagnosis based on the symptoms inputted by the user. SilverCloud Health is an online mental health & wellness delivery platform based on improving outcomes, extending care, lowering costs.

    Among the investors was Esther Dyson, renowned US business angel (PatientsLikeMe, 23andMe, Health Tap or Omada Health); Katrin Geyskens, Capricorn Venture Partners (Belgium) and Sean Kim Min-Sung, XL Health (Germany).

    A Sector Highly Competitive Upwards:

    Digital health is no longer a novelty and the numbers prove it. “Last year was another good year for this sector in innovation: in the US alone, it mobilized 4,800 million in funding; 60% of which were invested in the United States and 15% in Europe. Most notable was the increased focus on healthcare consumption: the digital tools and personal care solutions represented 25% of the total investment (1.22 billion dollars),” explains Matthew Holt, co-chairman of Health 2.0.

    The number of start-ups devoted to health has exploded in recent years, as shown in the number of refinancing operations, which grew by nearly 200% between 2010 and 2014. ” The connected tools for health and wellness, like Fitbit or Jawbone have made many headlines recently and, of course, the Health 2.0 Europe Conference includes a session on wearables. But the world of digital health is much more diverse and Health 2.0 Europe 2016 is a showcase of solutions for all parts of health systems stakeholders, including providers, insurers, pharmaceutical and medical device suppliers,” concludes Lardier.

    Winners of the Closing the Data Divide Challenge Revealed

    Data collected by primary care providers can be a useful tool in helping public health officials understand health trends within a local community. That information can then guide public health professionals when developing local health interventions and policy. At the same time, primary care providers can benefit from public health insights on local social and environmental conditions that their patients live in as well as guidance on emerging global health risks.

    However, there aren’t many mechanisms or processes that promote the exchange of data between these two groups. The “Closing the Data Divide” Virtual Challenge, sponsored by the de Beaumont Foundation and the Practical Playbook, incentivized the development of novel technologies to break down silos between primary care and public health and facilitate the exchange of more timely and granular data to advance population health.

    “Closing the Data Divide” opened in October 2015 and received submissions from designers, developers, and entrepreneurs working in the health technology and innovation space. PHRASE Health took top honors in the competition, with HealthStead coming in second place and Healthcare Access San Antonio in third.

    About PHRASE Health: Developed by Marc Tobias, MD and Naveen Muthu, MD, Clinical Informatics Fellows at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PHRASE (“Population Health Risk Assessment Support Engine”) creates a two-way flow of information with an EHR-embedded tool and web portal. The web portal allows public health professionals to define risk factors, which alerts clinicians within the EHR when a patient is from an at-risk population – for example, an individual from a neighborhood with a known lead paint problem or someone who has recently traveled to a country where Zika is present. The interface also provides one-click reporting to allow primary care providers to alert public health officials when they identify new cases of infectious disease.

    About HealthStead: HealthStead connects primary care and public health professionals with neighborhood level data on education, income, crime, and other factors that have an outsize impact on health outcomes. HealthStead software sets itself from existing competitors by facilitating efficient comparisons between and among small areas (e.g. census tracts, block groups). Because neighborhood indicators like household income, violent crime, home vacancies, blood lead levels, and internet access can vary from block to block within cities, HealthStead’s intuitive and flexible interface represents a marked improvement over previous attempts. HealthStead was developed by Adam Perzynski, PhD, Meaghan Fenelon, Eamon Johnson, PhD, Sarah Schick, and Tynan Smith.

    About Healthcare Access San Antonio: Healthcare Access San Antonio (HASA) has created a local health information exchange that aggregates patient information and provides the local health department with insights into patient groups that have sought clinical care in a given time period. At the same time, a reports portal called HASAFacts distributes up-to-date information on community health outcomes and place-based resources for community health activities. HASAFacts also allows healthcare organizations to analyze the results of their patient treatments and assess their success in managing population health. One of the strengths of the HASA solution is that its data source has already reached a critical mass, as all San Antonio Hospitals are participating and contributing data. HASAFacts is a critical component of HASA’s technical platform and receives clinical input from Vince Fonseca, MD, MPH, FACPM and Anil Mangla, MS, PhD, MPH, FRIPH. Phil Beckett, PhD provides HASA’s day-to-day management of the program.

    The de Beaumont Foundation, the Practical Playbook, and Health 2.0 thank all of the individuals who participated in the “Closing the Data Divide” Virtual Challenge. We hope that this challenge showcases the potential for synergy between primary care and public health. By working together, these groups can exchange useful data and develop strategies to improve the health of local communities across America.

    For more information on the “Closing the Data Divide” Virtual Challenge, visit

    Darren Spevick, Eventum talks people and health tech

    Darren Spevick runs the executive recruiting company Eventum Partners, and has spent the last three years looking at health technology through the lens of the need for talent and human resources. Big corporates are hiring innovators. Smaller tech companies are trying to figure out how to commercialize and who they need to do that. Darren has a birds eye view of this. I had a quick interview with him about that view and what he was seeing. If you are interested in who’s doing what in Health tech, it’s well worth a listen. Like me, Darren will be at Health 2.0 Europe in Barcelona next week! Tough for us!

    In celebration of World Immunization Week!

    This month, one of the largest public health interventions is occurring and it is called “The Switch.” Countries all over the world are switching to a new polio vaccine as we get close to eliminating the disease. As we get closer to a polio-free world, it is important to reflect on the lessons we have learned combating this disease.

    Efforts to stop polio have helped mobilize and train millions of health workers, mapped and brought health interventions to chronically missed communities and bolstered countries’ ability to deliver vaccination, monitor diseases and quickly respond to outbreaks. The global public health community has the opportunity to build a lasting legacy and make a sustainable difference to the health of some of the most vulnerable communities and countries. In this way, we can ensure that the investments made in polio eradication have broader benefits for years to come.

    This short video shows us the experience of polio through the eyes of a polio survivor and one of the world’s foremost polio experts, Stephen Cochi.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 3.31.24 PMPolio
    password: polio

    Be sure to also check out “The Switch” article featuring an interview from Stephen Cochi on BBC:

    Health 2.0 Europe: The European Gathering of Digital Health Champions in Barcelona

    Barcelona, ​​March 31, 2016. All the stakeholders from the European digital health tech ecosystem will meet in Barcelona for the 7th edition of Health 2.0 Europe (10-12th May). Since 2010, Health 2.0 Europe has been the platform for developing and presenting new solutions in the field of digital health. The conference will showcase innovative technologies from around the world helping healthcare professionals and patients in their daily activities and lives in the hospital or remotely. The organization has chosen Barcelona to host this new edition, considering it to be a major capital for innovation with a high concentration of start-ups and their close collaboration with the Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

    • During three days, pioneers in using new technologies, investors and start-ups will meet in an international event consolidated as the leading showcase of cutting-edge innovations transforming health and health care.
    • This edition will bring together big names from the international digital health scene like Dr. Rafael Grossmann, the surgeon who performed the first live surgery with Google Glass.

    All the key players of the health IT ecosystem will be represented in the conference program. This year, the conference’s structure holds three main axes: accelerating the adoption of innovative solutions by patients and healthcare professionals, increasing the investment flow in digital health start-ups, and the reimbursement of these new technologies by public and private insurance systems. Along those lines, here are some of the scheduled discussion panels:

    • Health 2.0 Trends Around the World
    • Solutions for Hospitals and Health Professionals
    • Building a New Framework for Health 2.0 Adoption in the Clinical Setting
    • Building Blocks to a Dynamic Health 2.0 Ecosystem in Europe
    • Health 2.0 Applications and Implementations in Emerging Markets
    • Health 2.0 Power to the Patients!
    • Who Will Pay for Health 2.0? An Investors’ Discussion
    • Health 2.0 Transforming the Daily Mission of Nurses
    • Reimbursement – Players, Trends, Criteria, and Processes

    Health 2.0 Europe 2016 brings together digital health pioneers
    Key speakers will include Dr. Rafael Grossmann, trauma surgeon and pioneer in digital health (he performed the first-ever live surgery with Google Glass); Esther Dyson, one of the most influential investors in digital health in the world – her latest investments include PatientsLikeMe, 23andMe, HealthTap, and Omada Health; Dr. Julio Mayol, director of the Innovation Institute San Carlos Health Research (IdSSC) in Madrid and advisor to biomedical technology and digital health start-ups.

    More than 120 speakers, 30 investors and 50 live demos of new digital health solutions
    In the last edition of Health 2.0 Europe (May 2015) “the digital solutions presented on stage were in a more advanced stage of maturity than in previous years – ready for investments and large scale implementations. The overall conference was very positive; we had over 450 attendees, a number we hope to increase again this year!” reports Pascal Lardier, International Director at Health 2.0.

    Echoing the success of previous editions, 50 live demo of digital health solutions designed to help all those involved in health management (patients, healthcare professionals, pharma groups, public and private insurers…) will be showcased from a user perspective. As an example, the session “Solutions for Hospitals and Health Professionals” will be introduced by Dr. Rafael Grossmann and will showcase five of the latest most advanced tools and apps created to increase the quality of patient care and reduce healthcare costs.

    Business opportunities and new solutions for physicians and patients
    Health 2.0 Europe provides visibility to digital health start-ups but also funding opportunities and investor networking. The 5th edition of EC2VC- Investors’ Forum and Pitch Competition will focus specifically on increasing the investment flow in Europe. “At Health 2.0 Europe we bring together the most active international investors in digital health so they can engage early with the most promising digital health start-ups in Europe.” says Pascal Lardier, Health 2.0’s International Director.

    For more information:
    Margarida Mas
    Communication and press 7th Health 2.0 Europe
    Tel +34 626 523 034

    Health 2.0 Europe, encuentro europeo de líderes en salud digital en Barcelona

    • Durante tres días, pioneros en utilizar nuevas tecnologías, inversores y start-ups se reunirán en un evento internacional consolidado como referente en la innovación en salud digital.
    • Esta edición va a reunir a grandes nombres de la salud digital a nivel internacional como el Dr. Rafael Grossmann, cirujano que realizó la primera cirugía documentada con Google Glass.

    Barcelona, 29 de marzo de 2016. Todos los actores del ecosistema tecnológico en salud digital se darán cita en Barcelona en la 7º edición del Health 2.0 Europe (10-12 de Mayo). Health 2.0 Europe es, desde 2010, la plataforma para desarrollar y presentar nuevas soluciones tecnológicas en el ámbito de la salud digital. Provenientes de todas partes del mundo, se darán a conocer ideas innovadoras que se han convertido en herramientas para ayudar al profesional médico y a los pacientes en su día a día en el hospital o telemáticamente. La organización ha escogido una vez más Barcelona por ser la capital de la innovación con una gran concentración de start-ups y por su estrecha colaboración con la Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

    Continue reading →

    Epigenetics and the Black Box of Male Infertility

    Human beings have always regarded bearing children as one of the most meaningful and fulfilling acts of life, particularly in the last few thousand years. The genuine joy, fear and excitement parents feel for their children make even a cynic like me stand in awe of the role that raising kids plays in both the parents’ life and in society.

    Being 28, single, and living in an overpopulated world, my priorities in life are more about my career and living new experiences rather than being focused on building a family and ‘spreading my seed’. Apparently I am not alone in this, and research shows that more and more people prefer to wait to an older age to have their first child; mainly due to secular and socioeconomic pressures.

    Another trend is becoming prevalent, which is that this older population of parents are finding it harder to conceive. Though previously thought of as a cause of advanced maternal age, causes of infertility have recently been linked to advanced paternal age as well. In fact, according to the CDC, 7.5% of all sexually experienced men younger than age 45 reported seeing a fertility doctor during their lifetime (3.3–4.7 million men). Of men who sought help, 18% were diagnosed with a male-related infertility problem.

    Perhaps the most frightening fact about the problem is that over 25% of these males have unexplainable infertility. They go to infertility clinics, pay large sums of money out of pocket, and make decisions about treatment while not knowing the cause. The good news is that the solution to this giant information gap might be right around the corner.

    Episona, a California-based startup, is using the fascinating science behind epigenetics to study male infertility and help people build families. “To understand epigenetics, think of building a house.” explained Alan Horsager, President and CEO of Episona. “If the house, with its many components, is your genome, then the blueprint of the house’s design is what epigenetics is. It is a way for the cells to know which building blocks [genes] to use.

    Epi is a latin prefix for the word around or next to. These are a set of rules that determine which genes get expressed or used and which remain dormant. To a large extent, our epigenetics determines who we are, what we look like, and what kind of diseases we may be prone to. They are particularly interesting because they are not only inherited, but also change with age, environment, and behavior.

    Episona evaluates an individual’s epigenetic profile to determine if there may be a fertility problem that isn’t picked up by currently available diagnostic tests. Doctors then get a report with a Fertility Score, including a list of genes that are epigenetically abnormal. Doctors can use this information to better counsel their patients and direct them to the best possible treatment.

    “We see ourselves essentially as a data company. What we are interested in is studying the relationship between epigenetics and the environment, and asking ourselves how we can predict disease and outcomes”, Alan told me, after explaining that they survey their patients about their general well being and behaviors. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what correlations they can find.

    Episona has raised over 1.3 M US Dollars and will provide their services to infertility clinics in the US and Canada later this year.  Their studies and trials have shown that their predictive models proved to be highly accurate in classifying male fertility status (fertile or infertile), with 82% sensitivity, and 99% positive predictive value.

    “The alternative right now is that these people who don’t understand the underlying developmental causes of their infertility choose between In-Vitro Fertilization, which costs about $15k and has 30% success rates, or Intra Uterine Insemination which costs $2k with about 15% success”, Alan explained, stressing the giant potential of these technologies.

    Epigenetics is also being applied on a wider range of medical issues and lifestyles, and is opening up a world of options such as this study about the correlation between obesity and spermatozoa epigenetics. Companies like Episona allow us to peek into the blueprint of our bodies and essentially redesign what is necessary.

    Technology for Healthy Communities Launches Today!

    Technology for Healthy Communities (5)

    Health 2.0, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is proud to announce today’s kickoff of Technology for Healthy Communities, a digital health pilot program that facilitates technology adoption at the community level by tackling the most pressing local health issues. The inaugural program connects health technology innovators with 4 under-served communities across the U.S. with the goals of improving health outcomes and building sustainable partnerships.

    Despite the booming digital health ecosystem with over $4B in investments in 2015, there are significant hurdles to adoption for local communities, including lack of community stakeholder engagement and lack of financial incentive/commercial business models for startups in the community health setting.1 While innovation challenges in digital health have introduced elements of matchmaking and short cycles of engagement, there has not been a rigorous model for testing and implementation that leads to sustainable adoption.

    At the same time, we live in a healthcare climate where the U.S. health expenditure is over $3 trillion and our health outcomes lag behind those of other developed countries.2 We disproportionately spend less money on social services and more on healthcare and yet a large majority of what makes us sick can be attributed to the social determinants of health— factors such as socioeconomic status, availability of resources, education, employment and access to healthcare, that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.3, 4 Technology for Healthy Communities has the opportunity to catalyze the adoption and use of health technologies in communities in order to impact these social determinants, improve health outcomes and create business opportunities for technology companies.

    Several communities across the U.S. applied to participate in Technology for Healthy Communities. Four under-served communities were selected to move forward with the program:

    Through an open application process, the Technology for Healthy Communities team will source health innovators across the U.S. that provide cutting edge solutions to the communities’ health needs. The specific technology needs identified by the participating communities can be found on the program website. Selected innovators will then be matched with communities to conduct pilots and implement sustainability plans with the ultimate goals of improving health outcomes in the community’s target population and developing a sustainable, commercial model. Successful participants will receive funding (there is up to $200,000 available in a funding pool to support pilots) and promotional opportunities to increase their visibility.The Technology for Healthy Communities team will provide pilot implementation guidance and work with the community and innovator pair to identify local commercial partners to sustain the technology adoption beyond the duration of the program.

    The application process is now open to innovators who are looking to make a significant impact in under-served communities by implementing their technology solutions. If you are a health technology company, this is a unique opportunity to gain access to a vetted network of community organizations, guidance and funding from the Technology for Healthy Communities team, with the potential for commercial contracts and business development opportunities.

    The deadline for innovator applications is May 17, 2016. To learn more about Technology for Healthy Communities and submit an application, visit

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