I travel to a lot of the major conferences in the healthcare world, but I didn’t make it to this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Because we all have FOMO from time to time, I reached out to leaders from across the industry to hear how the conference went and learn about their takeaways from the event.
Below is a list of some of the more notable things that executives told me.
The life sciences industry is not ready for AI
Web Sun, president of Komodo Health, wrote via email that “we can’t confuse enthusiasm for readiness” when it comes to safely applying AI in life sciences.
“From the presentations we saw at JPM this year, it was clear that infrastructure to support AI systems, including the tools to ensure they can be effectively integrated into the healthcare system, continues to be a work in progress. This includes the data foundation that AI systems are trained on to the level of human touch necessary to generate accurate outputs that can be trusted and acted upon,” he explained.
The hype can be misleading. Sun wrote that the conversations he had during the conference made it clear that “very few” life sciences companies have even “gotten out of the starting blocks” when it comes to deploying AI tools at scale.
He noted that the few that have done this are helmed by folks who are AI experts themselves. Sun thinks this speaks to the mismatch between the massive level of AI interest and “the utter lack of understanding around how to even get started.”
Life sciences companies have a lot to learn in terms of the types of AI use cases they should prioritize, as well as the partners and investments required to implement new tools successfully, he added.
GLP-1s can’t end the obesity crisis by themselves
Sean Duffy, CEO of Omada Health, wrote that GLP-1s were a topic of discussion in “100% of [his] more than 32 meetings” at the conference. His message noted that an outsized portion of these discussions explored the “clinical and economic implications of these medications on the overall health of our nation.”
To Duffy, there seemed to be a consensus that a “medication alone” approach will not be sufficient when it comes to GLP-1s. He predicted that “innovation against this truth will capture the industry’s attention in 2024.”
RIP to Telehealth 1.0
While he was at J.P. Morgan’s conference, Included Health CEO Owen Tripp noticed that “everyone seems to agree that the heyday of telehealth 1.0 is over.” This is a good thing, he added.
“Transactional urgent care and behavioral health — while convenient, beloved and an incredibly important part of our business — does not offer the competitive differentiation it once did, and for companies where that’s the business, it’s a dead end,” he wrote via email.
Retail clinics are in tough times
One theme from the conference stood out to Trilliant Health CEO Hal Andrews: that the retail clinic-based primary care model is struggling.
“For anyone who has ever operated a primary care office, the fact that Walgreens and CVS have suddenly become so lukewarm on their recently acquired businesses is not surprising, but the speed with which they have signaled their change of heart to Wall Street is,” he wrote.
This trend also provides a possible explanation for the “significant leadership changes” CVS and Walgreens have made since Labor Day, Andrews added.
Timing will separate winners from losers
Seth Joseph, managing director of Summit Health Advisors, noticed that “no one seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop anymore.”
Last year was a year of two wars, rising interest rates, inflation and banking crisis. Yet, in Joseph’s view, the recession that economists were expecting didn’t show up. He noted that “neither irrational exuberance nor living in fear” are good places for healthcare leaders to begin 2024 with.
“For health tech, 2024 is likely to be a story of the haves and have nots. The biggest delineator between the two? Timing. The ‘haves’ reached operational scale heading into the pandemic or were founded since the pandemic. The ‘have nots’ raised big rounds during the pandemic and are struggling to justify the valuations and expectations,” Joseph’s email read.
Mental health services need to be embedded into more care models
Talkspace CEO Jon Cohen wrote that he felt “completely energized” after seeing that mental health was a ubiquitous topic throughout the conference.
“There was not a conversation in the presentation rooms or in my 1-on-1 meetings that did not touch on, in one way or another, how companies are addressing patients’ behavioral health needs — either through preventative care or as part of whole person care. It has never been more apparent that mental and behavioral health have become synonymous with general health and healthcare,” he explained.
Radiologists will lead the clinical adoption of generative AI
All clinician-facing AI is being regulated as Class I or Class II medical device software. To Sirona Medical CEO Cameron Andrews, this signals that physicians, software vendors and investors are waking up to the fact that clinical AI is a medical device and needs to be regulated as such.
Now that the industry is taking clinical-facing generative AI models seriously, cloud vendors and AI companies need to invest heavily in large-scale, specialty-specific foundation models for multimodal physician specialties like radiology and pathology, Andrews wrote.
“As medicine’s digital-native specialty, it’s broadly expected that this transformation will happen in radiology first,” he noted.
Founders have altered their fundraising timelines
Lynne Chou O’Keefe, managing partner at Define Ventures, wrote that her main takeaway from the conference was that “founders are looking ahead to the next 12 months and need more support and partnership than ever before.”
When she attended the event in previous years, O’Keefe saw a ton of founders actively fundraising. Now, more are looking for guidance on the right time to start fundraising and advice on which milestones to target, she explained via email.
“As well, we believe being strategically offensive is top of mind — thinking about strategic position in the market and how to think offensively about partnerships in a 360-degree view,” O’Keefe added.
SPAC mergers may increase in the biopharma space
Ian Chan, CEO of antibody biotech Abpro, wrote that the biotech industry is “entering a turning point” that will lead to new financing opportunities.
“Having recognized this turn and the continued need for novel monoclonal antibodies, we are moving forward with this opportunity and participating in a SPAC merger ourselves and would not be surprised if more and more companies consider this route,” his message read.
Original Article: (https://medcitynews.com/2024/01/jpm-healthcare/)