As Day One of Health:Further came to a close, I felt energized. This is unusual for a couple of reasons: First, because I’m an introvert and a day of being around people usually exhausts me. Second, because the constant concentration required by conferences (even inspiringly innovative and collaborative ones) usually exhausts me. But the first day of Health:Further did not.

The combination of industries and perspectives represented on today’s panels were intriguing, keeping my attention throughout the various conversations. The ideas shared were forward-thinking, intentional, even self-critical at times. The speakers were all celebrities in their own fields — some beyond their fields — which I have to admit made me pay a little closer attention to what they had to say.

Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry kicked off the festival by sharing about an intense personal loss she’s still processing: the overdose death of her 22-year-old son three weeks ago. Though she carefully controlled her emotions on the stage, I genuinely teared up in the audience. I sometimes hate to admit it, but this kind of personal story can be more compelling than even the best scientific study. America is indeed facing an opioid abuse crisis, and Mayor Barry’s tragedy drives that point home. I applauded Mayor Barry not only for her openness and strength but also for her optimism: “We can make a huge difference in outcomes,” she concluded.

After Mayor Barry’s introduction, a theme that stood out to me from across the talks was that of innovative collaboration: a partnership between Atlanta’s professional basketball team and healthcare platform Sharecare. Mutual learning between health IT mecca Atlanta and healthcare powerhouse Nashville. Hospitals taking customer service lessons from five-star hotels. Only by openly sharing information, techniques, and insights can we move forward together in making those outcome differences Mayor Barry expressed such hope for.

 

 

A similar theme I saw, which Vanderbilt’s Larry Van Horn noted in his concluding remarks, was connection. “You’re demanding connectedness,” moderator Dr. Vonda Wright pointed out to Crossfit founder Greg Glassman during a panel on leveraging passion to build brands. That connection to your workout buddy is what helps motivate you to push through the agony of Crossfit’s intense calisthenics. Another example is that to connect with their audiences effectively, companies need to consider distinct generational preferences. (This Millennial connected well with Atlanta Hawks’ CEO Steve Koonin’s take on Millennial values: innovation, inclusivity, and authenticity). The connections between all of Health:Further’s speakers and panelists were ripe with creativity and productive collaboration — a factor that really played into my high levels of energy at the day’s conclusion.

A final thought that makes me even more excited for the rest of the festival, and for our future in general: “Building the hardware is not the challenge,” a speaker said on a panel about digital audiovisual immersion. “The hardest part is knowing what problem to solve for.” Healthcare has the hardware it needs. Now we just need to isolate the issues, and keep designing solutions. I can’t wait to hear more about the strategies that entrepreneurs are employing, and the tools and systems they’re building, to bring us all closer to seeing our ideals in reality: that of affordable, sustainable health as a human right.

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