Fifteen Influencers Shaping Digital Health in 2014

Last year I wrote a post commemorating those individuals who were doing – and continue to do – great work in digital health. It’s a purely subjective list of course but one that seeks to showcase those who are doing great work in digital health. The innovators, the thought-leaders, the community builders and in the words of the late great Steve Jobs, the crazy ones.

A year in digital health seems like five years and so much has happened in the space of the last 12 months. A plethora of digital health devices, apps and services have come on to the market to great fanfare and big players such as Apple and Google are making interesting moves. The road ahead is a bumpy one however and companies like Zeo have closed down and personal genetics service 23andMe has suffered at the hands of the FDA.

One thing is clear though and that is digital health continues to evolve and grow, and here’s a selection of the people (in no particular order) making that happen.

Stephen Wolfram

Stephen Wolfram


British scientist and physicist, Stephen Wolfram is already a keen quantified selfer. Wolfram has recorded every single keystroke he’s made since 2002 (totalling over 100 million by the way) and has a complete archive of all of his email and calendar events going back to 1989. Wolfram doesn’t make the list because of this however but because of a post on his company’s Wolfram Alpha blog in January of this year announcing the Connected Devices Project. This project is undertaking the ambitious task of categorizing all connected devices – including health – so they speak in the Wolfram Language. In short, if this is successful, every connected device in the internet of things will be able to talk to one another which of course will have massive benefits for digital health.

IBM Watson

IBM_WatsonIt became famous for annihilating two successful Jeapordy! winners but IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, is more than a TV gameshow winner and is firmly entrenched in making healthcare better. The artificial intelligence computer system which is capable of answering questions posed in natural language has been to medical school and according to Wired is better at diagnosing cancer than human doctors. Watson doesn’t stop with cancer though and is currently working with The New York Genome Center to serve as a genomics research tool as well as helping Africa find solutions to its health and other challenges.

Brian Dolan

Brian Dolan

Co-founder and Managing Editor of MobiHealthNews Dolan is a one-man publishing machine on all things digital health. Founded in 2008, MobiHealthNews is the number one source for breaking news in the digital health ecosystem and frequently publishes exclusive news, research and other content. Some might say Dolan is becoming the Michael Arrington of digital health, minus the ego.


Matthew Holt

Matthew HoltHolt has been involved in digital health long before it was on most people’s radars. A Brit based in the US, he co-founded Health 2.0 in 2007 along with Indu Subaiya and has since ran events and codeathons across the world including the Health 2.0 flagship conference every Fall in San Francisco. His dry wit and English sarcastic humor is often called for in a growing industry with growing egos. A LinkedIn recommendation calls Holt a “Hub in the “networks” language – a true social magnet that attracts people around him. With his great personality and the endless source of energy Matthew is a center of everything Health 2.0.”

Paul Sonnier

Paul Sonnier
Digital health consultant, mentor and council member for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Digital Health, Sonnier is perhaps more well-known for creating, curating and community managing the Digital Health LinkedIn group he founded in 2009 which aims to “advancing knowledge and building relationships between professionals interested in the super-convergence taking place between the digital revolution and health.” This is Sonnier’s second time of being added to this list. Why? Last year his group was made of 15,000 members, this year it’s 25,000 strong.

Sergey Brin

Sergey BrinAs far as wearables go Google Glass receives the most social media and online coverage compared with any other wearable technology device (I’ve analyzed the data to prove it). It has its doubters and people rightly question whether Glass will ever receive mainstream adoption but one thing is certain, a head-mounted wearable device like Glass will bring benefits in the provision of health. Philips Healthcare proposed the idea of surgeons using Glass while in the operating theatre and now one of the US’s largest hospitals is testing Glass in ER so doctors don’t have to break eye contact with patients while treating them. Glass may never reach mainstream consumer adoption (I think it will) but whatever happens it will benefit the medical industry and since it’s Sergey’s baby he deserves credit for it.

John Nosta

John NostaAnother entrant from last year, Nosta is a leading thinker on where digital health currently is and where it’s heading. The Health Critical writer for Forbes and digital health consultant at NostaLab isn’t thinking about wearables, in fact he’s over them, but looking at the future of dermals and consumables. Nosta’s genuine passion and goal to play his part in “changing the world” from a health perspective is one of the main reasons Forbes is ranked as a go-to source for digital health innovation. Besides he’s just a genuinely nice guy.

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

jane_sarasohn-kahnSelf-described health economist, advisor, communicator, and trend weaver Sarasohn-Kahn is a ‘go-to’ source for digital health information. With a long and respected career in health she has seen first-hand the ongoing change in the industry and applies this knowledge to her writing and consulting. A recent whitepaper (pdf) by Sarasohn-Kahn on sensors in healthcare is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand the benefits of sensor technology in health and where it is headed.

Craig Venter

craig-venterWell-known biologist and genetics maverick Venter is developing a ‘household appliance’ that will receive DNA sequences over the internet to synthesize proteins, viruses and living cells. This household appliance has been named the Digital Biological Convertor and will allow what he calls ‘biological teleportation’. According to the Guardian “it could, for example, fill a prescription for insulin, provide flu vaccine during a pandemic or even produce phage viruses targeted to fight antibiotic-resistance bacteria.” Venter’s scientists are also working on a machine called the ‘Digital Life Sending Unit’ that will robotically sequence a genome from a sample location and generate a digital DNA file to recreate the original life in a new location. A bold endeavour indeed.

Dmitry Itskov

Dmitry Itskov
Russian mogul Itskov is the creator of the 2045 Project which is a non-profit network of researchers in the field of life extension, or as Digital Trends puts it to “transpose human consciousness into artificial bodies within the next 30 years.” The 2045 Project is in the same vein as Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity concept (Kurzweil was featured in this post last year) and imagines a future (in 2045) when the human consciousness can be transferred to an artificial brain. Whether you believe it’s the stuff of science fiction or a potential future scenario is entirely up to you but the research undertaken in the 2045 project will likely benefit the future of mankind in some way whether that human-conscious driven robots or not.

Dr Daniel Kraft

Daniel_KraftKraft is the medicine track chair for the Singularity University in Medicine and Neuroscience and its FutureMed program (exploring technologies role in the future of health and medicine), Kraft is a medical professional clearly on the pulse of where health is headed. The Stanford and Harvard trained physician, scientist, inventor and entrepreneur has delivered numerous talks on digital health around the world and, given his background and professional qualifications, is a credible and well-respected source in an often stagnant industry.

Jef Holove

jef Holove
CEO of Basis Science and now General Manager of Intel’s New Devices Group, Holove knows more than most about bringing a digital health product to marketing and then selling it. Intel purchased Basis Science – famed for its Basis watch – for a reported $100m last week (March 2014) and no doubt Holove played a prominent role in making that happen. Founded by Nadeem Kassam, Bharat Vasan, and Marco Della Torre in early 2011 Basis was one of the hotly-anticipated and well-known wearable health and activity trackers.

Dr David Albert

Dr David AlbertThere are few digital health innovators that can brag about first-hand examples of where their invention has saved lives. Physician, inventor, and serial entrepreneur, Albert, has earned the bragging right however when AliveCor, the ECG device for iPhone he brought to market, assisted cardiologist and well-known digital health evangelist Eric Topol not once but twice in two years to diagnose a patient suffering heart distress on a commercial flight. AliveCor illustrates the benefits of smart thinking and how innovation can save lives and Albert should be recognized for this.

Jamie and Ben Heywood

jamie and ben heywood
Social media and health go hand-in-hand. Social media provides a platform for people who have similar conditions or illnesses to share information and support one another when often going through a difficult time. Founders of PatientsLikeMe and brothers Jamie and Ben Heywood have pioneered the way these people interact with each other in this way by creating a platform that allows them to do it in a safe and open manner. As well as providing a service to patients PatientsLikeMe has an in-house team of research scientists who has worked with their community to author more than 40 peer-reviewed published scientific articles. The company’s Research & Development Director Paul Wicks is quoted in a corporate video as saying, “What’s really exciting is the scale we’re operating under. My PhD was conducted with 80 patients and last week I got survey responses from 4,000 in a week. That is unparalleled power in the research world.”

Nina Nashif

Nina-NashifNashif is the founder and CEO of digital health accelerator, HealthBox, which works with digital health startups and has expanded in to international markets with the launch of a European office in London. Healthbox was created to support early-stage entrepreneurs and stimulate innovation in the healthcare industry. Like her counterpart at startup incubator Rock Health, Halle Tecco (featured here last year) Nashif is helping to support startup innovation in digital health.

Who else should be recognized for their contribution to digital health?


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  1. I would have recommended Halle Tecco from RockHealth again, that group is way more effective than Healthbox.

    Paul Sonnier, is like the Michael Arrington of digital health + A LOT MORE EGO.

  2. Michael Dermer, in many circles he is considered the founder of the health rewards industry. Invested his own money in mid-2000s to prove it when health rewards were not in vogue. Now Forbes calls it one of the Megatrends to reshape healthcare

    Forbes…Top 5 Megatrends With Potential to Transform Healthcare…Rewards is #3 and #4 http://dld.bz/dxu3v

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