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Fifteen Influencers Shaping Digital Health

The digital health ecosystem is advancing at a rapid pace and it’s an exciting time to be on the cusp of a health revolution. Like all revolutions, a revolutionary – or revolutionaries – are required to challenge the status quo and bring about change to the system either through brute force or, in digital health’s case, doing things better, cheaper and more innovatively. While the list below is totally subjective it’s a good start to identify those that are making a difference in health by merging the worlds of biology and technology together.

In no particular order.

1. Eric Topol M.D.

eric-topolAmerican cardiologist, geneticist, and researcher but perhaps more importantly Topol is the author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care book and vigorous proponent of digital health. Topol’s graced the TEDMED stage and filled the pages of mainstream publications including, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, GQ and Forbes advocating digital health.

2. Paul Sonnier

Paul SonnierHead of Digital Health Strategy at life science consulting firm, Popper & Co., Sonnier’s influence in digital health lies in the 15,000+ member LinkedIn group he created dedicated to “advancing knowledge and building relationships between professionals interested in the super-convergence taking place between the digital revolution and health.” Sonnier is a frequent curator of digital health news and views, and tirelessly updates his networks on the latest advancements in digital health innovation as it’s released. His passion for improving health by growing a large and vibrant digital health online community deserves full recognition.

3. Halle Tecco

Halle TeccoFounder and CEO of Rock Health, the startup incubator for digital health and healthcare technology startups. Rock Health’s accelerator’s partner roster includes heavy hitters in healthcare such as GE, Harvard Medical School, Mayo Clinic, NEA, Qualcomm Life and UnitedHealth Group to name a few. Founded in 2010 Rock Health currently has 49 portfolio companies, which have collectively raised over $43 million in funding from a well-known and reputable list of investors. Tecco is a Forbes 30 Under 30 and deservedly so too.

4. John Nosta

John NostaNosta probably knows more about the digital health ecosystem than anyone else. The HEALTH Critical columnist for Forbes and employee at Ogilvy CommonHealth, the world’s largest healthcare communications company, Nosta churns out high quality editorial content and insight on digital health on a frequent basis. He is currently the #1 Kred-ranked health influencer and in the top .01% of influencers in marketing, health, doctors and social media. Nosta and fellow columnist David Shaywitz are the reason Forbes is seen as a purveyor of digital health news.

5. Walter De Brouwer

walter-de-brouwerBelgian entrepreneur and founder of Scanadu, a company which is soon to be launching the SCOUT, a self diagnostic device which will allow users to monitor several of their own health statistics including heart and respiration rate, blood oxygenation, pulse transit time and temperature without a Dr or nurse. Released sometime in 2013, the SCOUT concept was thought up by De Brouwer when his own son suffered a severe brain accident and he spent considerable time in the hospital. “The most underutilized resource in medicine is the patient”, De Brouwer has said in past interviews. With the launch of the SCOUT that may be no more.

6. Ray Kurzweil

ray kurzweilWhile not specifically focused on digital health, the author, futurist and proponent of the technological singularity, Kurzweil’s writings have impacted and inspired those working in digital health. “My perspective on digital health is not simply to use information technology to collect and organize information, but rather to understand and reprogram the information processes underlying biology,” told the HEALTH Critical blog.

7. Martin Blinder

martinblinder_largeBlinder is founder and CEO of Tictrac, a personal analytics platform that combines different types of data to let users discover how different aspects of their lives affect each other. Much is discussed about the future of health and wellbeing from a data perspective but very few are trying to make it easy for the end user to interpret and make health based decisions from all of it. Excluding Blinder and his co-founder, Jean-Philippe Doumeng, that is and Tictrac, currently in closed beta, promises to bridge the gap between vast data sets and consumers.

8. Anne Wojcicki

Anne_WojcickiCo-founder of personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe Wojcicki is bringing genomic testing for health to the masses by reducing 23andMe’s original price tag from $999 to its current one of $99 through both economies of scale and VC funding. Making it affordable to many more people 23andMe’s intention is to go from 180K people who have signed up and profiled their DNA to one million by the end of 2013. This large data set will allow 23andMe to discover even more research on how genomic data affects health.

9. Jessica Richman

Jessica RichmanMicrobes Maketh Man proclaimed the Economist in 2012 and CEO of Indiegogo favorite, uBiome, Richman aims to map the human microbiome by providing people with a catalog of their own microbes, detailing the microbial composition of the body and explaining what is known about each genera of microbe. Like 23andMe the more people that use uBiome the more data and statistical power it will have to make correlations between the microbiome and health. After an original target of $100,000 uBiome’s Indiegogo page received over $350,000 of fund raising making it the largest successful crowdfunding campaign for citizen science to date and proving the demand to know more about our bodies at a microbral level is high.

10. Larry Smarr

Physicist and leader in scientific computing Smarr fell in to digital health while looking at ways to improve his own failing body. Initially tracking variables of his body with data points of one such as weight he moved to analyzing data points of 100 (blood biomarkers), 1,000,000 (DNA) and 1,000,000,000 (microbiome). The Atlantic called Smarr the Measured Man and it’s easy to see why. Smarr’s analytical brain and experience with dealing with large data sets allowed him to discover the cause of inflamations in his body.

11. Dave Asprey

Dave AspreyThe Bulletproof Executive, Asprey has spent $300,000 upgrading his brain and body. The Bulletproof Coffee advocate and distributor has taken biohacking to another level and has featured in numerous high profile publications advocating biohacking techniques. Asprey has an encyclopedic brain on all things digital health related and regularly experiments with new devices and software to improve both physiological and cognitive function.

12. Mark Parker

mark-parker-nike-ceoWith the introduction of the Nike+ FuelBand, the Nike+ running app and a host of digital products before them there’s no doubt that Nike sees greater value in positioning itself as a technology company as opposed to a sports company. CEO Parker validated this when he said in Fast Company, “the digital and physical worlds are starting to come together more seamlessly [and] it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s coming.” Nike’s sheer size and dominance in the health and fitness industry will help push digital health and fitness technologies in to the mainstream and being at the helm of this $24bn revenue generating multinational Parker is to thank for it.

13. Gil Blander

Gil_BlanderInitial founder and Chief Scientific Officer of InsideTracker, the bioanalytics service which analyzes your blood for up to twenty biomarkers is bringing blood diagnostics in to the mainstream. InsideTracker’s online platform allows people to discover their biomarker levels, compare them alongside their optimized range and track them over time to understand if lifestyle changes have made an impact. Once considered an option only for elite sports professional biomarker analysis is coming to anyone interested in maintaining and improving their health.

14. David Icke

David-Icke MC10CEO of wearable technology company, MC 10, is developing products that are taking digital health monitoring to the next level. Sensor innovation is exploding everywhere and none so more than at MC 10 where the company is developing an elastic digital sensor called the Biostamp that has the potential to monitor a range of signals from the brain, heart, muscles, body temperature, motion and even hydration. The Biostamp has been developed in such a way that not only will it monitor over the skin but also under it too on internal organs.

15. Gary Wolf

Gary_WolfAlong with Kevin Kelly, Wolf is the co-founder of the Quantified Self movement formed in 2007 as a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking. The QS movement is now an international phenomenon with meetups and groups on every continent around the world. Wolf likens the QS movement to that of the Homebrew Computer Club in the 1970s which Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was a part of. “Once upon a time, computers were thought to be useful only for scientists, managers, and planners. But a few people saw things differently: they argued that computers were for all of us. We at the Quantified Self think of data the same way.”

Agree? Disagree? Who would you add?

33 Comments

  1. Great to see everyone in this list. I’ve met Paul and Walter in real life. Now I know who else I need to meet this year 🙂

  2. Great stuff,
    I might be interested in hosting a roundtable and have some ideas if your open to outside group. Thank you

  3. Fantastic list. Congrats to the Fifteen. I agree with @George on Kvedar and Matthew Holt who’s been writing about the space and has been pushing it since the mid-oughts.

  4. Congratulations to the 15! I would be interested to contribute to sponsor a roundtable

  5. You also have to enable the individual to keep the data on their side, and to empower the patient by permissioning or receiving personal information / data

    The individual is then the point of integration, and can build trust with Organisations in the digital world

    “The most underutilized resource in medicine is the patient”, De Brouwer has said in past interviews.

    Social enterprises and companies now offer this e.g.
    Patients Know Best, Mydex Community Interest Company in UK

    World Economic Forum “get” this space too
    http://www.weforum.org/reports/personal-data-emergence-new-asset-class

  6. Congratulations all of you. Very interesting to follow each of you. What paricular interest me is to combine all this knowledge and data with the ancient traditional medicines like Ayurveda.
    For example: Ayurveda is dividing people in three broad categories; Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
    Can this be measured? I am sure it does. Anybody interested in this. Please contact me.

  7. I know it;s only meant to be fun, and these remarks should be intended in that spirit, but all these lists are by definition biased rubbish, but this one has some serious misses….

    not one of the founders of the original batch of Health 2.0/digital health companies are on this. With the exception of Eric Topol who does stuff as well as talk about it, the list is biased towards talkers, not doers & the doers who founded PatientsLikeMe, Castlight, MedHelp, ACOR, iTriage and dozens of other sites that get lots of use and have really made a difference

    Most of the “doers” on this list are in companies that have yet to make an impact, which belittles how important Digital Health already is….

    (and no I shouldn’t be on this list–although maybe my partner Indu Subaiya who basically invented the category of health technology application challenges should…)

    • Whiile I am not a mover and shaker I come from the perspective of a long health care career.(one of the original proponents of health information exchanges) I agree with Matt Holt, the originator of the term Health 2.0 (if I am mistaken, apologies to Mr. Holt). These executives accomplishments rest on the bedrock of earlier innovators.

  8. I think the key game changer stems from Walter De Brouwer’s comment that “The most underutilized resource in medicine is the patient,” together with Martin Blinder’s personal analytics platform as they point to tools that empower the patient to be more in charge of their health.

    A key component wellness is health awareness behavior. Does anybody have any interest in understanding how to influence patient’s behavior in a sustainable fashion?

  9. Great group, and idea about round-table. Make a webinar of the discussion, and spread it around the web.

    Since these guys are probably superbusy, a Google Hang Out might be the most appropriate, so they can do it whereever they are at.

    John Bennett MD

  10. I would call this a list of the leaders in quantified self technology, not necessarily the broader category of “digital health”. There’s a lot more happening in digital health than self measurement (as important and promising as that field is).

  11. Great to see that we are all part of small family, now we need to work together, and meet altogether more frequently, and decide how to integrate our solutions.

    anybody an idea, where the best occasion is to all meet at the same time???
    TEDMED?

    BR

    Ben Heubl

  12. Interesting and informative, but I think there’s a glaring omission. In full disclosure, Kaiser Permanente is a client of out firm. Nevertheless, any list of the top influencers in digital health should include someone from the health system that operates the world’s largest and, arguably, most complete electronic health record. Respectfully, I suggest you add George Halvorson (CEO) or Phil Fasano (CIO) to your list. Or, better yet, talk to a Kaiser Permanente physician — any KP physician — about how the EHR is improving the way they provide care.

  13. I think you guys should have definitely listed Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. He is a South African-born surgeon who made a fortune by selling two successful drug companies he founded. He was trained at UCLA.
    In 2011 he founded NantWorks, a company that is attempting to revolutionize three industries–health care, digital entertainment and commerce–using science, supercomputing, voice recognition and low-power semiconductors. For more information about him, here is Forbes website http://www.forbes.com/profile/patrick-soon-shiong/

  14. Whether it’s the complete and right list or not it’s a great and informative listing those of us in healthcare IT should be paying attention to. Second the suggestion of adding Joe Kvedar – a friend, former colleague and innovator! Second the roundtable and webinar idea as well.

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