Future of Health on Display at SXSW

Austin, TX (March 15, 2018) Thousands of creators and innovators from across the globe descended upon Austin for more than a mere glimpse of the future of health, technology, and much more at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival this week.

This 10-day event – held each March and affectionately known as “South by” – is comprised of four concurrent festivals – Film, Music, Comedy, and Interactive. Nestled among A-list movie premiers (Isle of Dogs and Ready Player One), product launches (Twitter in 2007) and more than 1,000 bands, however, is the true gem: SXSW Interactive.

Health was one of eight tracks that made up SXSW Interactive in 2018. Dozens of panels brought together academia, healthcare consumers, the provider community, and experts from startups for presentations and conversations ranging from connected health to artificial intelligence and from predictive medicine to what might just be the primary care clinic of the future.

Traditionally an industry in which innovation is slow to occur, these experts see exponential growth in store for healthcare. So, what’s next? The short answer is – a lot. Here are a few themes that emerged from the SXSW Interactive sessions.

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

You may have heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), which is basically the interconnected network of physical devices (think cars, smart home appliances, and other electronics) and software that allow for the sharing and exchange of data. Today, innovation in health and medical technology is paving the way for a true connected internet of medical things. The focus now turns to ensuring this collection and sharing of personal health information across wearables, devices, apps, electronic medical records and provider offices is developed securely with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in mind.                               

Impacting Health Through Infrastructure

Sidewalks. Broadband internet. These are just two examples of infrastructure opportunities that can impact the health of our communities in non-traditional settings. Providing communities without sidewalks a new, safe path to walk to the new local park presents an opportunity for healthy behaviors to flourish. Broadband internet remains out of reach for many in rural settings. A continued push to expand access will deliver needed information and access to services such as telemedicine.

Using Non-Traditional Data to Impact Health Outcomes

As it was shared in numerous panels this week, research shows that the zip code where someone lives has a real impact on quality of life and even life expectancy. Tomorrow’s healthcare will consider non-traditional social data points such as zip codes and behavior-related information to paint a more holistic view of health. Personalizing even further, other non-traditional, health-related data points such as balance, dexterity, and grip strength are being measured in one research-funded, potential ‘clinic of the future’. The impact of these non-traditional data points remains to be seen, but the desire to better understand and impact individual and community health remains crystal clear.

Speaking the Same Healthcare Language

There is no debating that the healthcare landscape can lend itself to confusion for consumers, providers, and payers alike – not to mention the coders, designers, and user experience experts. As the worlds of healthcare and technology continue to intertwine, all parties share a responsibility for ensuring that we innovate and deliver cutting-edge healthcare solutions in a manner that we can all understand and use to its full potential.

These themes and many others – like the blockchain, virtual reality, design, and artificial intelligence, to name a few – represent just the tip of the iceberg of the learning opportunities available at SXSW Interactive. I am already excited to see the fruits of another year’s labor from across the healthcare world at next year’s festival – with Envolve Health and Centene continuing to lead the charge in improving the health of our communities, one person at a time.

Jimmy Donovan, Director, Applied Behavioral Sciences, Envolve PeopleCare


Jimmy Donovan is the Director of Applied Behavioral Sciences for Envolve PeopleCare. He brings more than a decade of experience in communications, product development and healthcare to his current role. Jimmy and the Applied Behavioral Sciences team are responsible for the organizational development, implementation, and execution of an approach that works to ensure Envolve PeopleCare’s programs, products, and services are rooted in science and promote positive, sustainable health behavior change.