For today's post, I'll give a few highlights of the Wharton Health Care Business Conference, which I attended last month. The conference was held at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Center City and is entirely student-run. Two events particularly drew my attention: the startup showcase over lunch and the closing keynote speech by P. Roy Vagelos, MD, who currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
The startups that I was most impressed by are Wellthie, Seratis and Fitly. Wellthie "is a digital health company whose mission is to redefine the way consumers learn about, choose and use their health insurance". Its products include the Affordable Care Advisor, "a private-labeled, consumer-facing tool licensed to health insurance companies." It "helps consumers get their bottom line costs, plan options, tax credits, and potential penalty in under a minute." The fact that it is licensed to health insurance companies provides an important revenue stream, in contrast with many health startups that try to make the end consumer pay for their product. In addition, the presentation was exceptionally well delivered. In my opinion, that startup slightly overshadowed (at least in the showcase) Picwell, another startup that aims at helping consumers decide by using advanced analytical tools from Wharton faculty to predict future healthcare costs and thus pick now the best possible insurance for a custoner. Given my love of analytics, I liked Picwell's product more, but Wellthie was clearly at a farther stage of development with a clear revenue stream and a professional-looking presentation.
Seratis "is a mobile messaging application designed for healthcare professionals," which "streamlines patient care team coordination to increase productivity and improve patient focus. The unique patient-centric technology means that doctors and nurses can quickly view and securely communicate with every member of the patient’s care team. The patient centric feature simplifies handover and makes shift work easier." Since this description, from the Wharton Healthcare Conference website, doesn't do the product justice, I looked for a video online, and found the presentation that Seratis's CEO (who was also the speaker at the startup showcase) made at DreamIt Health Philadelphia last year. You might enjoy watching her talk below. Cool product, isn't it?
Fitly is also an alum of DreamIt Health Philadelphia. It aims to address the problem of poor nutrition by "making the process of planning for and cooking healthy meals as easy and painless as possible." Its app "allows customers to create personalized meal plans of delicious, healthy recipes in five minutes or less, and the necessary ingredients and simple cooking instructions are delivered to their homes weekly. Fitly’s recipes are designed to capture the taste buds of a broad audience while helping with weight loss, obesity, diabetes, and other conditions related to unhealthy eating habits." It is "backed by Independence Blue Cross, Penn Medicine, and Interstate General Media (IGM), owner of The Inquirer, Philly.com, and Philadelphia Daily News" and has been featured in many media outlets. I am not sure how it can interact with other grocery delivery services, but there is certainly room for improved nutrition out there.
You can watch the video of Fitly's presentation at DreamIt here.
Finally, Roy Vagelos's keynote. I really hope someone is transcribing his speech to print it as is in Wharton Alumni magazine - it was that good. The sort of talk on leadership that universities dream of hosting in their lecture halls, except that few find someone of Vagelos's caliber to be their Executive-in-Residence or, more prosaically, lunch seminar speaker, and the sort of talk on leadership that reminds you some people who go to Penn do have truly exceptional careers, and rightfully so. I only wish everyone could hear him talk about his (ultimately successful) fight at Merck to combat river blindness, which had to be done by offering a new drug for free if needed because river blindness occurred in parts of the world so poor that inhabitants would never be able to spend anything on medications. You can read Vagelos's bio here. The most striking about him is that he is about 85 and has the energy and eloquence of someone much younger with the wisdom of, indeed, an 85-year-old. He is truly the sort of person who makes you wonder why executives are forced to retire at 65 - what pushed him out of Merck, where he held the position of CEO and later Chairman at the time of his retirement. He is now Chairman of the Board at biotech company Regeneron in Tarrytown, NY. His talk is not online (yet), so here is a summary of a 2004 talk he gave at Wharton and a 2006 Knowledge@Wharton podcast on the future of the pharmaceutical industry. YouTube also has a few videos featuring him, including the one below.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Pulse magazine, a publication also entirely prepared by students and distributed to conference attendees. It is full of insightful interviews with key players in the healthcare sphere. You can download a copy here.