Battle of the Coasts: San Diego and New York City Race for Digital Health Dollars

This is a tale of two coasts and two conferences. The Digital Health Summer Summit in San Diego on June 13th and 14th and the Digital Health Summit in New York on June 26th. While the discussion of technology's role in the changing health landscape dominates both (and everywhere in between), these summits are each taking on a very different flavor based on geography.

San Diego Home to the Fittest

The San Diego area has a reputation as a fitness Mecca where it's not uncommon to see residents in their early morning Ironman training or doing a quick half marathon run before breakfast. Home to the Scripps Institute, Qualcomm Life, and West Wireless, San Diego is a frontrunner as the digital health capital of the U.S.

The Qualcomm Foundation houses its own healthcare investment fund and sponsors the Tricorder XPRIZE, dubbed "healthcare in the palm of your hand" (and apparently a product Don Jones, Vice President of Global Strategy and Market Development for Qualcomm Life, Inc. proposed himself. Read more.). West Health, by West Wireless, was formed to look at lowering the cost of health care through the use of new technology and mobile systems. It has its own incubator and investment fund.

New companies like La Jolla-based MD Revolution offer personalized "RevUp" systems that use a variety of mobile apps and body monitors to put you on a personalized diet and exercise regime. The end result is a reduction in fat and an improvement in metabolism and overall fitness. The company claims that 90 percent of its patients are seeing positive results. Humetrix, also based in La Jolla, has a master plan that allows a patient to access all personal health recorders from their mobile phone. Reflexion Health uses the Xbox Kinect to deliver physical therapy.

New York Home to Health History

Not to be outdone, New York City movements like Innovate Health Tech NYC, spearheaded by the New York Economic Development Corporation and the Bloomberg administration are offering prize money to the most innovative health startups and ideas. The city's long term initiative to build the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute on Roosevelt Island was created to cement New York City's place as a leader in new tech companies in the biological life sciences. (Notably, Mr. Jacobs, who donated $133 million dollars to the institution, is the founder of Qualcomm.)

The startup community in New York has a bit of old meets new flavor, too. Take the New York Digital Health Accelerator (NYDHA) program as an example that's been praised as a model incubator. They had over 50 CIOs and CMIOs from 23 leading providers on the selection committee for funding. To quote Forbes magazine, "prospective customers, not investors, made the call" on who would be selected to receive funding.

As a corridor for big pharma companies, New York must also look at how these companies embrace the changing digital health arena. Will drug companies develop technologies to administer personal drug cocktails? Will they begin to implement prescription adherence technology? Will they develop adjunct medical devices to co-exist with the quantified self-movement? Or is it the twilight of an industry based on patent protection, steeped in bureaucracy, about to become a dinosaur?

Along with the East Coast's pharma business is its insurance business. Companies like esurance and Progressive revolutionized the car insurance business and you can bet that a new cadre of services to link patients with the best price on medical services and best treatments is beginning to upend these institutions.

Will there be a winner in the contest? Yes, every consumer wins when both coasts are vying for dollars to create forward thinking initiatives. At first blush, San Diego gravitates a bit more towards the fitness and prevention slant of its population. In contrast, New York will meld governments and large institutions role in transforming healthcare.

Robin Raskin is founder of Living in Digital Times (LIDT), a team of technophiles who bring together top experts and the latest innovations that intersect lifestyle and technology. LIDT produces the Digital Health Summer Summit in San Diego and the Digital Health Summit in New York, as well as conferences and expos at CES and throughout the year focusing on how technology enhances every aspect of our lives through the eyes of today's digital consumer.