Rock Health Summit 2020: Making Health Tech Work for Everyone

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This year’s Rock Health summit went the way most of our lives do these days–virtually. But that didn’t mean its impact was lessened. As the world’s first venture fund dedicated to virtual health, Rock Health has always highlighted innovation in the healthcare industry. The 9th annual summit, which occurred on September 22nd-23rd, featured new research and speakers covering all things health technology.

Not only was the summit logistically affected by COVID-19, but the main content was more impacted by the ongoing crisis of inequality. 

As Highwire wrote about in June, racism is a public health crisis, negatively impacting the healthcare racial and ethnic minorities receive. For example, Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women. These disparities affect all aspects of our healthcare systems and though digital health technology works to disrupt those systems, the industry admits that, on the whole, it has not done to address the needs of a diverse group of patients. 

Panels at the summit discussed how healthcare solutions have failed to be inclusive and what’s the best way to move forward and address these issues. After this summit, it’s clear the future of healthcare is in providing individualized healthcare to a diverse group of patients.

Read on to see how leading healthcare innovators are tacking diversity and inclusion. 

The healthcare of the future needs to work for all

As digital health technology continues to expand, professionals need to focus on making the future of healthcare work for all, particularly in light of protests over Black Lives Matter and a national reckoning of injustice. Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, speaking at a panel said, “As I think about the future of the delivery system, I am focused on taking a very broad look at health. … I think as we move towards the next stage of our ability to meet our communities where they are, we have to think broadly about health. Some of that is the social determinants of health … but it is also an equity agenda.”

Instead of focusing on a blanket group of consumers, companies should identify the specialized needs of different groups. What a largely white, upper-middle-class, Silicon Valley-based creator needs in their healthcare is likely not the same as patients in the Deep South or for Black women. Dr. Cohen emphasized that we need to acknowledge the structural racism that exists within healthcare: “We have to acknowledge it and then we have to fix it. That means we need to have to map time and resources to those things if we want to be patient-centric.”

Importance of language

Language is another way marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community continue to be excluded. A.G Breitenstein, founder and CEO of Folx Health said, “It’s really about unpacking that and understanding when you are serving populations that don’t fit a white, straight, heteronormative, cis-gender frame, then you are really starting to rip apart some of the true guts of the system and build it in a way that is reflective of people’s values, their desires, their understandings, the way they think about themselves and their bodies.” For example, Poppy Seed Health spells woman as “womxn” and uses the term “birthing people” for expectant patients, allowing non-binary and trans patients to feel comfortable receiving care.

Language is a hot topic in maternity care, as many commonly used terms have painful implications. Medically, a miscarriage is called a “spontaneous abortion.” The word abortion implies a choice that mothers who suffered miscarriages did not get to makes. Halle Tecco, CEO of Natalist, is working to combat “decades and decades of language that has been developed by white men in the industry who have been dominating women’s health for too long, and trying to just undo these terrible word choices.” 

Interested in learning more about the conference? Want to connect with Highwire to discuss our work in the digital health and health space or interested to learn more about what our clients think about some of these trending topics? Contact

ICYMI: Insights From STAT’s Health Tech Summit

Earlier this month, I was lucky to attend the STAT Health Tech Summit to hear from experts on what’s trending in the digital health space — especially following and preceding some high profile digital health announcements like Livongo and TeleDoc’s merger and Amwell’s IPO

Moderated and led by superstar STAT reporters like Rebecca Robbins, Erin Brodwin, Casey Ross, Kate Sheridan, and Matthew Herper, the event featured industry leaders across tech companies like Lyft to bio major players like Genentech.

Below, I’ve compiled a recap of the highlights from the conference and some of the key areas that we’re keeping an eye on.


On the first day of the conference, speakers across health tech, biotech, and pharma focused largely on how data will impact the future of healthcare, interoperability, and the impact of COVID-19 on the larger healthcare landscape. 

Speakers focused on the need to integrate the different steps of a patient treatment model (i.e. monitoring, diagnostics, treatment, etc.) to better suit patient outcomes. 

Talk tracks focused on vaccine trials for COVID, the transition to telehealth and remote patient monitoring, and how we can leverage genetic data to build better diagnostic and treatment methods.

In one session, 23andme CEO Anne Wojcicki described the company’s new partnership with pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to discover new drugs using data collected from millions of customers with the aim of developing new drugs and technologies leveraging genetic insights (Read the full recap from STAT here).

The full day’s event also included guests from organizations and companies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Stanford, Brown, Scripps Research, and FitBit

Overall, the first day focused on how companies can be sharing data for the benefit of the patient, how tech companies should be supporting medical research, and why COVID-19 has brought organizations together in ways that have never been seen before. 


Day two of STAT’s health tech conference featured three back to back sessions on AI in medicine. In one session with investors from DCVC Bio and Manatt Ventures discussed how companies are merely taking the buzzword “AI” and replacing it with “COVID” during the pandemic, but don’t be fooled… AI isn’t going anywhere either. 

The speakers made a point that for AI to truly be successful, we will need as much exact data as possible. It’s the precision that will make the difference. In one anecdotal example, Google Health’s product manager, Daniel Tse, detailed how the company is working to use AI to detect breast cancer, but he noted the project is still primarily in the R&D phase. 

The big takeaway? AI is not a magic problem-solver (Colin Hill, GNS Healthcare’s chairman & CEO reiterated this in his session), but it is the confounding factors of physicians, researchers, and the data that will make the algorithms and tech truly effective. 

In other sessions, Lyft’s healthcare VP,  Megan Callahan, described how the company is increasing access to care through transporting patients for clinic visits (read the session recap from STAT here), a UCSF researcher Adam Gazzaley described how video games will revolutionize treatment in the future, and execs from Livongo and Teledoc outlined how their merger happened during the pandemic (read the session recap from STAT here).

Overall, the second day focused on the importance of patient-centered care in any tech innovation. Technological improvements are great but they mean nothing without a focus on improving patient outcomes and experiences. 

Another key theme for the second day was how crucial patient-centered care is to any tech innovation. Speakers focused on the need to integrate the different steps of a patient treatment model (i.e. monitoring, diagnostics, treatment, etc.) to better suit patient outcomes. 

My main takeaway from the entire event is that both the media and individual organizations have their focus on the importance of patient-centered care in any tech innovation. Technological improvements are great but they mean nothing without a focus on improving patient outcomes and experiences.

Interested in learning more about the conference? Want to connect with Highwire to discuss our work in the digital health and health space or interested to learn more about what our clients think about some of these trending topics? Contact

Gilmartin Group Shares 2Q Earnings Takeaways

Managing investor expectations and capital during a crisis can be challenging for companies at all different stages. At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, many companies were faced with concerns about visibility into the upcoming  financial information and their ability to “weather the storm” with their existing balance sheets. Many publicly-traded companies initially responded to these concerns by withdrawing their guidance and offering to reinstate guidance when practical to do so. Additionally, multiple small- and mid-cap publicly-traded companies took advantage of any opportunities to raise capital through follow-on offerings in recent months.

 Going into 2Q20 the healthcare sector may experience a rocky financial moment despite all the attention the industry is receiving. The  Gilmartin Group, a strategic advisory firm, outlined key takeaways around 2Q earnings and what this means for healthcare overall. 

  • Many companies in Healthcare IT and MedTech delivered earnings “beats” and the Street was more focused on the outlook for 2H and beyond. The second quarter tended to be a stronger quarter in healthcare IT and Medtech than was initially projected at the onset of the pandemic. As the majority of the investor and analyst community tends to be long-term focused by nature, a lot of the emphasis in the Q&A portion of recent earnings calls has been on the outlook for 2H20 and beyond, and read-throughs based on July trends.
  • Guidance was provided or reinstated among companies that are more insulated from the pandemic and companies with greater visibility into 2H20. For example, Edwards, Dexcom, Cerner, and TelaDoc have all been providing guidance, or chose to reinstate this quarter. HCIT has been more insulated than MedTech as a whole, given the unknowns on elective procedure deferrals and patient behavior in certain COVID hotpots.
  • Smaller consensus changes than expected. Based on Gilmartin’s analysis on consensus following Q2 earnings results, regardless of the magnitude of Q2 beat or cautious / optimistic comments about 2H, the changes to consensus in MedTech have been relatively small, with the exception of some outliers (such as Inspire Medical Systems). Among the companies analyzed, Gilmartin found that on average, consensus increased 3% for 2020 and 2% for 2021.

As we are quickly approaching the end of Q3 2020, is  your company preparing for a strong 2021 communications program to set the foundation for a successful year ahead? Let us know at how we can help. 

Communications is Paramount in a Successful Return to Work

We’ve now entered Phase 3 of reopening as coronavirus lockdowns are lifted, including returning to work. But rather than feel relief, many are experiencing increased anxiety at the thought of entering the office. With one in five U.S adults experiencing mental illness each year, the added anxiety of returning to work has only further agitated an individual’s mental well being. As such, the critical role of communications in a successful Phase 3 is paramount. The best practices we’ve seen across our client base have all emphasized listening to employees and their concerns, creating clear communication pathways, and focusing on mental health. Not only has Highwire implemented these best practices, but many of the smart brands we represent have as well. Here are some examples of how our clients are addressing the uncertainties of returning to work.   

Boston-based virtual primary care provider, Firefly Health, recently launched its Return to Work Support Service. Through partnerships with MA-based businesses, Firefly Health is helping employers navigate statewide return-to-work standards, and is supporting employees as they deal with the stressors of returning to in-office life. As shared in a recent Forbes article, Andy Ellner, CEO and co-founder of Firefly Health, agrees that, “now more than ever employers need to step up to help their employees develop and protect boundaries for personal and family time and ensure easy access to care and, ideally, proactive screening for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.” 

Galvanize, a cloud-based security, risk management, compliance and audit software company, also acted swiftly to help customers better understand the pandemic’s impact on their business. Galvanize’s COVID-19 Toolkit was developed to enable risk management experts to navigate risk, business continuity and communications at a time when there is no playbook. In a recent article for Treasury & Risk, Galvanize’s Chief People Officer Keith Cerny explained we should rely on data to determine when and how to return to the office. Galvanize’s solution is key for providing visibility into the data that matters most. 

Here at Highwire, we continue to put our employees’ mental health and safety first with a keen focus on providing coping strategies and support during this uncertain time. Through the implementation of “Mindful Monday” missives that contain thought starters and helpful reminders, virtually guided meditation practice on Tuesdays, reminding our employees to continue to use suggested tools to help reduce stress and anxiety, and encouraging mental health days to avoid burnout, we are better positioned to embrace a return to the office or whatever unexpected challenges the year brings.

While Phase 3 is promising progress and life may just be evolving to a new “normal,” employers still must be diligent about ensuring clear communication pathways with employees and listening to their needs for ongoing support. What are some of the strategies your company is introducing as we all return to work? Share below!

Transitioning to Content Development in the New Media Landscape

The media landscape has gone through drastic changes. Americans have an insatiable appetite for news, but newsrooms are facing a dilemma with reporters changing their beats to cover the growing crisis, to spikes in furloughs and layoffs which leaves reporters strapped for time. 

As PR practitioners, this dramatically impacts not only how we should be interacting with the media but how we add value to our clients. Part of that is acknowledging that reporters are incredibly busy and if you’re not adding true value – keep it moving. Another part is highlighting your client’s voice through owned and earned content. 

Below are three examples on how to effectively shift to content development in the “new normal.” 

Use LinkedIn as an Extension of Your Blog 

LinkedIn is the top network for professionals and professional development. Hootsuite reports that there are 675 million users on the social platform and LinkedIn has 15x more content impressions than job postings which means it’s a gold mine for content marketing. For thought leadership, consistent and quality content shared on the platform allows for them to showcase their credibility and smarts. LinkedIn and LinkedIn articles are an extended arm of your content plans and are an important part of a larger communications strategy that supports business goals. 

It’s important to approach LinkedIn strategically, so consider implementing the following before you post. 

    1. Social Audit – how is your content resonating on LinkedIn? What kind of content is performing the best? How are your competitors or notable brands performing? Where are the gaps between the two? 
    2. Channel Strategy – Does your LinkedIn content connect to and intersect with your website, blog and other social content? How can you use different channels to support a unified message and keep your target audience within your sphere of influence (ie move them between owned content networks)?
    3. Thought Leadership Platform – what can your thought leaders speak to? What does your audience want to hear about from those leaders? How often can you and the team commit to content? 
    4. Benchmark and Track Progresswhat are your goals for your LinkedIn efforts? How do those goals align with social metrics? What does success look like?

Shift to Byline Writing 

As mentioned earlier, many reporters are strapped and have a larger list of demands and pressures than they had before. They might be interested in your point of view but not have time to write. You can do that for them. This is a great time to pursue contributed content across publications to highlight top of mind topics and thought leaders’ perspectives. 

For the Highwire Healthcare team, this is something we’re really leaning into. Examples include: 

Think Critically about Announcements

Highwire dove into the topic of press releases vs. blog posts in a recent blog. There are many considerations here but it offers detailed guidance on what to consider when choosing a medium for company updates. 

As the state of the media landscape continues to shift, it’s important that we change with it. Take the time to consider your clients’ goals and match that with the reality of the media. What challenges are you facing in terms of coverage and content? Share with us below! 

Racism is a Public-Health Issue

The murder of George Floyd and countless Black lives created a ripple effect of anger and action across the U.S., while also illuminating the systemic racism that is ingrained in every facet of society, including healthcare. 

A Commonwealth Fund blog poignantly shared that 15 years ago the Institute of Medicine published an Unequal Treatment report which highlighted that “U.S. racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive preventative medical treatments than Whites and often receive lower-quality care.” Since the publishing of that paper and the Institute of Medicine prompting “equity to a list of aims for the U.S. healthcare system,” little progress has been made. 

As shared in a recent announcement by the American Medical Association, and further validated by COVID-19, Black people have “long-standing inequities, including historical structural inequities such as neighborhood disinvestment, which has led to less healthy and affordable housing, as well as barriers to consistent transportation, health care access, and employment opportunities—contributing to chronic stress and ‘weathering’ that have made Black communities more vulnerable to illness.” This is also paired with racism within healthcare institutions – doctors reportedly spend less time with Black patients, and are more likely to ignore their symptoms and/or dismiss their complaints. 

It’s our goal to educate and highlight how systemic racism negatively impacts the health of Black communities. While the below is just a snapshot of a long list of problems, it does highlight a need for more awareness and action to improve outcomes. 


  • Of the novel coronavirus cases in the U.S. in which a person’s race was identified, 30 percent of those people were Black (CDC
  • In New York, Black New Yorkers are dying at twice the rate of their White peers. In Louisiana, which experienced a rapid spike in cases, Black people make up 32 percent of the state’s population, but almost 60 percent of COVID fatalities (Vox)


  • Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women – and this disparity increases with age (CDC
  • From 2011-2016, there were 42.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for black non-Hispanic women (CDC


  • Black Americans ages 18-49 are 2 times as likely to die from heart disease than White Americans (CDC)
  • Black Americans ages 35-64 years are 50% more likely to have high blood pressure than White Americans (CDC)

Mental Health 

  • Black Americans are 10% more likely to experience serious psychological distress (HHS)
  • In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black Americans, ages 15 to 24. The death rate from suicide for Black men was more than four times greater than for Black women, in 2017 (HHS)

For those in the healthcare space, whether you are a communicator or a care worker, it’s crucial that we all  play a role and check ourselves. Personally, I’m going to make sure that the narratives that I share for my clients are inclusive of Black communities and the issues they face. 

For those that are not in the healthcare space, but are looking to educate oneself on this topic, check out the following resources.

Looking to support the access to care? You can donate to the below organizations. 

But, the most important action is to register to vote and make your voice and the voice of others heard.