8 Percent Optimistic After JPMorgan's Health Care Conference

01/21/2015 12:38 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2015

Just as most Americans use the new year as an opportunity to make resolutions, the health care industry uses the (in)famous JPMorgan Annual Healthcare Conference to announce its new resolve to confront the crisis in American health. And just as 92 percent of individuals turn out to be fickle in their resolve to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, drink less and stop smoking, our corporate selves have trouble sticking to that resolve to finally do something about healthcare.

So if only 8 percent of Americans succeed in their New Year's resolutions, is there any reason to hope for better success in health care? Surprisingly, I think that the answer is yes (with caveats of course). My optimism is a result of old news -- the Affordable Care Act -- and the new industry narrative. Whatever your feelings about the ACA, it's indisputable that it has driven the industry to experiment in significant ways. And while many of the resulting initiative will crash and burn spectacularly, there have already been real victories, e.g., providing health care to tens of millions more Americans. That's a victory for individuals and society as a whole.

Beyond the ACA, I came away positively excited about three themes that were consistently communicated by venture capitalists, equity analysts and healthcare executives at the healthcare conference. None of them new or wholly original, but their primacy represents a substantial change from years past.

1. Engagement -- Yes, we're still embracing the fantasy that people's love of gadgets will convince them to love the "killer app" that will replace a massive number of healthcare workers. But now, industry experts are concluding that individual responsibility is not a replacement for actively helping members of high-risk and high-cost populations to meaningfully engage with effective health solutions. Even more exciting, there's talk of combining and measuring real world health outcomes and cost savings rather than simply relying on social media metrics.

2. Telemedicine -- You can thank CMS for this: It published new guidelines that allow many more health providers to get paid for telehealth. That translates into greater reach, more access and better care for more people.

3. Behavior Change -- I am admittedly biased. AbilTo, the company that I have the honor to lead, has been in the behavior change space since 2008. So I am personally and professionally thrilled to see the growing realization that helping people free themselves of the impediments to better self-care is the best way to spend less while securing better health outcomes.

Taken overall, I have no reason to believe that the health care industry's 2015 resolutions will work out any better than our individual New Year's resolutions. But if just 8 percent of the hundreds of innovators out there get it right this year, then there is real reason to be optimistic about the prognosis for American health care.