Health Technology Forum Makes Vancouver Debut at UBC

As Vancouver bids adieu to the Grow Conference, it’s worthwhile to acknowledge the alternate nodes of the network that connects Silicon Valley to the Fraser. On Thursday, August 8th, UBC hosted the debut Vancouver meetup of the Health Technology Forum. The organization, which held its very first event in San Francisco in February of 2010, has chapters in Dallas, San Diego, NYC, London, Atlanta, and Toronto.

The event was small by HTF standards; where its San Francisco events usually attract around one hundred attendees, the Henry Angus building was host to only sixty-four. But that’s nearly double what their world premiere brought three and a half years ago. And that has to be attributed to, at least partially, the top talent that the event attracted. Notable local heavyweights Ayogo and Tyze were represented by Mavis Dixon and Manuel Zahariev, respectively, after Shervin Majd, the Senior mHealth partner at Vodafone Ventures and Innovation Centre broke the ice with an introductory phone call.

That came as something of a surprise, considering the very humanistic subject matter. Mavis Dixon’s talk was twenty minutes of ruminating on their way of gamifying medical care, ‘The Ayogo Model’, which is deeply rooting in understanding the psychology of illness. Much discussion was centered on Diabesties, their platform for those suffering from diabetes, as it served as a good microcosm of their general principles.

“Someone signs up, or subscribes to the application, they end up coming to the game every day, and that becomes a meta-habit. Out of the metahabit, their little interactions every day get into internalizing behaviours for their disease. You tie in the tiny habits to the meta-habit.”

The meta-habit for the majority of the attendees will be continued attendance of these events. The audience was equally rapt during both Dixon’s and Zahariev’s talks. Zahariev too emphasized the need for delicacy and respect for the way people behave. But this is to be expected; both companies are working to do good for those who are dealing with the more unpleasant aspects of human life.  Despite this humanistic focus, the Q&A period was dominated by technical questions; some focused on AI, some on customization, others on security concerns regarding data storage.

The dichotomy aside, the event was considered by organizers and attendees as a rousing success. Eric Y. Zhao and Kingsley Shih, two individuals in part responsible for the night’s event, were particularly pleased.

“I think that as some of our speakers said, it’s still early days for complete integration, the ability to delve deep into the medical resources that are present here, but I think that it’s a good first foray for everyone here. And these companies are doing the best that they can right now to delve in. We were all discussing who to get to present at this forum, and we were glad to get Ayogo and Tyze who have this commonality of networks and games. Everyone on the board was pleased to have them.”

Both men are looking to the future, which seems bright for Vancouver’s chapter of the Health Technology Forum.

“Our goal is to be running four events per year, to build a larger network of volunteers. We’re thinking that the October event will have a more official kick-off, a slightly larger event, we’ll invite one more speaker, and have a true panel session at the end where we can mingle with experts in the field. The core organizers (of HTF) will come back to UBC at that time, and it’ll be interesting to have them here, because they’ll have a health tech and industry perspective.”

If that diagnosis sounds good, check in with HTF on Meetup.