At this time, South by Southwest (SXSW) will go on despite global coronavirus concerns. But there is potentially more uplifting news to be found there.
The Health & MedTech track at SXSW will cover how technology can improve people’s health and well-being and the “communities where we live, work, and play.” Sessions include “Sustainable Healthcare,” “Postpartum Probabilities: Maternal Health Conundrum,” “Data-driven Strategies for Advancing Health Equity,” “Unmasking ZIP Codes: Life Expectancy Reveals Truth,” “Suicide Prevention Meet Up,” “A Pain Relief Revolution Using Virtual Reality” and “Age Isn’t Only a Numer: Ageism in the Media,” just to list some. The festival starts Friday.
Speak Up: Women’s Healthcare, Femtech & Wellness
March 13, 12:30 p.m. at JW Marriott, Salon D
This panel is about “women’s health finally emerging as a central issue,” and many of the themes are issues Reform Austin has covered such as improving maternal mortality and medical care for women. But this panel dives into the “femtech, and the legislative onslaught against reproductive health.”
On the panel are physician-advocates and experts Doctors Jen Gunter, Esther Choo and Rashmi Kudesia, who will address the failings of healthcare, the government, femtech and wellness, along with promising ways to speak up for women’s health. You can count on the mention of the movements #TimesUp and #MeToo.
You may also like the session, “Protecting Pregnancy with Smartphones”.
Alienation: Mental Health Behind Bars
March 14, 5:00 p.m. at the LINE, Topaz Ballroom 1-2-3
This panel is about the prison system and mental health. Like the rest of the country, Texas is amid a mental-health crisis that includes far more mentally ill Texans behind bars than in hospitals or clinics. In discussion is the origin and impact of recent health care improvements for the incarcerated population with mental health experts, including Houston’s Judge Lina Hidalgo, the first woman to be elected County Judge in Harris County and only the second to be elected to the Commissioners Court. Hidalgo has seized opportunities to serve the immigrant and incarcerated communities.
This week Judge Hidalgo told Reform Austin, “Our criminal justice system is broken. Texas jails and prisons are too full, our recidivism rates too high, and the amount of taxpayer dollars used to sustain a cycle of crime and incarceration too costly.”
Judge Hidalgo added, “It is time to stop mindlessly moving people through a system that leaves many more broken than when they came in, and focus instead on smarter solutions like mental health treatment and diversion. I’m looking forward to joining other experts to discuss this important challenge.”
A National Movement to Address the Opioid Crisis
March 15, 11:00 a.m. at JW Marriott, Salon D
The description of this session starts with “Every day, 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose — the fallout from an epidemic that is gaining speed rather than abating.” The discussion will be about how to reverse this crisis and what that involves to better prevent, treat and manage addiction. There were 1,458 overdose deaths involving opioids in Texas in 2017, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission awarded the University of Texas at Austin Center for Health Communication $642,000 to develop and test effective messaging with health care providers and prescribers across the state to promote the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program to help fight the opioid epidemic.
How Tech is Transforming Healthcare, in Your Home
March 16, 11:00 a.m. at JW Marriott, Salon AB
This session is about how health care is undergoing a tech-driven revolution with smart homes becoming hubs for managing personal health and wellness. In our digital world, our connected health devices can flag health issues before we even notice a problem. With assistive technologies, if you can enable Alexa, you can have access to health care services right in your home. Sounds inspiring, although this session will tackle the challenges that come with consumer health emerging technologies for the home. On the panel is the founder and CEO of Eyeflite, Andrew Smerek. He was studying engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and there he discovered his true passion of making a difference in the disability community and the shocking costs associated with the extremely limited technology. Eyeflite creates software for a hands-free virtual world so people with disabilities can type, text, email, control smart devices, and play games using only head movement or voice control.
Helping Vets Through Technology, Music and Health
March 17, 11:00 a.m. at JW Marriott, Salon C
This panel will discuss how the U.S. military and federal agencies such as the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense Education Activity have utilized music therapy and historically proven its benefits to veterans. The discussion will include solutions to wellness care by using music-based technologies in its treatment to provide access to thousands of veterans across the underserved entire VA system. Learn more here.
Last year, the Alive Inside Coalition sent headphones to William R. Courtney Texas State Veterans Home in Temple, Texas, where many veterans battle dementia, Alzheimer’s and PTSD. Here you can learn more about Songwriting With Soldiers in Austin.
“Face Time” & The Future of Female Healthcare
March 17, 11:00 a.m. at JW Marriott, Salon AB
This session is about when telemedicine works and doesn’t work. Industry professionals will weigh in on how health companies can blend virtual and in-person care. This session narrows in on the role telehealth will play in the female patient-physician relationship, whether its fertility, menstrual cycles, prenatal care, giving birth or getting a mammogram.
These insightful, progressive and thoughtful panels at SXSW 2020 can remind us that although there are many health care complexities in Texas, it’s something to focus on and improve in the next legislative session. For now, we are surely a growing technology hub.