Medical Alley Annual Dinner Brings Healthcare Leaders Together for Collaboration and Celebration

In its heyday around the turn of the 20th century, The Depot in downtown Minneapolis used to be filled with trains bringing grain and flour from Minnesota’s ample supply to the rest of the country. On Wednesday, The Depot once again served as a gathering point for Minnesota’s best, ready to go out to a wanting world, but this time it was the healthcare leaders that have made Minnesota the global epicenter of health innovation and care rather than the product of Minneapolis’ mills that came together.  

Over 1000 leaders from the drug, device, digital health, payer, and provider sectors attended the Medical Alley Association’s Annual Dinner on Wednesday, an evening to make new connections and drive healthcare forward. They came to celebrate the accomplishments of a fast-growing startup community and strong years for the region’s established leaders as well as to hear from a relative newcomer in healthcare, Best Buy, how the convergence of retail and healthcare were providing new insights into the future of both spaces.

The program kicked off with a bang as Medical Alley Association board chair Sheri Dodd introduced two key themes that would be echoed by everyone who spoke: The future of healthcare is collaborative and it exists beyond the clinic walls.

To that end, Dodd introduced an exciting new project that will begin in earnest this summer: The Healthcare Transformation Initiative at Medical Alley. Led by the MAA board of directors with extensive input from the community, the HTI will serve as a place where there are no questions too difficult to address, no practices too entrenched to be uprooted, and no challenge to a brighter future for healthcare consumers too great to overcome through the collaborative efforts of the Medical Alley’s best and most innovative leaders.

Before the keynote fireside chat with Asheeh Saksena, president of Best Buy Health, and Cindy Kent, member of Best Buy’s board of directors, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove and CEO of presenting sponsor Brädo Andy Parham both spoke, praising the crowd for their work in making Minnesota a place where innovation is prized and problems are solved. Parham asked the crowd another of the night’s critical questions and provided his own answer: “What will you spend the next 30 years of your life doing? We’re about to see the greatest change in human history in healthcare and I want to be part of that.”

When outgoing CEO Hubert Joly took over Best Buy in 2012, the company seemed destined to be the next Circuit City, hhgregg, or Tower Records, another electronics retailer devoured by Amazon. Having completed, in the words of Kent, “one of the most hailed turnarounds in all of corporate history,” the company is now looking at how to bring their expertise bringing technology into people’s homes to bear in healthcare.

With 10,000 people per day turning 65 and an increasing body of research suggesting that aging in place is critical to not just longevity but vitality as well, the company turned their eye toward helping seniors stay in their homes longer. “We were obsessed with bringing in tech to make a real difference, which leverages Best Buy’s great history curating technology for customers,” said Saksena. “So how can we bring a combination of high tech and high touch to help solve these needs?”

Kent estimated that Best Buy performed about 175,000 in-home consultations in 2018, giving the company a unique insight into how people interact with their living space and what needs seniors have that other populations don’t. “It’s time to start solving the problems, not just identifying them,” Kent urged the audience. “But the fractures in [healthcare] make that very difficult.” So, despite Best Buy’s enviable position of being a trusted brand with overwhelming expertise, the company isn’t looking to take a corner of the market and keep every other company at arm’s length. “It’s going to take collaboration, more partnerships in the ecosystem, to achieve the goal of better outcomes at a lower cost,” she added.

By working with innovative partners and focusing on how seniors function when they are healthy, not just when they are in need of care, Kent and Saksena believe that the line between healthcare and normal life can be blurred, making the home a hub of care, and keeping seniors in place as they age. Or as Saksena put it, “We’re trying to really understand what it takes for a senior to be home. That’s our next step: Be more holistic and understand what it really takes to make a senior live longer.”

When asked what she foresaw in healthcare, Kent answered, “There is going to be an increased demand by individuals to remain vital longer.” And there is little doubt that, armed with innovative partners, Best Buy Health will be at the forefront of meeting that demand.

With the program winding down, Parham retook the stage to sum up the night and remind the crowd that this was, among other things, a celebration.

We are grateful to everyone who came for their energy, to our sponsors for their support, and to our speakers for their insights. Together, we will ensure that Minnesota remains the place where healthcare’s biggest problems are solved, and that Medical Alley is known worldwide as the global epicenter of health innovation and care.

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