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How Public / Private Accelerators are Fostering eHealth Innovation

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   January 26, 2016

It is no surprise that a growing number of healthcare institutions are seeking partnerships to fund and nourish innovative startups. Massachusetts and New York are at the forefront of fostering such relationships.

This article appeared in the April 2016 issue of HealthLeaders magazine and was based on Scott Mace's online column from January 26.

Joel Vengco

Earlier this month, I attended CES 2016 (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, walking aisle upon aisle of digital health technology offerings. I do this every couple of years to take the pulse of a consumer phenomenon that continues to attract millions in venture capital funding: mobile health and wellness trackers, sensors, monitors, appliances, and personal medical devices.

I'm mindful that every time I attend, there will be plenty of new startups, but scant clinical evidence to support the worthiness of their efforts, and often not a trace of the promising startups that made the trek to Vegas just two years prior.

In short, CES is the noise, and healthcare leaders continues to look for the digital health signal.

It is no surprise that a growing number of healthcare institutions are seeking to join forces to apply filters to the noise to tease out the truly innovative startups and nourish them.

When the provider is a large academic medical center, the resources to do this are not difficult to find. But smaller systems are not similarly blessed. While CES was going on (Jan. 6–9), Massachusetts became the latest state to launch an initiative, the Massachusetts eHealth Cluster, to help the smaller healthcare systems and hospitals join forces to get some of that large system innovation mojo.

One CIO who applauds the move is Joel Vengco, vice president and CIO of Baystate Health, nearly a two-hour drive west of Boston. Baystate already operates its own innovation hub, known as TechSpring.

"TechSpring was initially capitalized by the $1B life sciences initiative founded by former Governor Deval Patrick (D)," Vengco told me in an email exchange. "From there, TechSpring set out to connect with private corporations like Dell, IBM, and Cerner. With the support of Baystate Health's administration and clinical staff, we were able to take that public funding and successfully grow it into a broader set of partnerships as well as a technology innovation center within which private, public, and start-up organizations can collaborate.

"The state did ask for our involvement, as they liked our model of connecting with private organizations. But innovation takes seed money and operating dollars to succeed."


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Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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