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Interview: How health tech is being healed through collaboration (Includes interview)

Chicago-based healthcare incubator MATTER is bringing innovators together to end frustrating data silos. As an example, two of its members recently solved a blind spot in the system – all the health management that happens between doctor visits.

After seeing a demo of each other’s products at MATTER, the CEOs of SafeStart Medical and TapCloud saw an opportunity. SafeStart reduces surgical errors and TapCloud helps patients recover from surgery. They created an integrated platform that combines patient tracking, education, advanced clinical alerts, symptom monitoring and safety all in one, connecting clinicians to patients throughout the entire surgical journey.

This new product – InTouch Surgical – was named the surgical patient management solution for Ontario’s more than 220 hospitals because of its ability to deliver continuity of care, reduce costly readmissions and enhance post-surgery recovery.

To discover more about the aims of MATTER, Digital Journal spoke with the CEO, Steven Collens to learn more about MATTER’s #healthtogether approach and collaborative innovations with healthcare technology.

Digital Journal: What are the main challenges facing healthcare today?

Steven Collens: This is the most interesting time ever for technology and innovation in healthcare. We have the opportunity to harness new technologies in different ways to improve both the quality of healthcare and also the cost. One of the challenges in healthcare is that often the right people aren’t talking to each other.

There are people across the healthcare ecosystem — doctors, entrepreneurs, innovators within large organizations, scientists and so on — who are each working on an important piece of the puzzle. Yet, even though we know complex healthcare challenges can’t be solved in silos, opportunities for authentic collaboration are far and few between.

DJ: How about healthcare technology, what is holding back better technology?

Collens: Novel scientific discoveries coupled with advancements in information technology have led to an unprecedented volume and diversity of clinical and social data. The challenge now is how best to integrate this disparate data and synthesize it into something actionable that can be used to create novel technologies and improve patient care.

From our perspective, the actual implementation of data science technologies is not the limiting factor; rather, the challenge lies in developing a shared understanding of the data types, sets and combinations that will be most relevant to the problem at hand. Establishing an industry-wide commitment to sharing and integrating data remains a hurdle as well.

DJ: To what extent are startups disrupting the healthcare technology space?

Collens: Unlike in other industries, “disrupt” may be the wrong word to use in healthcare. While healthcare has a pressing need for significant change, some of the processes in healthcare exist for good reason (like protecting patient privacy or requiring clinical trials to prove safety).

During one of our recent Tales From the Trenches events, an entrepreneur shared the concept of “pacing”: To build a successful healthcare business, you need to meet providers where they’re at and walk alongside them. Only then will you be in a position to lead them into a better future for healthcare.

DJ: What measures can be put in place to help startups to flourish?

Collens: In healthcare, a great product is a necessary but insufficient ingredient for building a successful business: you also need to develop a business model and strategy that accounts for the industry’s convoluted payment models, painfully long sales cycles and expensive product development and regulatory pathways.

For a healthcare startup, getting feedback from potential customers early and often can make or break a company’s success. The ability to not only access, but also build relationships with future customers and subject matter experts is one of MATTER’s most important offerings for startups.

DJ: How is MATTER assisting with this?

Collens: We equip our entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful, including a curriculum purpose-built for healthcare innovators and mentoring programs designed to help startups solve the right healthcare problems in the right ways.

We also help innovators from large, established organizations think and problem-solve like entrepreneurs, so they’re better able to collaborate with startups and rapidly adopt new ideas and technologies.

DJ: How important is a hub space for startups? What types of things can be learned?

Collens: There’s the myth of the entrepreneur operating alone in a garage by himself creating a revolutionary new company. It doesn’t really happen that way — at least not in healthcare. Innovation happens when people with shared passions can get together, bounce ideas of each other and learn from one another. What we created with MATTER was an ability to bring all of these resources together to support entrepreneurs.

DJ: What will the healthcare landscape look like in three to five years’ time?

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Collens: The healthcare system is moving from one where people interact with care episodically and reactively — when something is wrong, you might go see the doctor — towards a future state where healthcare is proactive, predictive and personalized. One day we will have a healthcare system that comes to you before you even know you have a problem.

The technology and analytics capabilities needed to make this happen are advancing very rapidly. The biggest rate limiter will be how quickly our payment models evolve: The longer we’re operating in a fee-for-service system, the slower the adoption of new technologies that can make proactive, predictive and personalized care a reality.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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