SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Dr. David Shulkin, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is joining Sanford Health as CIO. In this position, Shulkin will serve as Sanford Health’s top administrator in the innovation space, leading initiatives to advance work in research, Imagenetics, the Sanford Chip, and the Profile and World Clinic; and as a strategic advisor on its national growth strategy and overall public policy efforts. “After completing my work in the public sector, Sanford Health was an obvious choice to continue my health care career,” said Shulkin in a statement. “Sanford’s unique brand of innovation and clinical integration is bringing precision medicine to the bedside, which is rapidly improving patient care in unprecedented ways. I look forward to joining the Sanford team and bringing my background and skills to help drive these advancements in medical practice.” Shulkin will also be a director on the Sanford International Board, serve as an ambassador for Sanford Health on many of the system’s domestic and international projects, and work with others in academia and the health care industry, providing strategic direction and advice on national health care issues. “Secretary Shulkin is one of the most talented health care leaders in the country, and he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Sanford Health,” said Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford Health, in a statement. “His unique perspective, clinical expertise and powerful voice will further Sanford Health’s continued development and diversification, which is so critical to our ability to bring new treatments and cures to the patients we serve.”
BLOOMFIELD, Conn. – Cigna is committing $250 million to the newly launched Cigna Ventures, a corporate venture fund focused on transformative and innovative health care companies.
“Cigna’s commitment to improving the health, well-being and sense of security of the people we serve is at the front and center of everything we do,” said Tom Richards, senior vice president and global lead, strategy and business development at Cigna, in a statement. “The venture fund will enable us to drive innovation beyond our existing core business operations, and incubate new ideas, opportunities and relationships that have the potential for long-term business growth and to help our customers.”
Cigna Ventures will focus on investing in startups and growth-stage companies in three strategic areas: insights and analytics; digital health and retail; and care delivery/management.
Richards said Cigna Ventures was created to help Cigna identify, assess and sponsor early-stage innovation ideas that warrant deeper exploration through focused pilot and test-and-learn activities with the goal of realizing meaningful business value.
The fund builds on Cigna’s existing venture activity, including collaboration with five venture capital partners and an equal number of existing direct investments, including Omada Health, Prognos, Contessa Health, MDLIVE and Cricket Health.
“Our partnership with Cigna has been about so much more than capital,” said Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of Omada, in a statement. “The ability to collaborate with, learn from, and integrate deeply with a health services company so dedicated to delivering a 21st-century care experience to its customers and clients has enabled us to accelerate innovation, advance our capabilities, and grow our customer base.”
BOISE, Idaho – St. Luke’s Health System has launched a virtual care center that will serve as a suite of telehealth programs consolidated into one building.
“Merging technology and care delivery is the way we have to operate in order to be successful in population health,” said Krista Stadler, senior director of telehealth services for St. Luke’s Health System, in a statement. “Hiring an army of 20,000 people to deliver quality care services is not realistic. With the growing Idaho population and consumer demand for convenient care, we had to explore how we can use technology to achieve our goals and meet the needs of our patients.”
When St. Luke’s began offering telehealth services several years ago, the focus was an electronic intensive care unit that decreased the number of days people spent in the intensive care unit and improved overall patient outcomes. Today,the new virtual care center represents St. Luke’s ongoing commitment to giving patients access to quality care without barriers, including geographic and physical barriers.
“In addition to removing barriers, virtual care also helps St. Luke’s more effectively reach specific patient populations, such as people with chronic illnesses,” said Stadler.
A high-tech hub features a centralized medical team that includes physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and IT professionals. When fully operational, 350 team members will work to ensure the center provides continuous care, and telehealth services are available for patients at clinics, hospitals and homes throughout Idaho and Eastern Oregon.
There will be more than 60 virtual care stations with the ability to operate continually using two-way audio and video.
The services that will be supported include: at-home telehealth, inpatient telehealth and clinic telehealth consultation.
“This space will allow us to grow our services and capacity throughout the organization to ensure patients have access to the right care at the right time, regardless of geographic location,” Stadler said. “The virtual care center will serve as the epicenter of discovery and innovation as we act on this belief.”
CHICAGO – The American Hospital Association has launched a Center for Health Innovation that will focus on providing market intelligence, partnerships inside and outside of health care, leadership development opportunities and more. “This is a pivotal moment for the field, as hospitals and health care systems face unprecedented challenges and opportunities,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, in a statement. “Hospitals and health systems across the country have been incubators of innovation. The center will help us disseminate what is working, as well as test new ideas to improve outcomes and increase value and affordability.” Initial offerings from the Center for Innovation will include: regular updates and intelligence on the forces shaping health care and how they will impact hospitals and health systems; The AHA Innovation Challenge, which will bring together creative thinkers, catalyze ideas and explore new ways to spread innovation at-scale; access to expert cybersecurity resources; and Innovation 90 Boot Camp, acoaching program that helps health care leaders learn the latest innovation frameworks being used in industries from technology to manufacturing.
LOUISVILLE, Ky., & BOSTON – Humana will create a digital health and analytics innovation hub to expand its technology, digital health and analytics capabilities.
The insurer is establishing the Humana Studio H, a center for digital health and analytics that will focus on pioneering new products and services that will then be developed for use across the organization. Led by Heather Cox as the chief digital health and analytics officer, Studio H is expected to employ as many as 250 individuals at a Boston location within the next five years.
“What we’re developing in Boston is a critical capability that can help Humana leap forward and overcome friction points to create a simplified, connected and personalized health care experience for our members and the physicians and others who provide their care,” said Bruce Broussard, Humana president and CEO, in a statement. “Digital technology and analytics are building blocks for devising products, tools and services that deliver on the promise of whole-person health care, and Heather Cox has the experience, vision and drive to innovate and boldly lead Humana’s efforts in these important areas.”
Cox brings 25 years of experience to the role, most recently serving as chief technology and digital officer at USAA.
In addition to the digital health and analytics group, a team of individuals focused on creating a new health experience for seniors will also reside in Studio H under the direction of Beth Bierbower, who has been with the company in a number of senior-level leadership positions.
“I look forward to collaborating with Heather as we work to bring next-generation products to life at Humana,” said Bierbower, president of this new Humana initiative, in a statement. “I’m confident that Humana members will appreciate what we come together to develop.”
Humana Studio H will be housed in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood, where Humana has leased 40,000 square feet of office space on two floors. The company expects to complete the project in the summer of 2019.
BOSTON – MyWoundDoctor recently won second place and $3,000 in the 2018 Northeastern University Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition. The company also won AARP’s audience choice award at the event, which featured companies providing disruptive solutions in home health. “Health care costs and access to care are challenges to many patients throughout the U.S. and we’re delighted we can help people heal from chronic wounds through our telehealth wound care management services,” said Loretta Sullivan, manager of clinical services for MyWoundDoctor, which provides a platform to allow for mobile imaging of wounds and wound care advice, in a statement. The audience choice award from AARP allows MyWoundDoctor to advance to a national competition later this year at The Hatchery, an AARP innovation lab that works with start-ups and investors to discover big ideas and bring them to scale to change how people live as they age.
OAKLAND, Calif. – A venture development program from Kaiser Permanente and Village Capital aims to redefine the aging experience by leveraging the work of digital health startups.
The Health: US 2018 program recently named Chicago-based Advocatia and Madison, Wis.-based TCARE as finalists. Each company was awarded $75,000 in investment capital from Village Capital, a Washington, D.C.-based VC firm, as well as exposure to a network of mentors and a relationship with experts at Village Capital.
“We like the idea of trying to find innovators willing to take on a big health issue like aging from a different angle,” said John Vu, vice president of strategy for community health at Kaiser Permanente, an Oakland, Calif.-based integrated managed care consortium which provided support to the Health: US 2018 program.
Advocatia provides tools like a screening platform and text messaging to hospitals to help their uninsured and underinsured patients. TCARE offers an evidence-based, Medicaid-reimbursed care management platform that supports unpaid family caregivers to help them avoid caregiver burnout.
“We were excited to be part of the Health: US 2018 program,” said Laura Robbins, cofounder of Advocatia. “It gives us the ability to align our mission and values, and to continue with our work.”
A total of 10 startups were chosen for the program, each participating in four-day investment workshops to help them develop the lens of an investor, said Vu. The finalists were chosen last month.
“We are honored to have the stamp of approval of Kaiser Permanente behind us,” said Ali Ahmadi, CEO and co-founder of TCARE.
Ahmadi said the capital allows TCARE to continue proving and expanding its platform, as well as double the size of its team within the next six months.
The number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to double over the next 45 years, with 35 million baby boomers nearing or in retirement, said Vu.
“We need to be thinking in innovative ways and explore whether we are prepared as a society to meet the needs of an aging population,” he said. “This program allows us to look at health more broadly than just medical care and lay out a challenge to the world.”
ATLANTA – The Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech has received an investment by IT provider NASCO.
The ATDC is aimed at creating a new initiative for entrepreneurs in health care-focused technology. The ATDC Health Technology Program is scheduled to formally launch this month.
“Health care is a highly interconnected ecosystem and new technologies are helping us to both reduce customer friction and improve health outcomes,” said David Weeks, chief technology officer at NASCO, in a statement. “The HealthTech vertical will be a key incubator of new ideas to enable these changes.”
NASCO’s investment will provide the initial funding to support the current and future HealthTech startups in ATDC’s portfolio. The initiative is the third of its kind at ATDC and follows other gifts used to launch programs in the financial and retail technology sectors.
“NASCO views this partnership with the ATDC and the launch of the HealthTech initiative as critical to our mission to deliver innovative health services and to support the Georgia health care and technology communities,” said Weeks.
In addition to one-on-one coaching and resources for commercial success, the funds also will support health care-focused commercialization workshops, hackathons and hosting industry thought leaders in health care innovations in regulation, production and manufacturing.
The more than 40 startups in ATDC’s current HealthTech portfolio are building companies with innovative approaches to population health, caregiver support, billing fraud, precision medicine, genomics, medical devices, diagnostics, data analytics and process improvements in drug research.
“Health care systems across the U.S., as well as the patients in their care, continue to explore ways to leverage innovation and technology to reduce costs, improve patient satisfaction, eliminate waste, increase access and improve outcomes,” said Kirk Barnes, ATDC’s HealthTech catalyst, in a statement.
BOSTON – Sage Bionetworks has introduced a program to help researchers get their digital health technologies off the ground and advance innovation.
The Digital Health Catalyst Program, announced last week at the Biomarkers & Immuno-Oncology World Congress, will provide pro bono consulting and in-kind infrastructure to support innovative ideas for biomedical research.
“We’re looking for innovations that leverage digital health technologies to answer a pressing question,” said Dan Webster, principal scientist of digital health at Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit organization that promotes open science and patient engagement in the research process.
Winners of the program will receive support from Sage throughout the research lifecycle, as well as have their research highlighted through Sage’s Qualified Research Program. The program has already introduced studies like: mPower, a mobile study of Parkinson’s disease; Mole Mapper, an iPhone based melanoma study; and the Asthma Mobile Health Study.
“Smartphones and other wearable sensors have put touchscreens and sensors into the pockets of billions of people,” said Webster. “These technologies provide an opportunity to paint a rich understanding of health and disease in the natural world outside of the clinic; they also provide communication tools that allow participants a more active voice in research programs.”
But the promise of these emerging technologies has been accompanied by challenges requiring infrastructure and other needs not typically found in traditional biomedical research organizations. Supporting the development of digital health technologies throughout the research lifecycle is critical because the analysis and sharing of the resulting study data is key to advancing health care, Webster said.
“We want to know if an open and crowd-sourced analysis with the wider research community can get us to a better health care solution,” he said.
WASHINGTON –AARP has selected three digital health startups from the recent Pulse@MassChallenge innovation competition to study solutions that improve health communication and collaboration through voice technology.
Orbita, Pillo and Folia were chosen to collaborate with AARP to advance their technologies.
“These three companies stood out as having innovative solutions to address health and caregiving challenges,” said Andy Miller, senior vice president of innovation and product development for AARP. “We felt we could have an impact on how they build their businesses, based on the insights we can provide on behalf of our 38 million members, and what we know about the preferences and behaviors of this diverse demographic.”
The work will include incorporating Orbita’s voice technology and Folia’s web and mobile health tools into Pillo’s in-home companion robot to guide newly diagnosed patients with Type 2 diabetes on medication and care plan adherence. The device will be introduced into select homes in the Boston area this month.
Miller said he expects voice technology to be an important part of future digital health tools.
“Voice is intuitive, easy to use and available to people of all ages,” he said. “With the variety of affordable voice-enabled devices available, it makes sense that more and more people, including those age 50-plus, will use voice for a variety of reasons, including managing their health care.”
Miller said that combining voice technology with artificial intelligence for remote monitoring of patients allows clinicians to diagnose and accurately respond to the health needs of seniors without a trip to the office or hospital.
“From the reminders that Pillo Health sends to people to take their pills, to Orbita’s chatbots and voice assistance to interact with remote patients, to voice tech that allows people to find the shortest wait times at nearby hospitals and emergency rooms—solutions are prevalent to help improve people’s health and wellness,” he said.
In addition to medication and care plan adherence for diabetes patients, the companies are working with AARP on using voice technology to reduce social isolation and streamline care coordination for seniors.