Can we hack large academic medical center silos (#hackmed)?

Hacking Academic Medical Center Silos Original Size

Jennifer Joe, MD, and Timothy Peck, MD, are set to present at South by Southwest V2V this week, speaking on “Hacking Academic Medical Center Silos,” also with Usha Periyanayagam, MD, MPH, and Eric Elenko, PhD.  MedTech Boston sat down with them to learn their thoughts.

Q: Do you think truly disruptive healthcare solutions can be found at large academic medical centers? If so, how do your encourage it?

TP: There are challenges to creating disruptive healthcare solutions at large academic medical institutions (by definition they are the institution that will be disrupted, which goes against their interests.) The status quo at these institutions dictates that academic advancement should be contained within the institution—this is how institutions gain power and influence. Disruptive healthcare solutions, which seek to facilitate access to information, undermine this institutional prestige/ranking system. Many people within these institutions are scared to lose the proprietary nature of the academic silo.

Nevertheless, there are institutions that understand that a shift in the way we evaluate the power of institutions is inevitable. Those institutions recognize that, as the tools for information sharing gain traction, institutions will no longer be valued for the information that they contain—rather, they will be valued for how good they are at sharing information. Within those institutions, disruptive healthcare solutions are already being explored.

JJ: Large academic medical centers are perfectly poised to solve healthcare’s most difficult problems. They have a large concentration of incredibly talented clinicians and researchers, deep resources, and a large variety of patients. It excites me to see academic medical centers encouraging innovations. I’m excited to see that Partners has brought in Chris Coburn because of his success in spinning off companies (57) as the founding Executive Director of Cleveland Clinic Innovation. I love that Brigham is making moves to start their own incubator with the Brigham Innovation Hub. And I’m inspired that we’re really encouraging disruption with Brigham and Boston Children’s both regularly hosting their own hackathons.

Q: Is it important for academic medical centers to communicate with each other? With the community? With the private sector? With the government? Why? And how do we make this happen?

TP: This is not only important, it is the future of academic power. With more knowledge digitally than ever before, and with more knowledge in silos, patient outcomes can only be improved by communication. This (improved patient outcomes) is the end goal of medicine. The next generation of leaders will be those who create knowledge and make it accessible to the entire world, so that they can improve patient outcomes in the entire world–not just at their own institutions.

JJ: I agree with Timothy. Collaboration, especially across industries, is more important than ever because it’s so powerful. For a long time, the scientific community has known there are knowledge and funding gaps for early steps needed in more well-established innovation areas like traditional diagnostics, medical devices, and therapeutics. That’s why the NIH’s has created three Centers for Accelerated Innovations across the US. Boston’s is the Boston Biomedical Innovation Center just established last year that brings together academic, government, non-profit, and private sector organizations. The very traditional NIH is getting into innovation and advising different sectors to play nicely in the sandbox together!

Q: How do we make sure the patient is also empowered to create meaningful change in the healthcare system?

TP: The current system by which health information is made accessible to patients is not really empowering. Although it provides information for patients, it does so in an unfiltered way, and the answers that patients find serve more to frighten than empower. For example, I often have patients come to me after going online and then come to me thinking they have cancer.

Patients believe that doctors have their own Google, and they wish that they had access to that information. Truthfully, we don’t have it yet. We have encyclopedia and references, but we don’t have smart search engines that give us the best answers to the most relevant questions. Once we develop that for ourselves, we may be able to empower patients by creating the expectation that we, as doctors, will be honest and transparent. It’s important for us not to be scared to let patients know that we are using resources, that we are looking for help in form of online information. If we are open, we can be more successful in pursuing information sharing. If you, as a doctor, are a pioneer, and you are more open with patients about your communication, patients will begin this openness from their doctors. This empowers and makes them feel like information is not being kept from them.

JJ: I agree with Timothy about being honest and open with patients and communicating with them. Hackathons are especially disruptive, which makes them so powerful. For the first time ever, anyone–patient, physician, nurse, janitor, etc–can go to the microphone and pitch anything about the healthcare system that is painful to them. It’s not that true solutions are born from a 48 hour weekend, but that we’ve empowered all stakeholders to have an open dialogue and feel that they were heard. That allows them to feel empowered to create change in smaller ways in the healthcare system in their day job…and sometimes a brilliant start-up is born, but if not, we’ve empowered a whole legion to take small steps to push American healthcare in the right direction.

James Ryan

    Jim Ryan has spent the past 20 years building global markets for US-based telecommunications and enterprise technology companies. Mr. Ryan exited five startups (2 IPOs, 2 acquisitions, 1 Chapter 11) and now uses his expertise as one of the three founding partners of Farpoint Ventures helping startups from the US quickly build global sales channels and bring in revenues from overseas markets. Mr. Ryan has closed over $1B in export business for startups.Mr. Ryan holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a Master's degree from Osaka University. He is a native speaker of Japanese, and is conversational in Mandarin Chinese and French.In between meetings, he has climbed Mt. Rainier three times, finished the Boston Marathon and Cape Cod Marathon, climbed Mt. Washington in all four seasons and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon 10 times. He holds a Private Pilot license and enjoys flying his Cessna 172 around New England and beyond.

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