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Governor Baker Praises Healthcare Innovators at 2016 Digital Innovation Summit

Governor Charlie Baker’s excited about Massachusetts’ leadership role in healthcare innovation—and he wants everyone to know it. Speaking last Wednesday at the annual Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit, Baker told the gathering of senior investors, business leaders, and clinicians that Boston and Massachusetts are widely viewed as the “epicenter of the next generation of healthcare innovation.”

digital-innovation-summit-1Drawing on his experience as Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s Chief Executive Officer and, prior to that, the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Baker emphasized the importance of healthcare to the local economy. Partners HealthCare and its hospitals alone employ over 65,000 people in mainly highly-skilled, well-paying jobs, he pointed out.

Baker went on to stress his personal interest in ensuring that up-and-coming health innovators continue to see Massachusetts as a desirable place to study, start businesses, hire teams, and raise families. The government’s role, he believes, is to nurture this environment with strong public schools and colleges, modern infrastructure, and innovation-friendly public and private partnerships.

Although reticent about the upcoming presidential election and its potential impact on the healthcare regulatory environment, Baker was forthright about his prediction of a Chicago Cubs World Series victory. After a century-plus championship drought, it’s their time, he joked.

The 2016 Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit, organized by Healthegy and held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, brought together senior healthcare providers, payers, entrepreneurs, and investors.


Over the course of the day, keynote speakers and group panels focused on how innovation can provide better care for patients at lower costs for the system. Advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, wearable devices, medical robotics, telehealth, patient empowerment, innovative business and healthcare delivery models, regulatory reform, precision medicine, and augmented and virtual reality were among the many topics touched upon.

Other Summit highlights included:

  • Photo courtesy of MIT

    Photo courtesy of MIT

    Jonathan Gruber, professor of economics at MIT and a senior architect of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—often referred to as “Obamacare”—offered a passionate defense of the controversial legislation. Public opinion notwithstanding, he pointed to the extension of healthcare coverage to 20M previously uninsured Americans as a major social policy success. Premiums, while rising dramatically in many states, are still within 1% of projections made by the Congressional Budget Office in 2010, he also argued. Regardless of the 2016 election’s outcome, Gruber believes that Obamacare is “here to stay” because of the lack of a viable alternative.

  • Gary Gottlieb, Chief Executive Officer of Partners In Health and formerly head of Partners HealthCare, shared his perspective on innovation as well as some thoughts on Obamacare and public health in the developing world. Asked where he thought innovators could have the greatest impact, Gottlieb stressed that the management—and ideally the prevention—of chronic illnesses like diabetes and COPD can both improve the quality of life for tens of millions of people but also help rein in healthcare spending. He went on to describe Obamacare as perhaps the “most important social legislation since the Great Society” but lamented the compromises required to win its initial passage. Like Gruber, Gottlieb does not anticipate the 2016 elections will cause significant legislative change. To applause, he closed by describing the public health work his organization is leading in Haiti, Rwanda, Liberia, Russia, and elsewhere.  
  • Photo courtesy of GE

    Photo courtesy of GE

    Charles Koontz, Chief Digital Officer at GE Healthcare discussed GE’s approach to digital health innovation within the context of his massive $18B global business group. Using GE Healthcare’s imaging business as an example, Koontz stated that up to a third of MRI and CT scans are believed have missed or misdiagnosed medical conditions. GE’s now using artificial intelligence and machine learning to “mine” its archival collection of 69B scans from around the world and teach its software how to automatically identify tumors, clots, and other problems. Speed and accuracy can both be improved, but the innovation also promises to help patients who might not otherwise even have access to a trained radiologist. In an era of web-connected medical devices and cloud storage of confidential data, security and privacy are concerns that GE takes very seriously, Koontz added.

  • Dan Burton, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Utah-based Health Catalyst, accepted the Summit’s “Digital Healthcare Innovator of the Year” Award and spoke about his company’s groundbreaking use of healthcare data and analytics to improve outcomes and reduce spending. In a typical engagement, they’ll work with a hospital to access siloed and orphaned data—clinical, financial, and otherwise—and apply advanced analytics and modeling techniques to identify hidden performance gaps and improvement opportunities. The company was founded in 2008, has raised over $220M in venture capital funding, and is widely believed to have plans for an IPO in 2017. They count Boston’s Partners HealthCare amongst their 250 hospital and health system clients.

James A. Gardner

James A. Gardner

James A. Gardner, @jamesagardner, is a Boston-area sales and marketing professional with a passion for consumer technologies and all things health, web & social. He started his career with Procter & Gamble before earning his MBA at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Since then, James has served senior clients as a consultant with McKinsey & Company, led complex digital projects with Boston-area agencies, and built several high-performing marketing teams. He’s also been published and quoted in multiple professional publications, most recently CMSWire, CIO.com, eHealthcare Strategy & Trends, and MedTech Boston.

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