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Dr. Barry Stein: Innovation Is Needed to Fix Problems American Healthcare Confronts

January 10, 2023

We cannot fix the problems that American health care confronts and creates without innovation. The issues are too well known: Care that is too expensive. Inequities that disproportionately affect the poor and our most vulnerable people and communities. Access to expertise that is limited both geographically and demographically.

We have probed and pondered these problems long enough. Addressing them will take fresh thinking, next-generation tech tools and bold new approaches. In a word: innovation, and all the promise and disruption the act of invention involves.

Health care systems can no longer contentedly sit on the sidelines awaiting the next new thing, much as consumers anticipate the newest car model or next mobile phone. Clinicians and hospitals, researchers and analysts need to claim a seat at the table of innovation, and make a seat for established world-class partners and early-stage entrepreneurs alike.

In the last month alone, Hartford HealthCare has announced three such partnerships.

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Google Cloud: Our teams will work alongside Google’s designers, engineers and data scientists as we co-create a safe and secure system to make better sense of health data. Massive amounts of health data are generated every day, but too much of it is hidden in unstructured and increasingly complex patient records. Google, the world’s leader in organizing information, will work with Hartford HealthCare and use artificial intelligence and machine learning to augment existing experts and unlock trends in the data, understand and predict each person’s health needs, and advance the diagnosis and treatment of disease — at the individual and population health levels.

Connecticut Innovations: The state’s strategic venture capital arm and Hartford HealthCare signed an agreement to work with startup companies and pilot digital health solutions. The early stage companies will have the opportunity to work with our clinicians and pilot their inventions, we will help these entrepreneurs find ways to enhance their products to improve care, and Connecticut Innovations will assist in supporting the scaling and commercialization of novel technologies.

Morningside Group: This diversified investment group is engaged in private equity and venture capital investments, with a particular focus on digital health innovations that can transform healthcare delivery. Hartford HealthCare will work with Morningside to advance digital health innovations from existing portfolio startup companies and collaborate with inventors to test their hypotheses in the real world, bringing new technologies to life and making care better and more affordable.

In each instance, we are not waiting for others to ideate, invent and transform. We are innovators ourselves, creating a space where fledgling solutions flourish and have the potential to more equitably and excellently deliver care. For example, working with Dimitris Bertsimas, PhD, associate dean of business analytics at MIT-Sloan, Hartford HealthCare created an analytics platform called H2O that improves operating room scheduling, enhances staffing efficiency and helps patients return home safely and sooner.

We have partnered with, and invested in, other innovations that also use the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to:

  • Increase the accuracy and precision of cancerous tumor removal
  • Enhance pathologists’ ability to quickly and accurately detect breast cancer
  • Prevent intravenous devices from dislodging, a quality and safety issue that adds billions of dollars a year in avoidable cost
  • Develop convenient virtual care for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Send timely text messages informing patients of tests and treatments they are due for, and remind them of medications they need.

Smart technology can identify health conditions before they become severe, guide access to equitable, cost-effective care options, and allow clinicians to deliver care that is more personalized and precise.

We are changing the paradigm for healthcare innovation — partnering with and creating connections between inventors and investors, academic institutions, government, industry and others who can make it happen. Through collaboration, teamwork and validation, we will no longer lament the failure points of the nation’s health care; rather, we will create more opportunities for meaningful, transformative solutions which will enhance health care delivery for all.