When Big Health IT Data Means Big Business

Below is the third in a series of guest posts from Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH, the commissioner of health for the state of New York. Look for more of his blogs in the Intel Healthcare Community in the coming months.

When we think about the benefits of health data, we typically consider the impact on patients. No more duplicate tests. Smarter prescriptions. Better care at a lower cost.

But patients aren’t the only ones to benefit from the release of health data. Here in New York, the data is spurring high tech ingenuity and creating new business opportunities.

New York now has the largest health care IT accelerator program in the country, the New York Digital Health Accelerator. It’s a public-private partnership between the New York eHealth Collaborative, the Partnership Fund for New York City and the New York State Department of Health

The accelerator paired up tech gurus with decision makers in health care, two groups who rarely rub elbows but who now need to come together for health IT innovation. And for nine months, the accelerator acted as an incubator for eight companies. These companies were chosen from a pool of 250 applicants, who were hand-picked to design cutting edge health care technology to serve patients and providers.

To do that, the accelerator secured $4.2 million in funding from eight strategic investors and mentorship from 23 provider organizations in New York. These organizations represent stakeholders from across the continuum of care, including hospitals, nursing homes, federally qualified health centers and private practices.

Last May, we got a glimpse of what the accelerator has done, and the results have been nothing short of astounding. Among the 23 provider organizations that have provided mentorship, 17 pilot projects have been launched. And among the eight companies chosen to be in the accelerator, new technology has already emerged. Among them: 

• Software that supports team-based medication management and reconciliation for high risk patients.

• A referral platform for hospitals discharging patients to help them select the best doctors for their post-acute care. 

• An app that enables physicians to improve care coordination with the use of text messaging.

As you might imagine, the accelerator has been quite an economic boon for New York. At its current pace, the program over the next five years is projected to create 1,500 jobs and generate $150 million to $200 million in additional venture capital investment, which will spur further innovation in health IT.

For their efforts, the accelerator has gotten national recognition from some pretty important people:

Todd Park, our nation’s chief technology officer, has said that this program is one that other states should seek to emulate.

• The California Healthcare Foundation has called the New York Digital Health Accelerator one of the most successful accelerator models in the country. In particular, the report noted the financial and strategic ties that have already been forged in the market. These strong market ties are critical because they will determine which accelerators survive and thrive in the long term.

• The Rotman School of Management has ranked the New York Digital Health Accelerator the number one Health IT Accelerator in the world, compared to 21 similar accelerators. The ranking was based on 10 different criteria including access to customers, investors, government, and support for innovation.

But we’re hardly done. This fall, the New York eHealth Collaborative will be soliciting applications for the next round of companies to participate in the accelerator. Big data, as you can see, also means big business.

What questions do you have?

Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH, is the commissioner of health for the state of New York.