Creating the future of healthcare: The PHDA takes on HLTH 2019

PHDA leadership, including  Zariel Johnson, Program Manager at UPMC Enterprises, and Don Taylor, Co-Director of the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data, recently attended HLTH 2019, a national conference for industry leaders to explore and discuss the future of healthcare. The PHDA was also represented in the UPMC booth, with Taylor and Johnson engaging with health systems and tech companies about the great work being done through the partnership. Here are some trends and key takeaways from the PHDA’s perspective.

The Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance is a Pittsburgh-based collaboration. Why would the PHDA attend a national conference like HLTH?

Zariel Johnson-PHDA_HLTH 2019We know that the Pittsburgh region has a wealth of resources that make it an attractive place to ideate and build innovative solutions for healthcare. Pittsburgh is home to strong academic research, clinical expertise, mature companies, and an ever-growing startup community. It’s also important that we look outside of our local and regional networks to learn about the exciting work that is being done throughout the world and get sense of where the field will go next. A national conference like HLTH provides an opportunity for the PHDA to identify new collaborators and share information about our program and portfolio projects on with a larger community.

 What are some key trends in the healthcare industry that you heard about at HLTH?

One topic that continued to appear was the importance of demonstrating return on investment (ROI) from digital health solutions. We know that digital health has attracted capital and attention in the last few years. It’s now increasingly important to show that these solutions do, indeed, create value by improving care, reducing costs, enhancing the patient experience, or other means. These impacts can be difficult to determine for a variety of reasons. For instance, effects on chronic disease prevention can take months or years to become clear. In many cases, new data types need to be collected and monitored to understand the effects of new solutions.

 Some of the other trends included a focus on consumer-facing technologies and associated questions regarding data privacy and sharing, continued emphasis on the importance of social determinants of health, and a myriad of partnerships between mature technology companies and companies that offer targeted, AI/ML-based solutions.

HLTH is a great opportunity to network. What does the PHDA look for in people or organizations who might work with the PHDA?

We’re interested in engaging with a variety of potential collaborators and partners. These include startups and established companies that might leverage the innovations that have been developed in PHDA-funded projects, or those that are interested in supporting new projects. For example, the PHDA recently teamed up with AWS to provide additional support for a group of PHDA projects. We’re also eager to share our experiences and ideas with other groups that aim to accelerate the translation of academic work from the university to the real word. In each case, it’s important that anyone who might work with the PHDA understands our goals and appreciates the unique strengths of our Alliance.

Collaborative efforts in healthcare and academia are continuing to grow. Did you meet anyone at HLTH whose model you admired?

 While at the conference, we had the chance to speak with representatives of several other digital health accelerators and academic innovation programs. We were happy to learn more about both established programs and a few that are just emerging. Each of these models for collaboration has a unique set of objectives and metrics for success, but we were especially interested in those partnerships that, like the PHDA, bring both capital and other forms of support to the table. We know that research requires funding, but those collaborations that add value through mentorship programs and networking events, commercial guidance, team “matchmaking,” and access to industry partnerships were the more impressive to us.

Any final thoughts on key takeaways from HLTH?

Large conferences like HLTH are packed with opportunities to meet passionate peers, learn about the latest and greatest innovations and trends, and become part of a community that is tasked with solving some very important challenges. We’re excited to apply some of that knowledge to the PHDA!