Catching up with the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance

by Rob Hartman

Dr. Rob Hartman kicks off a behind-the-scenes series on how the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance is working to transform Pittsburgh into the nexus of innovation in health technology.

Rob Hartman bio photoHi, I’m Rob Hartman, PhD. I’m a Senior Manager of Business Development at UPMC Enterprises, and I’ve spent the past few years working closely with the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance (PHDA). As the go-to source for all things PHDA at UPMC Enterprises, I’ll be checking in every so often to share information, interview our researchers, and more. To get things rolling, I’d like to use this first post to tell you a little more about what the PHDA is and what we do. Enjoy!


What is the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance?

The Alliance represents an unprecedented collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University, UPMC, and the University of Pittsburgh. The PHDA was first announced in the spring of 2015 with a lofty goal: to unlock the potential of “big data” to revolutionize healthcare by building an ecosystem of healthcare innovation here in Pittsburgh. Simply put, UPMC funds projects at Carnegie Mellon and Pitt that are doing transformative work in healthcare technology that are broadly defined with a line of sight to commercialization.


What makes the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance special?

This collaboration is unique because of the world-renowned strengths of its member institutions. Carnegie Mellon University boasts the top computer science school in the country. The University of Pittsburgh has a top-tier medical school with prolific biomedical science – it ranks fifth in NIH funding among public universities. And UPMC is a highly regarded, forward-thinking, integrated healthcare system with extensive experience in healthcare investing and commercialization. The synergistic strengths in medical research, computer science, machine learning, clinical expertise, and commercialization set this Alliance apart.


What fuels the Alliance?

The promise of the PHDA is based first on the abundance of premier science and investigators at Carnegie Mellon and Pitt. Its commercial aspirations are served by the strong technology sector that has taken root in Pittsburgh and by the ecosystem of start-ups supported by the region’s universities, economic development organizations, and investors. The number of healthcare and life sciences start-ups emerging in the region and the promising opportunities ready to spin out from academia are a growing force.


What’s the goal?

Our goal is to catalyze this process and help cement Pittsburgh as a globally recognized nexus of innovation in health technology. To achieve this, we aim to attract and retain top students, researchers, and clinicians to work on the most pressing problems in healthcare, increase the number of start-ups and licensing deals in the region, attract other sponsors and industry anchors to the region, and improve the quality of life and care we provide to our patients.


What’s next and where can I learn more?

Our first two blog interviews (Readmission Rhythms and TDI) feature PHDA researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Machine Learning and Health and the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data, and spotlight a project that is taking data from wearables and medical records to help clinicians predict readmissions, and a project that is using software to provide genomic information to cancer clinicians.