Baker-Polito Administration Releases New Report on Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative
Report tracks progress made under statewide effort to boost digital technology in healthcare to assist patients, lower costs, and drive economic growth
BOSTON – Monday, September 9, 2019 — Governor Charlie Baker officially released the results of a new report from the Massachusetts Digital Health Council during his remarks at MassBIO’s inaugural Digital Health Impact 2019 event held in Boston. The report tracks the progress of the Massachusetts Digital Health Initiative, a public-private effort launched in January 2016 to boost the rapidly growing sector that sits at the intersection of healthcare and technology. Governor Baker cited the Council’s work to develop eight near-term strategic initiatives and two longer-term recommendations to boost the sector built around the Commonwealth’s “world-class healthcare and academic institutions, strong startup culture, significant venture capital investment…dominant life sciences sector and roughly 350 existing digital health companies.”
The report notes that these attributes make Massachusetts an ideal location to become the leading global digital health hub and the strategic programs launched by the Commonwealth put in a position to capture the growing global market for digital health technologies, which McKinsey estimates will grow to a $350 to $410 billion dollars by 2025. The report is the culmination of recommendations made at seven Council meetings and an additional 39 Working Group and Committee meetings, along with the input of 85 participants from the leading healthcare, tech, and policy organizations in the state.
“There is a real energy and focus that has developed around digital health since the launch of the Initiative in 2016,” stated Governor Baker. “Thanks to the work of the Council, we’ve launched programs to boost the ability of startups to access cutting-edge R&D spaces, funded spaces that are generating innovative digital health firms, and created an online presence that brings together our top companies with job seekers. This report provides us a blueprint to continue that progress and to further establish our global leadership in digital health.”
“Our administration has boosted infrastructure and funded accelerator spaces that are drawing companies from around the state and around the globe, driving collaboration and innovation,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “As a leader in healthcare innovation and policy, we will continue to find new ways to reduce the cost of delivering healthcare, invest in tools that can help patients live better lives, and spur the growth of our homegrown companies.”
The Council, co-chaired by Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., Ph.D. of Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Secretary Mike Kennealy of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, was established by the Baker-Polito Administration through Executive Order #574 and updated through Executive Order #585. The Council was charged with developing a set of strategic proposals to foster and support a leading ecosystem for digital health in Massachusetts, a continuation of efforts first initiated in 2013 by the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership.
“This effort exemplifies the collaboration between the public and private sectors that makes Massachusetts an innovation leader,” stated Secretary Kennealy. “Efforts like the MassChallenge HealthTech accelerator, which pairs emerging digital health startups with mentors from business, healthcare, and state government to help steer their growth – that is a great example of the community coming together to invest in our future innovators.”
“The digital healthcare programs and partnerships we’ve created over the last four years through the Council — and since 2013 through the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership— are excellent examples of how public-private collaboration can produce results that benefit all our citizens and strengthen our thriving innovation economy,” said Dr. Leiden. “I want to thank the entire Council – especially leaders like A.G Breitenstein and John Halamka – who volunteered countless hours of their time and resources to making Massachusetts a world leader in digital health care. I’m proud to be part of this unique Massachusetts innovation ecosystem.”
As covered in the report, the digital health sector spans a variety of technologies, “including electronic health records, consumer wearable devices, care systems, payment management, big data analytics and telemedicine.” The initiatives recommended by the Council focus on growing, enabling and supporting the digital health ecosystem by leveraging regional strengths and expertise to deliver resources, infrastructure and access to data, as well as increasing collaboration with the world class academic and scientific leaders in Massachusetts.
The Council’s eight near-term strategic initiatives and two longer-term recommendations have all been put into action, except for the rollout of the Distributed Data Network, which is still in progress.
The website MassDigitalHealth.org, managed by the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI) on behalf of the Commonwealth and the Council, catalogs the progress made under the Initiative and is home to several of recommendations outlined above, including:
- The April 2019 launch of the Sandbox program, an effort managed by MeHI;
- The toolkit and recommendations from the Council’s cybersecurity group of experts; and
- The centralized portal for digital health resources.
In the conclusion of the report, the Council urges MeHI to continue to work with private sector partners to maintain the momentum and successes of the Initiative and to continue work on the distributed data network to help make Massachusetts a national leader in health information sharing, allowing “for easier access to healthcare data for digital health startups and companies, and to enable faster development of products to enhance patient well-being and the provision of healthcare in Massachusetts.”
“MeHI is working with our statewide partners to advance these existing efforts, including around data sharing, but also initiatives that will deliver digital health tools and innovative thinking to address critical issues facing the Commonwealth, such as aging and caregiving, which will reduce the cost of delivering care,” said Laurance Stuntz, MeHI’s director and a member of the Digital Health Council. “New digital health tools can help patients and family caregivers manage chronic conditions, lessening issues around care delivery and the cost to the healthcare system. Those are win/wins for the Commonwealth and will be an important legacy of the Council’s work.”