Practice medicine or innovate in Silicon Valley? For the AMA, the answer is 'both'


The American Medical Association has doubled down its efforts to create customized solutions designed specifically for health systems and large medical groups. To fulfill the objective of being a powerful ally for all physicians, the AMA's strategy is to offer resources aimed at not only allowing health systems to run more efficiently, but also be able to more effectively support the physicians they employ. A wide range of programs can be tailored to assist with preventing chronic disease, transforming practice organizations to reduce costly burnout, and even refocusing professional development and medical education.

However, the AMA has concluded that healthcare has a need to keep pace with other industries when it comes to the development of effective innovation. Enter a Silicon Valley innovation company.

To achieve even greater impact, the AMA invested $15 million in 2016 to become founding partner of Health2047, a stand-alone, for-profit innovation company based in Menlo Park, Calif. Health2047 works with AMA experts across a wide range of medical, health policy, and pragmatic practice areas, and collaborates with healthcare companies, tech and entrepreneurs to create and spin out solutions.

"The idea for Health2047 is a for-profit organization," explained Larry Cohen, PhD, CEO of Health2047. "Our goal is to launch ventures to solve some of the major problems that face us in healthcare today."

AMA hosted a roundtable at Becker's Hospital Review's 10th Annual Meeting in Chicago on April 2 to lay out the vision for Health2047, discuss its progress to date and gather feedback on the concept from health system leaders. In addition to Dr. Cohen, the roundtable was led by Ken Sharigian, the AMA's chief strategy officer, and Health2047 advisor Walter "Buzz" Stewart, who has experience in healthcare delivery from time spent at Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger and Sacramento-based Sutter Health.

Health2047's focus and pillars

Health2047's purpose, described Mr. Sharigian, is "to seed ideas and birth companies to make transformational change in healthcare." Among Health2047's key principles is putting the healthcare provider, particularly physicians, at the core of these ideas and emphasizing, per Dr. Cohen, "the centrality of the physician-patient interaction."

This undertaking also prioritizes the creation of an "ecosystem of players in order to solve the massive problems that face us today," said Dr. Cohen. This ecosystem must involve physicians, payers, product companies, technology experts and patients. “We need a convergence of ideas," stressed Dr. Cohen. He sees the AMA as the trusted broker that can bring these distinct stakeholders together. 

With so many challenges and opportunities within healthcare, Health2047 has decided to focus on four specific problem areas. These pillars are:

  1. Data liquidity. There are massive amounts of data within health systems, but because of problems with interoperability, liquidity and translation, we aren't taking advantage of this data to improve health system performance.
  2. Chronic care. Around 80 percent of healthcare spending is for chronic care, yet the delivery system is not tuned to deliver chronic care. The system must be reengineered.
  3. Radical productivity. This isn't about physicians seeing more patients each day. It's about using tools and technologies, such as AI and machine learning, to improve the patient-physician interaction.
  4. Value. This goes beyond payments with "value" in the name; it involves creating value throughout the entire healthcare system.

"The best way to approach this," said Dr. Cohen, "is to focus on the problems; not the solutions." Mr. Stewart emphasized that the focus on problems must delve deeply. "In getting at the problems," he said, "We aren't just looking at the problems we see on top, which is what we've always been working on, but what's underneath? What are the structural problems underneath those problems that we have to create solutions for?"

Bringing solutions to market

After extensive efforts to define problems, Health2047's approach to developing solutions involves combining deep expertise, immense scale and powerful collaboration. The expertise and scale come from leveraging the massive assets that already exist today, especially data, in the country's major health systems.

Powerful collaboration stems from forming a consortium of participants that work together in identifying the problems of greatest priority, which the Health2047 team will then explore. The consortium will also be engaged in defining potential solutions, testing solutions and helping bring solutions to market.

Consortium participants can benefit from exposure to the cutting edge of R&D for delivery system innovation. Advantages could include capability building to test possible solutions, reputational benefits linked to being on the leading edge of new ideas, and possible revenue enhancement by being exposed to ideas to generate new revenue streams.

While still early, Health2047 has already created and funded two companies. The first is Akiri, which focuses on data operability and portability by building trusted networks for health data. Akiri Switch, the software-defined network, is used by global pharmaceutical company Celgene so the company has a 360-degree network of trust where only subscribers can share health data. The second spinout is First Mile Care, which is actually a non-medical company focused on community approaches to chronic care management, particularly in diabetes prevention. The company has an ambitious plan to create a digitally connected network of diabetes-prevention coaches across the nation's 42,000 ZIP codes.

These first few ventures illustrate the possibility of creating real impact by bringing together a collaborative ecosystem, engaging with the venture capital sector and putting physicians at the core of transformative ideas.

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