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Massachusetts launches comprehensive digital health initiative

Today, Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and executives from the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership (MACP) joined leaders from across state government, healthcare, and the technology sector at Boston Children’s Hospital to announce a comprehensive public-private partnership designed to accelerate the competitiveness of the Commonwealth’s digital healthcare industry.

“Our administration is committed to making Massachusetts a national leader in digital health by partnering with private industry, convening key stakeholders and addressing market gaps,” said Governor Baker. “This emerging industry cluster has the potential to become a powerful driver of job creation across the Commonwealth, while also unlocking new advances in improving patient care and lowering health care costs.”

Digital health, or eHealth, is a rapidly growing sector at the intersection of healthcare and information technology, and according to a report by Goldman Sachs represents an approximately $32B market opportunity over the next decade. The sector spans a variety of technologies including electronic health records, consumer wearable devices, care systems, payment management, Big Data analytics and telemedicine among others, and has close connections to the state’s technology and life sciences sectors. Massachusetts is well-positioned for success in digital health as host to world-class healthcare and academic institutions, strong startup culture, significant venture capital investment, a dominant life sciences sector and roughly 250 existing digital health companies.

The initiative will bring public, private, academic, and healthcare leaders together to build a stronger and more connected statewide digital health ecosystem.  To support digital health startups, the City of Boston, Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI), and MACP announced the establishment of a digital health innovation hub. The initiative will provide space, programming and strong industry network for digital health startups and will serve as a Boston “hub” for the industry. Programming through the hub will be managed and operated by MassChallenge.

“Strong public-private partnerships are what make our City, and our region, more competitive in the global economy,” said Mayor Walsh. “We know that the digital healthcare industry is Boston’s future, and I thank our state and private sector partners for their support.  By working together, we can maintain Boston’s leadership in health care and the life sciences, and create an environment where the digital healthcare industry can thrive and we can better serve our patients and their families.” 

MACP also announced several private industry-led initiatives this morning that will help accelerate growth in the digital health sector, including innovative approaches to provide private funds for digital healthcare companies that are starting up, located in, or planning to re-locate to, Massachusetts. MACP also facilitated the development of standardized software, technology and sponsored research agreements and user guides to make it easier for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and the private sector to do business with our world-class academic institutions, including the University of Massachusetts system, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University and Partners HealthCare. MACP will also host a second year of its Mentorship Speaker Series, with a focus on digital health, connecting high-level, experienced industry leaders across the state with entrepreneurs of emerging companies to discuss how to start and grow a successful tech business in Massachusetts.

“The innovation economy comprised of the life sciences and digital technology sectors is the future growth engine of our Commonwealth,” said Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, who led the Digital Health Initiative on behalf of MACP. “It has been a privilege for me to lead this outstanding group of public and private sector partners toward our shared goal of accelerating the growth of the digital healthcare industry in Massachusetts. With the strengths of our universities, academic medical centers, and life sciences companies, Massachusetts is uniquely positioned to succeed in digital healthcare and I’m thrilled to be part of the team that will make it happen.” 

“Massachusetts residents and organizations are known worldwide for their brain power and industrious spirit,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “These traits uniquely position the Commonwealth to become global leaders in the digital healthcare sector. I am proud that the House’s past two economic development bills have supported eHealth programs because I believe this industry presents rich opportunities for Massachusetts. I look forward to collaborating with the Baker and Walsh Administrations, and local companies, to ensure that eHealth is an economic driver for Massachusetts.”  

Governor Baker and Secretary Ash have designated the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI) as the state’s implementing agency.  Established in 2008 by the Legislature as a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, an economic development agency, MeHI works to promote and accelerate the use of digital healthcare, such as electronic health records and health information exchange.  Governor Baker announced today that he will file legislation to expand MeHI’s efforts to include digital healthcare cluster development activities.

Led by a Strategy Committee composed of leaders across industry, academia, healthcare, and government, MeHI will work on cluster development activities designed to promote and support the sector. MeHI will co-invest in the establishment of a digital healthcare hub in Boston, lead development of a market access program designed to help digital health innovations get to market faster by building strategic connections between entrepreneurs and the healthcare system, and partner with state agencies to better capture the “big data” opportunity in healthcare.

“The Baker-Polito Administration is creating jobs in all the Commonwealth’s regions by harnessing emerging technologies to strengthen our diverse innovation economy,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “This new statewide public-private partnership in digital health builds on a base of existing investments in an array of sectors, from biotech to cloud computing and flexible hybrid electronics. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with industry stakeholders and academic researchers to harness Massachusetts’ national leadership in research and development, and unlock new economic opportunities.”

Digital health is an emerging industry cluster identified by the Commonwealth’s economic development plan signed by Governor Baker on December 23rd.  The digital health market is emerging rapidly, and has potential to create multiple positive effects on the state’s economic bottom line by creating jobs, attracting investment, and developing solutions, which improve healthcare delivery and ultimately can help contain healthcare costs.

“Data and technology are powerful tools in our goal to improve health care outcomes, to integrate behavioral health and physical health care and to deliver on the promise of health care transparency,” said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.