(Photo obtained via Creative Commons license by Wikimedia Commons user Farragutful)
This article is sponsored by Chesapeake Digital Health Exchange and was reviewed before publication.
Digital health is more than just telemedicine. Data security of electronic health records, mobile apps and public health tracking (think Johns Hopkins’ coronavirus map) all are ways entrepreneurs and businesses are using technology to improve health care.
As the digital health sector rapidly expands, a new initiative seeks to organize and grow the mid-Atlantic region’s ecosystem so it becomes the national hub for digital health startups and innovations. The Chesapeake Digital Health Exchange (CDHX) is connecting key players, building a knowledge base, directly supporting young ventures, and investing in the talent pipeline.
The initiative was formed through a partnership between Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and the Johns Hopkins Technology Innovation Center with funding through a three-year, $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.
“The Chesapeake region is unique in that we have the largest concentration of Ph.D.s in the country,” said Mark Komisky, CDHX’s program director and a veteran startup founder and advisor. “Adding to that, we have an abundance of technology talent supported by the federal government, major medical research institutions, bioengineering and private-sector healthcare companies. Developing these innovative partnerships between the talent and major players regarding investors and companies creates a catalyst for innovation in the digital health sector.”
Much of CDHX’s first year was focused on building the region’s digital health network by bringing together founders at CEO Roundtable events, where leaders can discuss successes and pitfalls, share tips on sales strategy and pricing models, among other topics. They also hear from founders of larger digital health companies, such as Olive CEO Sean Lane.
"This area is the digital health capital; we sit literally where all health policy exists."
“Our focus has been, how can we make it easier for startups to succeed in the Chesapeake region?” said Komisky. “How do we coordinate activities between investors, strategic partners, customers and entrepreneurs?”
Kristen Valdes, founder and CEO of b.well, has attended CDHX roundtables and values the feedback she’s received from other entrepreneurs. b.well provides an integrated health management platform for its users, allowing them access to their complete health record in one place. The company has approximately 100 employees across the country and had a $16 million funding round last year but Valdes has no plans to move its headquarters out of Baltimore.
“This area is the digital health capital; we sit literally where all health policy exists,” she said. “The area offers opportunities to learn how to create and help build a network, to get better deal flow, and streamline communications to an organization’s start up to have more success while faced with raising capital.”
In addition to startups, CDHX is working with health care systems in the region, such as LifeBridge Health. Pothik Chatterjee, executive director of innovation and research at LifeBridge, said innovation does not happen in a vacuum.
“Innovation benefits from collaboration between clinical experts at LifeBridge Health who are working with technology experts and industry startups, as well as entrepreneurs who bring passion and experience to implementing their solutions,” he said. “The process of developing prototypes and refining them really benefits from interdisciplinary collaboration between clinicians or scientists and entrepreneurs and mentors from the industry who have experience in bringing startups to the market.”
"The process of developing prototypes and refining them really benefits from interdisciplinary collaboration."
Chatterjee called his department a “front door” for digital health startups looking to enter the clinical setting. In addition to connecting companies with clinicians and administrators, it helps set up pilots to test and validate new technologies and identify key performance indicators and metrics specifically related to outcomes, cost reductions or improvement to patient experience.
The region’s growing digital health portfolio is getting the attention of industry as well. Last year, Microsoft Corp. launched the Microsoft Innovation Acceleration awards for Johns Hopkins businesses that are using data science and artificial intelligence to address societal problems. In addition to grant money, winning teams work with Microsoft Azure architects and developers and receive admission to Microsoft for Startups.
“We continue to support the innovative space by working closely with accelerators in the Chesapeake region,” said Jamie Bakert, director of strategic accounts for the Baltimore area for Microsoft. “We provide programmatic support and propose solutions to business issues.”
While policies and health metrics regarding the COVID-19 pandemic appear to be ever-changing, new technologies and management of digital health information are ripe for growth. Companies that can provide innovation in the digital health sector can find opportunities for growth in the Chesapeake region, Komisky said, and CDHX is poised to provide the guidance and network essential to that growth.
“Making ‘precision connections,’ where a startup can determine early on, not months later, if their objectives align with those of an investor, and to foster that business relationship, that’s the role of Chesapeake Digital Health Exchange,” Komisky said.-30-
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