At least 18,000 people flooded into Boston this week for BIO, the annual international biotech and life sciences convention. If you didn’t reserve your hotel room months ago, Bean Town prices mirrored The Golden City of San Francisco when JP Morgan (which also sponsors DHIS) rolls into town. Rooms went for two to three times more than in other weeks. Ouch!
While San Francisco certainly has a historical impact on global health innovation, the Boston health ecosystem is fertile ground to be the nation’s power hub for innovation, research, and economic growth. Boston has emerged as a key player – perhaps the place – in the life science sector with its world-class universities, renowned hospitals, and investment community. Innovation accelerates when talent, infrastructure, and finance converge on a geographic area.
Boston’s concentration of top-tier academic institutions, including Harvard University, MIT, and Tufts Medical School, attract brilliant minds worldwide, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and pioneering research in biotechnology, devices, genomics, and pharmaceuticals. These innovations applied to patient care have improved health outcomes and fostered collaborations between academia and industry, driving innovation and the development of life-saving therapies.
Employment Opportunities Abound in Boston
The Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation’s “2023 Massachusetts Life Sciences Employment Outlook” reports that the life sciences sector in Massachusetts is home to 132,000 jobs. This study predicts another 42,000 new jobs will come online in 10 years.
The presence of world-class hospitals and community safety nets like Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital offer scaled and start-up biotech, contract research organizations, digital health, medical device and pharmaceutical companies a base to listen, learn and apply. These institutions attract top medical talent, providing a foundation for companies to tap into great minds as advisors on the practical issues facing innovators – how to navigate the fragmented US health ecosystem – even how to recognize revenue.
Not at BIO, but at another nearby life science digital health meeting. Barry Finette, MD, Ph.D., founder of ThinkMD, a physician, who has worked around the world in emergency medicine, is among those who have transitioned from full-time medicine to the innovation sector reflects why change is so urgent:
“The US has the most sophisticated high-quality healthcare in the world if you can afford it and have access to it. For too many Americans, neither is the case. The US healthcare system is in crisis, even though we spend more on healthcare per person per year (>$11K) than any other country in the world, and yet, the US is ranked in the 20-30s in the world for most key health indices and have a life expectancy that has been decreasing.”
Beyond BIO, Digital Health Leaders Meet at the Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit to Explore Needed Changes
The Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit 2023 (#DHIS2023 and #DHISEast) meeting is a hidden gem. Though the meeting rooms are packed, this annual gathering held in Boston still needs to be discovered. Its attendees and speakers represent the health ecosystem of decision-makers who must learn more about each other’s business agenda – how their models work and thrive economically.
The unscripted panel sessions almost guarantee that the mainstage conversationalists will “tell it like it is.” The speakers are drivers of change and include Sree Chaguturu, MD, chief medical officer of CVS; Christopher Brooker, partner, Frist Cressey Ventures; Magann Vaughn Watters, vice president, New Ventures & Strategic Alliances, LabCorp; Tarun Mehra, vice president, Healthcare Strategy, M&A and Partnerships, Microsoft. The impressive list of speakers and attendees reinforces the value of this gathering – more so – it underscores the power of Boston as a microcosm of the national health system and its possibilities.
[Photo: Moderator Nancy Brown, General Partner, Oak HC/FT explores with panelists Neel Shah, MD, CMO, Maven Clinic; Lori Evans Bernstein, Co-Founder & CO, Caraway; Angela Glyder, VP, Clinical Operations, Lucina Analytics, and Sukanya L. Sonderland, senior vice president Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, on “Women, Families, and Health – Understanding the Market, Its Impact and How You Measure Success”]
The Summit jumped into pressing access to-care challenges – sometimes conflicts – facing the US health system. CVS’s Chaguturu outlined the retail pharmacy giant’s strategy around the acquisition of Oak Street Health and the evolution of its Minute Clinic model. CVS has also invested in Maven Health to improve greater access to women’s health.
Maven Women’s Health founder and CEO Kate Ryder smartly outlined how this unicorn enterprise has succeeded by focusing on its customers’ – women’s health – needs rather than enticing tech platforms. Maven has built one of the more comprehensive platforms providing support across fertility, pregnancy, adoption, parenting, and pediatrics. The company received the Digital Healthcare Innovator – East Coast Award.
Boston – A Model for Harmonious Health Innovation and Navigating the Health Ecosystem
“Culture crushes change,” reflects health innovation theorist John Nosta, president of Nosta Labs. Too many significant changes that might help heal the disjointed health ecosystem fail – not because the invention will not improve people’s care – it doesn’t mesh with the system’s economic sensibilities. The greater Boston region may be part of the treatment for failure.
Listening to the speakers at #DHIS2023, it’s noticed that many of the leaders on the stage and conference room are not engineers; they are rooted within the medical system. Some are trained health professionals and others work within the health system – they are part of a closed-loop community and seek collaboration.
Instead of bemoaning the interference of AI and ChatGPT, they imagine how these technologies can integrate successfully into their workflow. Instead of looking for ways to reject ideas that will change the care process, they are rolling up their sleeves to figure out how to untangle the links in the supply chain of patient care.
If BIO is the place to explore business development and partnerships, DHIS is the forum for experts in the trenches of digital and health tech to transparently examine how all this work comes together as the system seeks to change.
We’ll be back in Boston later this month to explore how these leaders will change the future of health innovation development through diversity in clinical trials. Stay tuned.