(SHNS) – Massachusetts can become the leading state for digital health, according to a new report, if policymakers, industry leaders and the academic sector work together to take steps like boosting access to data and developing a talent pool.
The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council on Wednesday published a report gauging the challenges, opportunities and “missing pieces” in the Bay State’s digital health ecosystem. The report defines the digital health field as including digital therapeutics, health care software and mobile apps, and organizations that combine digital tools with brick-and-mortar applications, like at-home testing and telehealth diagnostics.
Luba Greenwood, a MassBio board member who works in strategic business development and corporate ventures at Verily, said digital health is a key piece in “really transforming patient care and drug discovery.”
“We have all the key components in Massachusetts,” she told the News Service. “We have digital health companies that have been started here, we have amazing institutions — for example, some of the largest providers in the country are here in Massachusetts, so we have the data.”
Further development of the digital health ecosystem here would “create many new opportunities for the Commonwealth’s workforce and likely result in the emergence of new, innovative digital health companies that will have the power to transform health care,” the report said.
Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, MassBio’s chief operating officer, said the report looks at measures that have helped the life sciences sector flourish in Massachusetts and how they can be applied to digital health.
The report said Massachusetts offers a “rich talent pool” for digital health companies to draw from but cautioned of a “pronounced” talent drain, with workers from the industry leaving for other states, and a “smaller than ideal” pool of those who both understand digital technologies and health care or life-sciences and are well-suited to lead in the sector.
MassBio recommends incentivizing potential digital health workers to remain in-state after graduating. Greenwood said mentorship programs can help encourage them to stay in state.
Among potential options suggested for consideration in the report are attracting digital health conferences to hold their events in Massachusetts and creating “digital health sister city/state agreements” with countries like Israel that are strong in digital health.
Labeling the current infrastructure platforms that host health-related data “archaic and difficult to access,” the report also calls for industry collaboration to develop a modernized and integrated platform that can allow access to provider, payer, genomics and biopharmaceutical data across the state for specific use cases and research and development purposes.
“We know we have all the stakeholders in place, and we know that when the stakeholders work collaboratively, we see successes,” Burlin O’Connell said. “When there is strong, measurable, effective data, we are able to provide better patient access and payer coverage, so that’s really at the core of what we need to advocate for as part of this process.”