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AMA Opens Silicon Valley Outlet, Bets on Tech to Transform Healthcare

The American Medical Association now has an address in Silicon Valley, just down the block from Pinterest and Zynga. It also has a new digital identity.

The understated bastion of traditional Midwestern medicine hasn’t abandoned its Chicago headquarters or its conservative style. But the AMA is aggressively trying to move into the digital age, placing a $15 million bet on a for-profit company called Health2047, officials announced during the company’s formal launch at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco on Monday. .

Health2047 is set in San Francisco’s SoMo district, an artsy neighborhood dotted with talent-rich internet companies. The signing reflects the AMA’s desire to play an active role in reshaping a health care system shaken by converging market forces, such as the drive to exploit new technologies, reduce costs, improve quality, promote transparency, and increase responsibility for the results of care.

From doctor’s offices to retail clinics to operating rooms, these pressures are inescapable, says Dr. James Madara, executive director of the AMA and president of Health2047. The challenge: “How do we make physician practices sustainable in this new environment?”

Health2047 seeks to combine the AMA’s medical expertise with Silicon Valley technology and business savvy to develop solutions to problems that “burden physicians and detract from patient care,” he says.

Providing the business insight is CEO Dr. Douglass Given, a physician, scientist, and entrepreneur with extensive experience in healthcare, venture capital, and drug development. His resume includes stints at the helm of Vivaldi Biosciences, Inc., a biotech company reinventing the flu vaccine. He has also held roles in traditional pharmaceutical companies, public health, and academic medicine.

Given believes that the knowledge of physicians must play a critical role in the evolution of medical care. “Think of the $3 trillion-plus healthcare market, with less than a million practicing physicians, think of the influence they have,” says Given. “We need to harness and unlock the knowledge of the AMA, and do so through partnerships with leading commercial companies that, for one reason or another, have been unable to break into healthcare.”

Jack Stockert moves into Health2047's new office space.  He leads Health2047's business strategy team.

Jack Stockert moves into Health2047’s new office space. He leads Health2047’s business strategy team.Courtesy Health2047

Given describes the company’s San Francisco headquarters as an “innovation studio,” where a 15-person team explores opportunities and talks with potential partners. Over time, he envisions a workforce of about 60 people. The best analogy for Health2047’s game plan, he says, may be MIT’s media lab, where academics, innovators and industry scientists have teamed up to develop technology used in dozens of products, from e-readers to automatic airbags to wireless networks.

The MIT lab functions as an extension of its academic environment. Health2047 will draw on insights derived from analyzes of critical health issues, corporate partners, and AMA members in all fields of medicine, from family physicians to leading academics, including AMA’s Madara, former Dean of the School Pritzker of the University of Chicago. Medicine.

“We will provide content expertise – scientific, medical, health policy and pragmatic specialty knowledge that can influence healthcare and medical practices at scale,” he says.

The firm will have three business tracks:

  • Enabling established corporations to better participate in the health care economy by helping them shape their products and services.
  • Work with venture capital-backed pharmaceutical firms and others to develop the tools they need to enter and compete in the healthcare market.
  • Develop innovative products and services that fit a recognized need.

The areas that offer the greatest opportunity for innovation are medical education, chronic care; health care and value-based payments; connected health solutions; and network technology for physicians, providers, payers and patients. Creating an integrated network is especially appealing, says Given. “It’s a mystery to me why it doesn’t exist, why doctors don’t use this in their practice.”
“The AMA’s diverse membership represents a resource for cultivating ideas, testing products, and making use of those that make it to market,” he says. “AMA has a wonderful channel for doctors. When we launch these products, we want the medical channel to accelerate adoption of winning solutions.”

Thinking big has its appeal, but some researchers believe that the best opportunities for innovation occur on a smaller scale. “What worries me a lot about innovation in health care these days is the attention paid to disruptive and far-reaching ideas at the expense of smaller bets that are much more sure to pay off,” says Chris Trimble, a research fellow at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and author of “How Physicians Can Fix Health Care: One Innovation at a Time.”

“We spend too much time betting on the home run hitters of the world. We need to spend more time with people who produce base hits at a high rate. There are tons of them, but we’re not seeing them — they’re doing a better job of coordinating care, keeping chronically ill patients healthy, standardizing medical processes, and making better decisions. We can make more progress on a smaller scale, with a higher success rate, than through these futuristic solutions that we don’t even understand the potential of yet.”


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