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MA Digital Health Council to Spark State Health IT Growth

The Massachusetts Digital Health Council will advise the Governor and his administration in how to use health IT to improve care and job growth.

By Sara Heath

- Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently announced the state’s Digital Health Council during its first meeting last week at the Massachusetts General Hospital Museum of Medical History and Innovation.

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An offshot of the state’s Digital Health Initiative, the Council is a public-private coalition of industry experts planning to advise the Baker Administration on the state’s health IT use. These experts include technology, healthcare delivery, insurance, medical device, life science, academic, and government professionals.

The Digital Health Council will work to help steer the state’s Digital Health Initiative, which Governor Baker announced in January 2016. The Council will work with information established from the Initiative to create a three-year growth plan, and will continue to support programs to carry out the plan and report annually on its progress.

Ultimately, these professionals intend to advise the Governor on how health technology can improve healthcare and job growth statewide.

“For Massachusetts to become a national leader in digital health, we need to continue to build on the momentum our Digital Health Initiative has already produced,” Governor Baker said. “This council will collaborate to move past barriers in the healthcare industry and solve significant challenges to make advances in patient care, lower health care costs, and address public health crises, like the opioid epidemic.”

During its first meeting, the Digital Health Council discussed the potential for health IT innovation to impact the state, including the importance of growth in EHR technology, mHealth devices, payment management systems, and big data analytics.

The Council concluded that health IT market will grow to approximately $32 billion in the next ten years. According to Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, this may spark considerable job growth.

“The industry is poised to create jobs across the Massachusetts through its impact on patient care in community hospitals, potential for advanced manufacturing applications, and for our innovation hubs that span from Springfield to Lowell, to Worcester and New Bedford,” she said in a public statement.

Katie Stebbins, assistant secretary of Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, and Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, Chairman, President and CEO of Boston-based Vertex, will co-chair the Council, according to the press release.

“The digital healthcare sector plays directly to our strengths in Massachusetts - from world-class hospitals, universities and life sciences companies, to significant concentrations of VC investment,” Leiden said.

“We at [the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership] are honored to have led this outstanding public-private partnership toward accelerating the growth of the digital healthcare industry in the Commonwealth and are excited about the future growth of this segment of the innovation economy as the state takes this initiative forward to the next stage.”

The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development will also help support Digital Health Council, helping to drive its goal of improving healthcare and job growth throughout the state.

“Massachusetts succeeds when we play to our strengths, and we have all of the resources necessary to become a global player in this space, as we are in the life sciences sector,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “Digital health has unlimited potential to improve healthcare outcomes, lower costs and become a significant driver of job creation across the Commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech will likewise help support the Council’s four meetings each year.

Council members include executives from the state’s colleges, leaders from the health insurance field, technology experts, and healthcare professionals.

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