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WPI Receives $5 million for Health IT Innovation Initiative

A new healthcare initiative at WPI will promote health IT innovation through research, development, and testing for new patient-centered medical devices

Health IT Innovation

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recently launched PracticePoint, a healthcare initiative focusing on health IT innovation and development funded by a $5 million grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech). The university also received a $2.5 million equipment grant from GE Life Sciences and a $9.5 million investment from WPI.

“Technology is changing medicine and PracticePoint is designed to help ensure our Commonwealth stays on the cutting edge of this important field to advance economic prosperity, but, more important, to advance health in our communities,” WPI President Laurie Leshin said at the PracticePoint opening ceremony.  “When we bring together creative engineers, scientists, clinicians, companies, and entrepreneurs to work together in a novel setting like PracticePoint, I believe the results will be extraordinary.”

The collaborative healthcare initiative, headquartered at Gateway Park, will also receive faculty, staff, and research support from healthcare professionals at UMass Medical School and the MITRE Corporation.

PracticePoint will provide the necessary resources to innovate new medical devices in an environment fully equipped to facilitate research and development of products at every stage.

Conducting research, development, and testing in one consolidated facility will reduce wait times between phases of innovation and allow for more efficient product creation.

 “We will take the technology and innovation we develop here and scale it across the world to solve some of the toughest challenges we face,” said Leshin.

This newest innovation center will advance health IT in ways similar to the new Center for Medical Interoperability in Tennessee. Both research and development centers invite collaboration from health IT experts and engineers to create new software and devices for more efficient healthcare.

“By putting a manufacturing facility side-by-side with a clinical environment, we can go back and forth between development in a machine shop or an electronics lab, develop the technology, test it, evaluate it, and bring it to the clinical setting,” said PracticePoint Director Greg Fischer. “We can significantly accelerate the timeline of launching a product.”

The innovation center will include four testing suites designed to mirror the environment of patient-centered care facilities. Developers will have the opportunity to work in a surgical/imaging area, an emergency room/intensive care unit, a rehabilitation/assistive care center, and a residential setting similar to a private home. 

Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Karyn Polito issued the grant to PracticePoint on behalf of MassTech.

“You are doing transformative work here,” Polito said in a statement. “The business of Massachusetts is continually inventing the future. This Commonwealth does this better than anyone else in the country, and we do this by launching new ideas, incubating them, commercializing them, and growing them to scale.”

PracticePoint will also provide researchers with equipment capable of testing for cybersecurity problems and accessing data warehouses for the populations of their choice.

Fischer is looking forward to involving “the patients who can potentially benefit from all these advanced technologies and the companies that are really looking to solicit feedback to figure out what are the true needs of the patient population."  

"We are trying to facilitate getting patients, practitioners, researchers, and industry working together to solve problems,” he said.

PracticePoint’s focus on developing primarily patient-centered medical devices is indicative of a larger trend in health IT and innovation of encouraging patient engagement and patient empowerment.

Similarly, the Health Record Banking Alliance recently became an association member of NATE to promote patient-controlled electronic health records.

These developments supporting patient-centered health IT and EHRs signal an interest in encouraging patient engagement as a means of improving overall health outcomes.




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