This summer, I had the honor of working with the MassChallenge HealthTech (MCHT) team as the Special Projects Intern. Some of my responsibilities throughout my internship included working with the MCHT Champions, sourcing startups for our 2021 program and Champion Demo Days, and supporting Champions to record their 2020 Reverse Pitches. It has truly been an invaluable opportunity for me to gain firsthand insight into the process of healthcare innovation and the necessity of startup-corporate collaboration.
As a young woman who plans to pursue a career in healthcare, I wanted to learn more from the Champions about their experiences working in the industry. I had the opportunity to speak with Meg Barron, the Vice President of Digital Health Strategy at the American Medical Association (AMA) and a member of the MCHT Board of Advisors.
Below are some of the takeaways from our eye-opening conversation about her career at the AMA, her perspective on healthcare innovation, and the value of the AMA’s partnership with MCHT.
Who is Meg Barron?
Throughout her career, Barron has worked at the intersection of business and healthcare. Formerly in consulting and marketing roles, Barron started at the AMA as a Marketing Strategist for Physician Segments. Her passion for healthcare initially brought her to the organization, but her desire to improve the healthcare system has kept her driven in her role.
“It’s such a large, mission-driven organization that is able to make impact across different sectors of healthcare. I really enjoy thinking about healthcare from a strategic lens since it allows me to think about ways to create change,” explained Barron.
Over her ten-year career at the AMA, Meg transitioned from marketing to product development, and finally, to her leadership role working with the Digital Health Strategy team, where she collaborates with healthcare accelerators. She shared with me the AMA’s reasons for partnering with healthcare accelerators. “It’s important for us to help startups provide the physician, and really patient, voices to any new developing solution.” Throughout our conversation, I was in awe of her clear and contagious excitement about the future of healthcare innovation.
How do we center users’ voices in healthcare innovation?
I wanted to understand how someone working in healthcare thinks about the innovation process.
Over the course of her career, Barron has been able to think creatively about healthcare innovation. She emphasized the importance of incorporating the end user throughout the innovation process in our conversation. For example, Barron described that “first and foremost, I want to hear directly from physicians and patients what their key requirements are for adopting new solutions, and why or why not.” Central to her strategy is the need to understand and prioritize the needs of physicians and patients.
One of the ways the AMA incorporates the physician voice is through their Physician Innovation Network, which connects entrepreneurs and physicians. Barron emphasizes how research is necessary to allow the AMA to represent “the voices of physicians and patients across specialties and across geographic regions”.
Rather than self-diagnose the problems with the healthcare system, Barron uses the AMA’s unique reach to consult physicians, nurse practitioners, vendors, patients, health system executives, and all members of a care team. Ultimately, her team wants to make sure that innovative solutions are impactful and used in practice.
How has COVID-19 impacted telehealth and healthcare innovation?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AMA conducted research on the emerging adoption of telehealth solutions. According to their recent report, telehealth adoption rates doubled 14- 28% between 2016 to 2019, which indicated an initial interest in telehealth solutions. I wanted to find out more about how this early promise has developed since the world went remote.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telehealth and telemedicine has skyrocketed. In fact, a recent McKinsey study found that 46% of consumers have replaced their healthcare visits with telehealth appointments. In addition, 76% of consumers demonstrated interest in utilizing telehealth going forward compared to 11% of consumers before the pandemic. Barron takes this shift in public interest as a sign that the industry is receptive to new technologies, but there is still work to do. Now that we see this rise in telehealth adoption rates, Barron wants to know, “what will be the optimal role that telehealth and remote technologies can play to augment in person care? And how can remote care be implemented most effectively?”
To begin answering this question, the AMA underwent its first Digital Health Implementation Series in 2018 around remote patient monitoring. Earlier this year, the AMA added to the Series with a new focus on Telehealth. The AMA also created a Digital Health Implementation Playbook Series as an accessible overview of best practices for utilizing digital health services within organizations.
Why should healthcare organizations work with MassChallenge HealthTech?
As an intern on the MassChallenge HealthTech team, I wanted to gain a better understanding from Meg on the value of partnering with healthtech accelerators. Her team collaborates with other accelerators and incubators such as MATTER and IDEA Labs, so I wanted to learn how MCHT differentiates from the pack. Barron described one of the benefits of working with MCHT. “One of the program’s extreme strengths is their ability to really distill the exact problems from [MCHT] partners and organizations, get granular, and identify [which startups] are succeeding within specific niche areas in the industry and to best meet their individual needs.”
Additionally, the AMA’s unique partnership with MCHT has created an opportunity to conduct research on calculating return on investment (ROI) within digital health, which has been sought to define success for both physicians and health systems. With this research, the AMA is sharing learnings to maximize success for all aspects of the healthcare system.
Furthermore, Meg highlighted the ability to think about creating value, driving impact, and supporting healthcare innovation on a national level through the AMA-MCHT partnership. She pointed out that healthcare organizations (payor, pharma, provider, etc.) need to have an element of innovation, and they can learn to think more strategically about healthcare innovation. As such, “MassChallenge HealthTech has created an easy and inclusive channel for organizations to be a part of the healthcare innovation conversation by bringing together key stakeholders across the ecosystem,” said Barron.
By partnering with MCHT, Barron and the AMA have access to an expansive ecosystem, opportunities to conduct research, and individuals that are like-minded and passionate about healthcare innovation.
Healthcare as an industry is reciprocal by nature – physicians cannot succeed without their patient’s success, and vice versa. The MCHT-AMA relationship is no different. Going forward, Barron hopes that healthcare organizations will continue to learn from one another, collaborate, and empower each other to think big and create a lasting impact on the industry.