On March 25th, the MassChallenge and greater innovation communities convened virtually at the COVID-19 Innovation Summit. Attendees heard how public and private leaders, and MassChallenge innovators are tackling the pandemic head-on and presenting innovative solutions that will impact the world. This article contains some key insights from the Summit. If you missed out and are interested in viewing the entire Summit, you can watch a complete recording on YouTube and see a full list of speakers on the event page.
1) IT TAKES COMMUNITY, COLLABORATION, AND INNOVATION NOW MORE THAN EVER TO ADDRESS THE PANDEMIC
Ending the COVID-19 pandemic must be done through collaboration. It requires cooperation from all parts of the ecosystem: governments, NGOs, and the private sector. During the Summit, speakers highlighted the steps to address the pandemic by these stakeholders.
Brian Anderson of MITRE Corporation shared updates from the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a private-industry led response to COVID-19 that brings together healthcare organizations, technology firms, nonprofits, academia, and startups. It coordinates their collective expertise, capabilities, data and insights to flatten the pandemic’s curve in order to preserve the healthcare delivery system.
Margaret Boudreaux of Harvard Medical School shared insights into the steps that governments are taking, noting that policy will be key to supporting public health frameworks for combatting the pandemic. Additionally, Vanessa Kerry of Seed Global Health offered tips for organizations that can support the front lines. “It is critically important that we have a well-trained, robust, and well-distributed health workforce to address COVID both in terms of surveillance and monitoring and in terms of caring for infected individuals,” Kerry explained.
Juliette Kayyem of Grip Mobility focused on ways we can address COVID-19 and innovate during this crisis. “There has been really good NGO and private-sector organization” and encouraged attendees to visit the American Enterprise Institute’s COVID-19 Action Tracker.
Rob Jennetten of OSF HealthCare and Blake Marggraff of CareSignal, fka Epharmix and MassChallenge HealthTech 2018 alum, highlighted their work to connect individuals with resources and knowledge around symptoms and their safety. “It’s important to care for patients across the continuum, and we were excited to partner together. It took a simple phone call for us to kick off the project and meet the needs of our community,” Jennetten highlighted. Jennetten and Marggraff grew their relationship through the MassChallenge HealthTech program.
Marggraff emphasized the importance of healthcare organizations to invest in innovation now more than ever. “Organizations need to know that they can lean in and collaborate with health tech innovators. There is so much potential and opportunity to do amazing things together and impact people in a greater way.”
2) WE NEED TO BE BETTER AT CARING FOR PATIENTS WITH COVID-19 AND THOSE WHO ARE AT RISK
No one can hide from COVID-19. Both young and old are at risk of contracting and spreading the virus. While society keeps physical distance from one another, how can it care for people with COVID-19 or those feeling isolated?
Charlotte Yeh of AARP shared a personal story about the struggles she faces with caring for her elderly parents, highlighting a hard reality that many are facing. Yeh called attention to AARP Community Connections, a platform launched in partnership with their MassChallenge HealthTech 2019 partner-startup The Mighty to support the elderly community in their fight against the pandemic. Yeh underscored the importance of contacting your loved ones by phone call or any form of technology such as FaceTime or Skype.
As the news continues to emphasize the speed at which the virus is moving, individuals are grasping to understand how and why COVID-19 is moving at such a swift pace. John Brownstein of Boston Children’s Hospital shared how his team launched HealthMap to help uncover early symptoms and collect data to better understand where COVID-19 is impacting communities.
Brownstein also discussed the opportunities and challenges around keeping those on the front lines (physicians, nurses, etc.) safe. Dr. Jennifer Joe of Vanguard Health seconded the need to make personal protective equipment available for doctors, especially since she herself would soon be the sole emergency room doctor on call at her local VA Hospital. “We need to focus on de-risking those on the front line while still bringing in and caring for COVID patients,” she noted.
Furthermore, Meg Barron of the American Medical Association discussed the need for the U.S. administration to provide more test kits. She also shared news about the recent release of a “Caring for Your Caregiver Guide,” which will help physicians understand the day-to-day challenges and risks of burnout faced by caregivers.
3) COMBATTING UNCERTAINTY AND FEAR AROUND THE PANDEMIC
The world has drastically changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing stress and uncertainty for many. Unemployment is on the rise, students are forced off campus and out of the classroom, and numerous small businesses struggle with the rapid decrease of customers following government-mandated shutdowns to prevent the spread of disease.
The economic turmoil and medical uncertainty will likely persist for weeks into months. Yet society can pull through these challenges as Alan Gilbert of Anthem, Inc explained, “we need to work to safeguard employees, and people need to support their families and those in hospitals as well.”
With social distance impacting individuals as they work from home or balance work with family, Alexandra Drane of Rebel Health and ARCHANGELS shared feedback on how all of us can do better in supporting one another. “We should be doing everything we can to connect with people whether its writing letters, thanking employees in retail and doctors, to talking to loved ones on the phone. Yet, at the same time, there are those who don’t have as much access to technology. We must think about how we can support them as well.”
Both Gilbert and Drane emphasized that there needs to be a greater understanding in how the world has changed and as humans we must adapt to such change while navigating the current uncertainties we may face on the daily. We will survive, yet the current crisis is an opportunity for us all to come together, innovate, and fight together.
4) STARTUPS ACROSS THE INNOVATION ECOSYSTEM SHARE THEIR SOLUTIONS
We are seeing a spike in innovators who are working rapidly to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. During the Summit, we featured various innovation spotlights of startups within the MassChallenge ecosystem and their solutions. The startups who presented at the Summit included:
1upHealth: 1upHealth has developed a FHIR platform that provides data access to patients and organizations. Presented by Doug Williams and Khristina Butenko, 1upHealth is tackling COVID-19 in three main areas with the goal of improving data access and supporting patients and providers.
Buoy Health: Buoy Health, presented by CEO Andrew Le, launched COVID-19 triage capabilities within their AI health assistant platform to the American public. Their goal is to help people figure out if they are sick, and provide insight into what steps to take if they are.
Dock Health: Dock Health was founded out of the CEO’s frustrations with administrative burnout within the healthcare industry. To combat the pandemic, Dock Health’s CEO Michael Docktor shared how they have built a platform to help teams work better together and collaborate along with guidance from the CDC.
Edmit: Edmit’s mission is to help families make smarter college decisions. Seth Brecher, Head of Partnerships & Customer Success, shared how their platform is offering expert advice for the community, including online learning and support for families who are still expected to pay college tuition.
Ompractice: Ompractice is the leading platform for live online yoga via two-way video. Sam Tackeff, COO of Ompractice, explained how they are working to support studios and instructors who have been forced to close their doors due to COVID, and are also accelerating work with insurers and companies looking to provide remote yoga as a benefit for their employees.
Orbita: Orbita is a conversational AI platform that offers a suite of solutions. Kristi Ebong, Orbita’s SVP of Corporate Strategy, highlighted how they have rolled out various products to support the elderly and under-resourced patients.
Pinkaloo: Pinkaloo is a fintech startup that is looking to democratize philanthropy and charitable giving. Even though social distancing is preventing us from supporting businesses in person, Pinkaloo’s CEO Gideon Taub, shared ways people can use technology to fundraise and give back to their communities from home via.
Rendever: Rendever’s mission is to overcome social isolation and loneliness through VR. Grace Andruzkiewicz, Rendever’s Director of Marketing & Partnerships, announced their recent launch of a friendship volunteer network for people to give each other quick phone calls to increase community building and reduce loneliness during the pandemic.
Stratyfy: Stratyfy, led by CEO Laura Kornhauser, is a fintech startup that helps businesses combine data to make more informed decisions. During COVID-19, Stratyfy is using data from past crises to transform these insights and help businesses make real-time decisions.
Tembo.Health: Tembo Health is a telemedicine startup that partners with nursing homes to provide residents with the care they need in hard to access specialties like psychiatry and cardiology. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Tanya Perkins, Tembo Health’s COO, shared how the company is working on several initiatives which allow nursing home residents to stay connected while staying safe and healthy.
UDoTest: UDoTest is developing a B2B at-home lab testing software platform. Presented by CEO Allison Martin, they are currently matching nation-wide labs that have at-home, self-collection COVID-19 testing capacity with physicians.
XRHealth: XRHealth is looking to bring telehealth and remote monitoring to the fight against COVID-19. Presented by CEO Eran Orr, they are conducting virtual reality treatments to support patients within the safety of their homes.
If you are an organization with a solution addressing COVID-19, please complete our COVID-19 Innovator Survey. We will be launching a comprehensive list of solutions soon.
4) RESOURCES FROM ORGANIZATIONS FIGHTING COVID-19
Learn more about the various resources by organizations that are addressing COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a solution that we can share, please contact us!
For coordinated efforts and aggregated resources:
- COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition by MITRE Corporation
- COVID-19 Action Tracker by the American Enterprise Institute
For aging populations:
- Caring for the Caregiver by the American Medical Assocation
- AMA quick guide to telemedicine in practice by the American Medical Association
COVID-19 tracking resources:
- Healthmap by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Workplace productivity resources:
- Supply chain resilience by Accenture
- Human resilience by Accenture
- Productivity in Uncertain Times through the Elastic Digital Workplace by Accenture
Other resources available here.