MIT Sloan Health Systems Initiative

HSI Seminar - Reinventing Innovation: Strategic Models for the Common Good

Dr. Margo Edmunds, health policy and health IT leader, presented a seminar on March 17, 2022, titled Reinventing Innovation: Strategic Models for the Common Good. Healthcare problems are multi-faceted and are often best addressed by a collaboration of a variety of stakeholders, Edmunds commented. Rather than talk in generalities, she gave three examples of multi-sector collaborations in which she has played a role.

The group of global tech companies that started Continua in 2006 were motivated to address interoperability challenges. They focused on three connected health markets: personal health and fitness, chronic health conditions, and smart homes for aging in place. The result of their work is an end-to-end Information and communications technology framework based on open standards.

Standardization was also the focus of the second effort Edmunds spoke about, the Gravity Project, which was initiated in November 2018 with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In this case, the focus is “consensus driven standards on social determinants of health”. Rather than industry, the group behind the first example, the Gravity Project is the brainchild of public health practitioners and some primary care clinicians. They first worked on standardization for food insecurity and food deserts, housing, and transportation. By now, there are several working groups, and anyone is invited to join their weekly meetings. See here for the schedule.

The third example is an organization headed by an MIT alumna Dr. Elizabeth Sawin. Her approach is to solve multiple problems at the same time. The Multisolving Institute, which became public in February 2022, strives to make every dollar count and to have every investment serve toward the solution to more than one problem.

During the discussion period, many people brought up barriers to effective problem-solving when collaborators may have different incentives and norms. Challenges raised ran the gamut from “lack of imagination” to “properly calculating ROI”. Collaboratively addressing healthcare issues is messy and unwieldy. Yes, the problems are so big and growing so fast that these sorts of collaborations are needed to make real headway.