Meet the HITLAB World Cup Finalists - Innovators Transforming Diabetes Care

One of our goals at HITLAB is to make healthcare simpler and more intuitive. We created the international HITLAB World Cup competition to improve healthcare delivery, access, and outcomes. This event identifies and supports innovators who help patients around the world manage, understand, and take part in their health. Past winners have gone on to raise over $50 million in follow-on funding and launch commercially viable products that are transforming lives.

This year’s event, the 2017 HITLAB World Cup of Voice-Activated Technology in Diabetes presented by Novo Nordisk was centered on Type 2 diabetes, a condition affecting over 422 million people worldwide. Our finalists created innovative solutions using voice-activated technology to make it easier for diabetics to manage their care. At the HITLAB World Cup, the five demos were judged on their impact, innovation, sustainability, and feasibility, with a grand prize of $50,000 going to the winner and $75,000 in total prizes.

“The finalist pool represents the most innovative thinking in digital health, specifically as it relates to voice-activated technology,” said Margaret Griffin, HITLAB Deputy Director of Ideation. “The concepts presented will unequivocally impact the lives of people living with Type 2 diabetes, and their disease management.”

Learn more about our winner and the other finalists below! 

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2017 HITLAB World Cup Winner!
helps people living with diabetes take the  next step in their diabetes health plan. This voice-activated application connects patients to personalized education and activity plans to pursue their health targets, and enables physicians to bill between-appointment care to Medicare.

There is an incredible gap between what people know they should do and the actions they take in support of their long-term health. LIGHTHOUSE helps patients close that gap, build great lifetime habits and support their broader care team in delivering the best care. Soon, we’ll be with a patient everywhere they make choices, fundamentally changing the quality of their life. We believe that the power of voice wipes away barriers of technology apprehension, literacy and language, and will be a critical influence on the long-term health of everyone.

1st Place

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My Diabetes Coach, created by Macadamian, is a cloud-based application specifically for young people with Type 2 diabetes. It provides personalized voice-enabled support to help better manage care, and integrates data from wearables and, via an AI engine, identifies patterns where a patient might need more assistance from their care team.

Type 2 diabetes is a significant and increasing burden in adolescents and young adults with the number of youth suffering from the disease expected to climb by 49% over the next 30 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patient-centered solutions like My Diabetes Coach, designed in a holistic fashion specifically for these vulnerable patients, are needed to address this issue effectively. Solutions that provide education, peer-to-peer mentorship, and coaching in a way that changes patient behavior at a young age will have a significant impact on mitigating the complications of the disease as these patients enter middle age.

2nd Place

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T2D2 is a voice-first solution empowering diabetics to manager their health independently by seamlessly integrating support into their daily routine. Offering personalized nutritional assistance and connected social support through Alexa Skills and a special chat-bot, T2D2 simplifies dietary self-management for diabetics. With an emphasis on sustainable but impactful dietary adjustments, T2D2 connects patients to healthier ingredients, habit suggestions, and portion control.

Nutrition is the first line of defense against Type 2 diabetes, but it’s hard to sustain drastic dietary changes. By making nutrition easier, T2D2 will improve health and quality of life for patients with diabetes. With a focus on nutrition, T2D2’s market can easily be expanded to the 84 million Americans with prediabetes, many of whom are highly motivated to improve glucose control. T2D2 leverages voice technology to transform complex data science into insights that feel more like magic than math when the user is in their kitchen or out to lunch.

3rd Place

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Palette redefines diabetes care and lifestyle data with its innovative smart placemat that tracks the nutritional content of your meal through biomarkers. It sends that data to physicians, where it’s incorporated into part of the treatment plan to improve overall health outcomes.

We target PwD (person with diabetes), especially those newly diagnosed, by closely working with their physicians and caregivers. Palette provides PwD users and physicians with much needed comprehensive meal and lifestyle tracking and intelligent behavior management to reduce claim costs for employers and health plans. We are excited about Palette because it synchronizes lifestyle data with biomarkers for the very first time in the industry and guides diabetes care with clear behavior and medical evidence. The voice-enabled Palette makes the intense transition of patients new to diabetes easy through seamless lifestyle integration.

4th Place


Proof is a voice-activated system powered by blockchain to support diabetic patients and their caregivers. The service supports patient-provider relationships and makes it easier for diabetics to communicate with their care team. User data is protected by decentralized electronic medical records, but remains accessible to those who need it. Following a value-based reward system, Proof distributes bitcoin for rendered services.

We recognize the difficulties of a patient being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and how it's going to impact most aspects of daily life. The quality of communication within diabetes impacts future patient self-care and well-being. Proof believes that this symbiotic relationship, where a caregiver can be a friend and patient, can pave the way for new type of value-based-care service. Through the blockchain, global patient-specific communities can all help one another and earn real money for doing so.

5th Place


HITLAB Introduces John Hammitt, New Executive Director

John Hammitt

Meet John Hammitt, HITLAB’s new executive director. John has been at the forefront of technology solutions across business and healthcare sectors for decades.

“John is a natural born global digital health leader, one of only a handful of those working in the field for the past few decades. He sees ways to innovate and improve on the status quo in everything he encounters,” said Stan Kachnowski, HITLAB chair. “From ideation and design, to execution and scale, John has decades of experience turning great ideas into reality.”

A Lifelong Innovator

Early in his 4-decade career, John brought his innovation mindset to companies as diverse as eJNJ, Morton-Thiokol, Pillsbury, and United Technologies, serving in the role of global CIO in combination with other innovation-focused responsibilities. In 1997, John entered the healthcare space and never left.

“I found the industry that inspired passion and where I could have the most positive impact on the greatest number of individual lives,” John says. From 1997 until his retirement in 2007, he held a number of leadership positions at Johnson & Johnson, in the area of healthcare innovation and leveraging technology to enhance best practices. He served as global CIO and vice president for pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, vice president for global networking and computing services and, simultaneously, as president of eJNJ, a strategic business-development company focused on finding and building new, emerging and innovative technology-based healthcare solutions for Johnson and Johnson’s family of companies.

From HITLAB Senior Fellow to Executive Director

After eJNJ, John found himself advising startups in the areas of healthcare and digital innovation. He helped lead several venture-backed startups, including Hx Technologies, and Secure-i. He founded Sunrise Advisors and also served as a board member to QuickStart Global. Additionally, along with a handful of partners, he established Healthper and UV Therapeutics.

In 2015, he joined HITLAB as a senior fellow and has played a crucial role in advising sponsors regarding best-practices for pursuing technology-enabled health innovations, helping digital health innovation teams overcome crucial barriers that add risk to their innovation strategies, and establishing ways for quickly verifying innovative healthcare ideas with evidence-based discipline.

“HITLAB is an extraordinary place where evidence-based, digital health insights help form solutions impacting lives of patients around the world,” John says. “I’m thrilled to be joining HITLAB’s leadership team during this time of accelerating growth and broadening influence. Our goal is simple: find results that through rapid market diffusion will improve the lives of as many patients as possible.”

John will make one of his first public appearances as HITLAB executive director at the 2017 HITLAB Symposium: Palo Alto, sponsored by Novo Nordisk on October 23. As one of the event’s featured speakers, John will outline his vision for the future of digital health.

“Over two decades, HITLAB has become a leading source of knowledge, insights and advice about digital technology’s influence on healthcare and patients,” John says. “Building from that foundation, I’m excited about the opportunity to accelerate HITLAB’s growth and broaden its impact.”

Join the Best in Digital Health at the 2017 HITLAB Symposium

Calling all digital health leaders, venture capitalists, and technology innovators: Registration is now open for the inaugural 2017 HITLAB Symposium: Palo Alto, sponsored by Novo Nordisk. The one-day event will be held on Monday, October 23, and focus on opportunities and obstacles in digital health diffusion.

Event topics will cover ever-advancing digital health areas including augmented reality, mental health, personalized medicine, robotics, machine learning, and more. The overarching theme will be leveraging technology to accelerate the diffusion of digital health, something that pushes us forward at HITLAB. By assembling speakers from leading organizations like Google, Amazon, Novo Nordisk, and more, we’ll be able to cultivate conversation around diffusion in an intimate, non-promotional setting.

“Palo Alto is the perfect venue to discuss the merger of technology and digital health,” said Dr. Nishita Rai, HITLAB executive director. “Companies that have a stake in digital health, from nimble startups to the largest technology organizations, are beginning to focus on diffusion, benefiting patients, consumers, and hospitals alike. It’s encouraging to see the industry as a whole heading in this direction.”

“Novo Nordisk is excited to be in Palo Alto to explore the many ways digital health solutions can make a positive impact for patients,” said Amy West, Senior Director, Patient Centric Marketing & Digital Health Innovation, Novo Nordisk. “Through our sponsorship of the 2017 HITLAB Symposium, we aim to raise awareness of innovation in the digital health space and its potential to connect patients with industry-leading treatments and technology solutions that may improve their lives.” Follow the button below to view a complete speaker list, event details, and register for the 2017 HITLAB Symposium: Palo Alto, sponsored by Novo Nordisk.

Follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for event updates, including new speakers and topics!

If you won’t be venturing to Palo Alto in October, the symposium is only the beginning of our fall event season, which leads into the fourth annual HITLAB Summit and World Cup (prizes totaling $75,000) in NYC.


The Future of Sports Technology and its Promise for Healthcare

Athletes train their bodies for years to become masters of their sport—to make every jump, hit, and catch appear effortless. Every day, millions of Americans tune in to watch fantastical performances by individuals at the top of their respective fields, in peak physical condition. Yet, while we laud athletic sacrifice in terms of restricted social lives, diet, and family time for the sake of “the game,” we often fail to acknowledge that, despite physical appearances, athletes also sacrifice physical self-care in order to attain—and sustain—the highest levels of elite performance. Injuries are “shaken off,” unreported, or downright ignored by athletes and coaches alike.

Recent research has shown that injury underreporting—particularly “non-visible” injuries such as concussions—is prevalent in athletes as young as high school.[i] Motivations for underreporting are complex, but fear of physician-mandated sidelining, resulting in missed practice and game time, has been identified as a major driver of this phenomenon.[ii] Athletes are thus presented with an intractable dilemma: how to ensure that their bodies are fit for competition, without sacrificing the practice time needed to sustain and hone their specific skill sets? (This question becomes particularly important when their performance is tied to income, or the promise of future income.)

Profile of 4 Sport Technology Innovations and Their Potential Impact on Athlete Health

To address this question, the Washington D.C.-based think tank New America hosted a panel on March 23, 2017 entitled “Can Technology Make Sports Safer?” The panel, hosted by New Yorker staff writer Nicholas Schmidle, profiled four innovative technologies that aim to reduce athlete injury risk and facilitate recovery without forgoing precious practice minutes. The first technology attempts to reduce injury risk during football practice, where players need to learn hard-hitting plays and sustain multiple high-impact tackles as the drill is repeated. The Mobile Virtual Player (or “MVP”) is a motorized tackle dummy that allows players to simulate live tackling without injuring one another in practice. The dummy is fully padded, and can be set to the appropriate playing speed (reaching 20 mph). Controlled by a remote, the MVP can also simulate human motion, allowing players to practice footwork, cutting, blocking, and smart tackling. Practicing against a robotic target reduces injury risk resulting from fatigue that occurs after multiple repetitions. Finally, practicing with the MVP also has the potential to encourage safe tackling during games, as the fundamentals of tackling can be cultivated in a simulated environment without the risk of teammates becoming injured while players develop their skills. 

The MVP in action. (Image courtesy of

The MVP in action.

(Image courtesy of


The second technology profiled aims to help coaches and trainers more effectively monitor and identify athlete injuries. Catapult Sports combines wearable sensors and GPS technology to monitor athlete speed and micro-movements, in order to precisely track athlete performance. For example, the OptimEye S5, a monitoring device developed for elite athletes who play outdoor sports, processes 1,000 data points per second. Using this system, coaches are not only able to pinpoint areas for improvement, but also identify potential or emerging injuries, mitigating risks of athlete underreporting. For example, if the coach detects that a player is reacting slightly slower than their average speed, this can indicate a potential injury (such as a hamstring pull that has not yet been reported) or perhaps a psycho-social factor (such as pre-game nerves or other outside stress) that needs to be addressed. Additionally, Catapult’s sensors can help track injury recovery, letting athletic trainers know when an athlete is healthy enough to return to play or if an athlete’s training needs to be modified so as to not place undue stress on the injury.

Catapult’s OptimEye S5 (Image courtesy of

Catapult’s OptimEye S5
(Image courtesy of


The third technology discussed on the panel uses virtual reality (VR) to reduce injury risk during practice and support athlete recovery. STRIVR Labs has developed a headset that places athletes in an immersive VR environment simulating the practice field, allowing them to practice strategies, reactions, and repetition without placing additional stress on their bodies. Cameras positioned on the field can capture a play at every angle, and by using STRIVR’s VR goggles athletes can then be re-immersed in that setting once they leave the field. This allows injured athletes to hone their skills while cutting down on strenuous repetitions, preventing them from over-practicing before they return to full health. In certain high-contact sports such as football, drill repetitions during practice can be limited by players’ associations, so this allows for additional practice time while limiting the risk of fatigue-induced injury.

STRIVR’s virtual reality in action (Image courtesy of

STRIVR’s virtual reality in action

(Image courtesy of


The fourth technology is a shock-absorbing football helmet, designed by University of Michigan mechanical engineers. Current football helmets are designed based on the highest amount of force they can endure. However, Michigan researchers argue that protecting against impulse—the energy that affects an object after it is hit, or how the energy is dissipated through the helmet—is key to creating a helmet that adequately protects against brain injuries. Through a series of simulations, researchers found that the helmet prototype, called “Mitigatium,” reduced the impulse of an impact to a mere 20 percent of the impulse affecting current helmets.

A cross-section of the Mitigatium helmet (Image courtesy of

A cross-section of the Mitigatium helmet

(Image courtesy of


Potential Impact of These Technologies on Healthcare and Community Health

In addition to making practice safer for athletes, there is great potential for these technologies to have a positive impact on healthcare delivery. Catapult’s wearable sensors allow for the detection of minute deterioration or improvement in athlete performance, and can potentially be used to track recovery and the effects of therapy among patients who have experienced an accident or a traumatic event. It can also be used to track the progressive effects of certain chronic conditions on patient health and mobility.

Virtual reality has already been incorporated into certain aspects of clinical care: Behavioral Associates, a mental health provider located in Manhattan, uses virtual reality to help treat patients suffering from flight anxiety. By incorporating STIVR’s capacity to translate high-definition gameplay footage into VR, physical therapists may be able to create simulated scenarios, encouraging patients to practice specific exercises that facilitate their recovery.

While it may not seem obvious how a tackle robot can support patient care, its capacity to move like an athlete’s opponent means that it could have a large potential impact on sports medicine research. In the future, it would be amazing to see the MVPs integrate with AI technology to predict and react to an athlete’s movements. These “smart” MVPs could potentially be used in research hospitals to reconstruct injury scenarios, allowing researchers to gauge strength of tackle, angle of impact, and how a player would go to the ground—this could aid both diagnostics and product safety testing, such as simulation testing for the Mitigatium helmet.

Perhaps the biggest impact that these technologies could have on community health is their potential to reduce youth injury risk while still allowing children and young adults to enjoy the healthy benefits of sport, such as physical activity, learning through play, and developing good sportsmanship. According to the panel, most injuries among high school and college athletes occur during practice. Studies have also shown that high school and collegiate athletes have already developed an attitude of “playing through” an injury, sometimes despite previous educational interventions about the impact of concussions.[iii] As panelists noted, “your toughest players are the ones who underreport” and coaches and players alike struggle with how to practice safely without making themselves “weak” against an opponent. Technological innovations such as the MVPs and Mitigatium helmets make high-contact sports safer, reducing youth injury risk by promoting safer game behaviors without fundamentally changing the game itself. Also, Catapult’s wearable sensors can allow coaches to notice small changes and start a conversation with their players about what may be affecting their ability to practice that day—be it situations on or off the field—even with the “tough” players who may be hesitant to admit that they are struggling. Finally, STRIVR’s goggles would help young athletes feel that just because they are injured, they are not “sidelined” from being involved with their team.

However, many of these technologies have a high price tag, making it difficult for them to impact the young, developing minds who need the most protection. While the innovations profiled here have seen early adoption among NFL, Rugby, NCAA Division I, and elite European soccer teams, they are still unaffordable for many high school athletic departments, community recreation groups, AAU, or other youth leagues. Innovation, then, needs to take place in both the technological and business spaces. Creative business models and partnerships to bring the price point of these products to a level affordable for these groups would have a significant impact on youth safety, health, and development through sports.



[i] Register-Mihalik, J. K., Guskiewicz, K. M., McLeod, T. C. V., Linnan, L. A., Mueller, F. O., & Marshall, S. W. (2013). Knowledge, Attitude, and Concussion-Reporting Behaviors Among High School Athletes: A Preliminary Study. Journal of Athletic Training48(5), 645–653.; McDonald, T., Burghart, MA, Nazir, N. (2016). Underreporting of Concussions and Concussion-Like Symptoms in Female High School Athletes. Journal of Trauma Nursing, 23(5), 241-6.


[ii] Kerr, Z. Y., Register-Mihalik, J. K., Kroshus, E., Baugh, C. M., & Marshall, S. W. (2016). Motivations associated with non-disclosure of self-reported concussions in former collegiate athletes. The American Journal of Sports Medicine44(1), 220–225.


[iii] Kurowski B., Pomerantz WJ., Schaiper C., Gittelman MA.(2014). Factors that influence concussion knowledge and self-reported attitudes in high school athletes. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 77(3 Suppl 1), S12-7.; Asken, B. M., McCrea, M. A., Clugston, J. R., Snyder, A. R., Houck, Z. M., & Bauer, R. M. (2016). “Playing Through It”: Delayed Reporting and Removal From Athletic Activity After Concussion Predicts Prolonged Recovery. Journal of Athletic Training51(4), 329–335.






Innovator Spotlight: Subhasish Sircar, PhD, Founder & CEO, Health Vectors, Grand Prize Winner, 2017 HITLAB Innovators Summit: India

What would propel a successful immigrant—having spent 30 years on American shores achieving one milestone after another (an engineering PhD from Michigan State University; an MBA from The Wharton School; leadership positions at Lockheed Martin, NASA, Alcoa, GE, and Masco; 20+ patents, and more) to leave such lucrative career opportunities behind, return to his homeland of India, and found a startup?

For Subhasish Sircar, it was the loss of a friend—a young 32-year old man who was “like a younger brother to me”—that “shook” him to his core…a phone call saying Sauptik “is no more,” having died a mere ten minutes after the onset of CVD-related complications.

Sauptik took good care of himself and, while he may have had a few bad habits, and a family medical history with some issues of note, death at age 32 was by no means inevitable. He did health checks at every birthday; the last one had been a mere two months earlier.

Upon hearing the tragic news, Dr. Sircar dropped everything and returned to India on indefinite leave for some “soul-searching: what took my friend’s life away?” It was his intention to solve a problem, to see whether anything could have been done to save Sauptik. The result? Health Vectors, winner of the 2017 HITLAB World Cup: India.

Sauptik left behind his mother, his wife, and a two-year old son—his void will never be filled. But Dr. Sircar began asking questions. He probed Sauptik’s physicians, saying, “He came to you for a preventive health check and you didn’t prevent anything…he is dead.”  The doctors recounted their last conversation with Sauptik, noting they had warned the young man of various risk factors.

But the more Dr. Sircar explored the notion of “preventive health check,” the more he realized the subject was misunderstood. Non-communicable, chronic diseases (NCDs) can be caught in early stages but, once diagnosed, according to Dr. Sircar, it’s really very late. From that point on, “you can only manage the disease and its progression; you’re not going to be able to prevent it.”

To prevent NCDs, you need to predict them, “way before the person shows any symptoms or clinical data indicates an issue.” And then you need to explain exactly what’s needed to avoid the affliction. “The choice is very simple. Either you detect the disease and then take medicines for the rest of your life, or use the step by step guidance that Health Vectors can provide and stave off these chronic diseases for as long as possible.”

Health Vectors is “in the business of saving lives using personal health analytics, artificial intelligence, and predictive modeling,” so that people can “live healthy with certainty.”

To motivate its customers—to bring home the reality of their health futures—Health Vectors tries to increase awareness. The company is now up and running live in 47 hospitals within India. These facilities conduct the clinical health checks, while Health Vectors performs the analytics, providing patient guidance through various tools that impart personalized, specific, preventive, and risk reduction measures. Past health, current health, family history, and lifestyle are all taken into account; algorithms are employed to calculate disease risks; and finally graphics are utilized to show not only the road ahead but also tailored choices…an action plan to help delay or avoid NCDs for which these individuals are prime candidates.

For individual subjects, using clinical and personal health data, Health Vectors creates hyper-personalized guidance solutions and delivers them through reports and apps.  For doctors and other health professionals, Health Vectors, through the use of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cognitive computing, provides medical, nutritional, and physical activity recommendations guidance.  For hospitals, Health Vectors is in the process of gleaning all data collected to create a seamless Patient Engagement Platform that will monitor patients’ health information and communicate with them.  This tool should help increase patient loyalty and retention, increasing footfalls for hospitals.

Dr. Sircar is refreshingly optimistic about the future, feeling certain that technology will someday enable an error-free partnership between physicians and machines, streamlining the diagnostic, predictive process—enabling more doctor-patient facetime in the bargain.

Health Vectors is thus working toward providing physicians with the (progressively) perfected tools they need to effectively influence patients. Targets are provided, together with the tailored steps needed to attain those targets.

We asked Dr. Sircar about the role genetics may play in Health Vectors’ assessments. He said, “Today almost 38 million people are dying due to non-communicable, chronic diseases around the world on a yearly basis. That translates to roughly 70 deaths per minute. India can boast of about six million of those deaths…approximately ten deaths per minute. So this is an epidemic and it’s only getting worse with time.

“Genetics is important, don’t get me wrong, but genetics only plays a small role (10-11%) in many of these NCDs. The rest is what you do to yourself.”

Family history is requested which, in essence, provides genetic information without going to the often substantial expense of genetic coding. Health Vectors has built a model that acknowledges family issues, and may evolve as technologies are refined, but takes many other important factors into account. For example, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases all have a genetic component, but lifestyle is even more impactful, and personalized solutions can have a big effect.

Today Health Vectors is collecting roughly about 100,000 data points daily with an immediate goal and visibility of 800,000 data points daily.  Health Vectors’ data holds promise not only for individuals with its customized suggestions, but also for companies and communities that may benefit by its population-oriented insights and evolving algorithms. As time goes by, and its data accumulates, the company will be able to add to the ever-expanding knowledge base in the tech community.  The goal is to move from an “expert driven model” to a “data driven model.”

Dr. Sircar is filled with excitement about Health Vectors’ future and the company is in the process of raising funds. One product in development: a “dynamic automated planner” mobile app (that can couple with wearables, glucometers, etc.),  which will offer highly personalized recommendations for daily diets, exercise requirements, and more, dynamically and automatically adapting parameters such as weight, blood pressure, or sugar level shifts for diabetics.

Many in health tech are rightly inspired by IBM’s Watson. Dr. Sircar humbly explains Health Vectors’ mission is similar, except where Watson is focused on symptoms, Health Vectors is focused on the asymptomatic space, offering warnings that can truly prevent—rather than manage—disease.

Dr. Sircar has never looked back at all he left behind, because he derives so much meaning from his current mission…from making a difference in people’s lives. His passion is palpable, and was certainly felt by our judges at the 2017 HITLAB World Cup: India, who awarded Health Vectors grand prize. HITLAB was thrilled to honor its work and will look forward to following its no doubt substantial future achievements.

Health Vectors welcomes inquiries from clinics and hospitals hoping to improve the health of employees, as well as investors who see promise in its offerings. To connect with Dr. Sircar, please email

HITLAB Innovators Summit: 2016 Highlights


HITLAB Innovators Summit: 2016 Highlights

Imagine a room full of key decision-makers, all determined to improve healthcare access, delivery, and outcomes through technology. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

It was! HITLAB welcomed a vast array of healthcare stakeholders to the 2016 HITLAB Innovators Summit, held November 29 — December 1, 2016 in Columbia University’s Lerner Hall. Healthcare analysts, pharmaceutical executives, clinicians, researchers, non-profit leaders, entrepreneurs, payors, government representatives, venture capitalists, and more all contributed to a fascinating give-and-take.

As ever, Summit attendees witnessed a diverse group of experts tackle pressing healthcare challenges. Each speaker (and HITLAB World Cup finalist) contributed a unique outlook, conveyed through thought-provoking ideas, impressive creativity, and ingenious solutions—with a focus on digital health. The audience was treated to talks through every lens in the field—patients, providers, payors, non-profits,  and pharmaceutical companies all claimed a perspective—and it was wonderful to see these views converge via common themes of pain points and solutions. The highlight of the conference was no doubt the HITLAB World Cup, which featured five contenders’ brilliant inventions.


Key Themes

  • Evidence of digital health effectiveness is essential; pilot studies and other research are needed to establish proof.
  • Efficiency and effectiveness will drive future healthcare reforms.
  • Designers must consider not only the end user but also the healthcare ecosystem.
  • Digital health helps providers and insurers meet patients where they are.
  • Precision medicine means giving the right medicine to the right patient at the right time; digital tools will help refine this important ability.
  • Patient-centered care, patient engagement, and patient involvement are major focal points.
  • Developers searching for opportunities should consider integration of social services, behavioral health, patient engagement, interoperability, and workflow.

We invite you to review highlights of each presentation below, captured not only via speakers’ words and slides, but also through social media sharing…conversations that took place in Lerner Hall and around the world. We also hope this article serves as a handy resource for digital health leaders, tools, and ideas.

We look forward to hosting you again next year at the 2017 HITLAB Innovators Summit, November 28-30, Columbia University.

Deeply reduced, early bird tickets are available for a limited time at $999. To thank you for reading our blog and for your prompt commitment, please use this link by February 3, 2017 to register at the early bird rate, a savings of more than $2,000.

What would you like to see in 2017? Please share your feedback by writing

If you’re interested in speaking, sponsoring, or exhibiting, email See you at the 2017 Summit!




Day One Chair: Sarah MacArthur, MD, Director of Digital Health Innovation, NYU Langone Medical Center


Mathematical Models, Patient-Centricity, Chemical Engineering, Snake Oil, and the Future of Pharma

Glen de Vries, President, Medidata Solutions, described how technology and algorithms advance precision medicine. Among many meaningful statements, de Vries said an extended life means nothing without quality of life; math models are key to this endeavor. He offered three tips to drive health innovation:

  1. Be awesome enough and invent something.
  2. Find someone who benefits from the invention.
  3. Find someone who can afford to pay for the invention.


Views from the Top: The Digital Health Breakthrough Network

•    Jeremy Block, Managing Partner, Venture Catalyst and Executive Director, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
•    Shahriar Khan (moderator), Director, New York City Economic Development Corporation
•    James Lebret, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center and President, Lebret Consulting

The Digital Health Breakthrough Network—a New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) initiative operated by HITLAB—offers rapid validation for early-stage health tech startups by enabling them to collaborate with NYC-based healthcare providers quickly and affordably. During this discussion, members of its advisory board described the importance of evidence and data as healthcare startups search for funding and acceptance.

Aligning Incentives with Clinical Leadership in the Electronic Age

Steve Berman, Director of Business Development, Montefiore IT, addressed challenges faced by health systems as well as potential solutions such as matching incentives with outcomes, managing risk when introducing new technologies, and allowing clinicians to be entrepreneurs. 

How Biomarker Data Drives Personalized Medicine

Axel Muehlig, Manager, Statistical Programming and Analysis, Roche, discussed the growing role of biomarker data. Researchers are finding patterns and correlations that advance personalized medicine.


Developing the Best Tech for Health Systems’ Needs: The Latest Technologies from VR, to Implantables

•    Lauren McCullagh, Director of Clinical Research, Northwell Health
•    James Lebret, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center and President, Lebret Consulting
•    Molly Woodriff, Manager, HITLAB

The panel explored health systems’ tech needs, acknowledging the increasing importance of artificial intelligence (sifting through data, sending red alerts to the right person at the right time, for example). Looking forward, there may well be one international source of vetted medical information.

HITLAB Solve, an Interactive Session: 
Evaluating the Future of Wearables in Healthcare

Attendees gathered in small groups to share perspectives on key topics within digital health. Different healthcare sectors were represented at each table. Conversations started with these questions:

  1. How is your sector/various healthcare sectors including pharma, payer, provider, and health systems impacted by the adoption of fitness wearables and devices? 
  2. What do various healthcare sectors including pharma, payer, provider, and health systems want to see from fitness wearables? 
  3. How might voice-activated systems like the Amazon Alexa or Google Siri be more useful to you and other users? What do you anticipate for the future?

A Straight Talk with Jeff Kindler: CEO, Investor, and Innovator

Lois Drapin, CEO, The Drapin Group LLC, interviewed Jeff Kindler, current CEO of Centrexion and former CEO of Pfizer. Mr. Kindler said technology is a means to an end; healthcare innovation and business innovation are both needed to advance. Too often, startups fail to prepare a business model. The best leaders are those who continually learn. Mr. Kindler also said, “We know the way we’re delivering healthcare is not going to work for this generation,” a call to action for innovators. Finally, he discussed healthcare reform, noting how painful it’s been historically, and how important it will be to participate/have a seat at the table in the months ahead.


Investment Trends in Digital Healthcare

•    Milena Adamian, MD, Managing Partner, Azimuth Ventures
•    Maria Gotsch, President and CEO, Partnership Fund for New York City
•    Harsha Murthy, JD, (moderator), Managing Partner, Consummate Capital LLC

The panel discussed the importance of integrating clinical, genomic, and pharmaceutical data in order to advance digital health investment opportunities. Workflow and behavioral health are two segments that are attracting funding. Panelists noted solutions are often designed by the young and healthy; it’s important for them to listen to their customers/patients to create effective technologies.


Successful Factors for a Rapid Pilot Test: Insight from Digital Health Breakthrough Network

•    Sam Frons, Founder, Addicaid
•    Adam Kirell, Founder, Biotrak
•    Melissa Kozak, Founder, Citus Health
•    Laura Pugliese (moderator), Deputy Director, Innovation Research, HITLAB
•    Lindsey Winder, Founder, EarlyHive

Several startups described the benefits of participating in the Digital Health Breakthrough Network (DHBN) as they developed all-important pilot testing:

  • Prioritization is required, especially for startups with limited resources. For example:

            o    What are key points of interest?
            o    What metrics are needed?
            o    What are the company’s long-term goals?

  • Access to healthcare stakeholders, and exposure within the total ecosystem, is normally a great challenge; participants expressed gratitude for the opportunities afforded them by DHBN.
  • Pilot studies early in the development process help determine whether pivots are required, saving time and money.
  • Proof of effectiveness is essential for investors, customers, and startups themselves.

An HHS Update: The Government Perspective on Driving Innovation into Healthcare

Stephen Konya, Senior Innovation Strategist, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, described the many tools government provides to developers including a Mobile Apps Interactive Tool, a Patient Engagement Playbook, and more. He said until now the federal government’s IT strategic plan has been to collect data, share data, and use that data to improve patients’ experiences and reduce costs. He anticipates the focus will now be on interoperability, common standards, and cultural changes regarding information access.

How the Convergence of EHR Has Empowered Patients to Develop New Cures

Craig Lipset, Head of Clinical Innovation, Pfizer, said patients today have unprecedented access to their health data; 90% are happy to share that data to advance research (and investigators are hungry for it). But patients’ willingness to share requires trust and confidence.

The Engagement Story through Data

Tim Gilchrist, Senior Data Science Fellow, HITLAB, discussed the importance of data in debunking misleading myths. For example, many envision emergency room “abusers” in a negative light (drug addicts, for example), but in fact data shows children make up more than half of ER patients. 

Fundamentals of Trumpcare: Perception vs Reality and Implications for Digital

David Gruber, MD, Managing Director, Healthcare Industry Group, Alvarez and Marsal, offered fascinating insights on both the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and reforms to come with “Trumpcare.” He said the ACA was more about coverage than cost. Also, pre-existing conditions and high risk pools figured prominently. It was a movement toward value. We can’t change healthcare without changing the incentive system. As for President-elect Trump’s proposals so far: high risk pools remain costly, insurance over state lines won’t do much, and health savings accounts are a good idea. We can’t take coverage away from 20 million people without affecting many Trump supporters. Reform will take time, and lobbyists will have a huge impact. Efficiency and effectiveness will be key.


Day Two Chair: Christine Coyne, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, BTG Specialty Pharmaceuticals


How a Health Plan Harnesses Innovation for the Future

Karen Ignagni, CEO, Emblem Health, revealed insurers see patients from every angle, and strive to provide support with agile, flexible tech platforms. Emblem seeks to meet customers where they are, providing real-time customer service. The company is searching for tools to improve communications with both patients and providers and welcomes developers’ ideas. Opportunities abound: integration of social services, behavioral health, consumer engagement, customer experience, personalized health care, and care management.

A Payer’s View on Digital Health Innovation: Philip Cooksey, Vice President, Humana

Our own Sara Chokshi, Associate, HITLAB, interviewed Philip Cooksey, Vice President, Humana. He said digital is a core channel for meeting consumers where they are. Tech has the ability to provide integrated care delivery, creating a seamless experience for the consumer. It should also relieve the heavy administrative burden shouldered by consumers. He and his colleagues are trying to listen, then react to both consumers and providers to maximize the digital health development process.

Leveraging Social Media to Improve Healthcare Outcomes: A Twitter Story

Katie Tronger, Lead Account Executive, Health, Twitter, began by noting Twitter can predict health trends. For example, it can identify flu outbreaks faster than the Centers for Disease Control. Pharmaceutical companies are now feeling more comfortable speaking with consumers on this open platform. Twitter also helps to advance unbranded health messaging. Video is especially important; pharma is sharing patient testimonials and product claim videos to great effect.

The Future of Sensors in Hospitals, Health Insurance, and Life Sciences: Tools vs. Toys

Baabi Das, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, Zansors, described the exciting world of biosensors, which have tremendous potential in numerous areas. Can we create biosensors that will lessen pain, or reduce the need for blood draws? They may well help with disaster preparedness, sleep studies, bedsores, and more. 


Lessons Learned in Behavioral Health Innovation

  • Gary Belkin, MD, Executive Deputy Commissioner, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Oren Frank, CEO and Co-Founder, Talkspace
  • Fred Meunch (moderator), Director, Digital Health Interventions, Psychiatry, Northwell Health
  • Danish Munir, Vice President, Technology, Genoa Telepsychiatry
  • Robert Reiner, PhD, Executive Director, Behavioral Associates

This diverse panel addressed the ways in which digital tech can help providers reach and treat those suffering with mental and behavioral health challenges:

  • Telepsychiatry can increase access to mental healthcare in rural areas. Tech enables delivery of humanized care.
  • The current psychotherapy model includes many barriers to care (convenience, cost, stigma) that tech may help alleviate. 
  • Digital health tools enable providers to rethink patients’ access to assistance, change how therapy works, and provide opportunities for self-care.
  • Tech also has potential to assess effectiveness and impact.
  • Mental health is the public health challenge of the 21st century. Solutions can be amplified and improved through the creative use of technology but this is a challenging enterprise. Government can help incentivize for success.

10 Rules of Innovation for Incumbents

Ruchin Kansal, Head, Business Innovation, Boehringer Ingelheim, offered helpful tips for innovators such as:

  • Treat innovation as a discipline; invest meaningfully.
  • Follow the need; money will follow.
  • Design for the end user but consider the ecosystem.
  • Invest in partnerships – big and small.

Digital Health in the Age of Patient-Centered Care

Sara Chokshi, Associate, HITLAB and Katie Lynch, Coordinator, HITLAB delved into the important topic of patient-centered care. They explained digital health is a natural ally to patient engagement, allowing patients to be active partners in their own recoveries, leading to better outcomes. Developers would do well to consider patient-centered care in their planning.


Trends and Challenges in Digital Health Portfolios

•    Sabra Bhat (moderator), Manager, HITLAB
•    Dee Dao, PhD, Associate, Innovation Venture Fund, NYU
•    Jean-Luc Neptune, Partner, Executive Director, and Accelerator Leader, Blueprint Health
•    Sunny Parikh, Director, Partnership Fund for New York City

Digital health accelerators are driving a rich New York City ecosystem for tech and life science startups. Of note, with the recent election, digital health is a whole new ballgame, moving from the ACA’s focus on value to other areas such as Medicare. 

A Recipe for Fostering Biotech Innovation in Harlem

Samuel Sia, Co-founder, Harlem Biospace, described how his organization is fostering biotech innovation in Harlem by offering an interdisciplinary community, as well as shared expertise and equipment. 

The Importance of Digital Health Strategies in Big Pharma

  • Jim Robinson, President, Americas Operations, Astellas Pharma
  • Bob Chib, Head, Corporate Strategy, Innovation and Initiative Management Delivery, Astellas Pharma

Stan Kachnowski, Chair, HITLAB, explored digital health strategies with these illustrious pharma executives. Can we get smarter, they asked, to make sure the right patient is getting the right treatment? Astellas wants to be at the forefront of healthcare changes, proactively anticipating trends in digital health. One of the biggest challenges it faces: the sheer volume of opportunities in the field. Astellas considers whether each opportunity aligns with its overall objectives, especially concerning patient well-being. Collecting data, monitoring patients helps the company make better decisions. The next decade will be very interesting: how will we create value?

HITLAB World Cup Past Finalists - Where Are They Now? Josh Stein, CEO, AdhereTech

Shanice Bedassie, Coordinator, HITLAB, interviewed Josh Stein, whose company, AdhereTech, won the 2013 HITLAB World Cup. Its wireless pill bottle, which helps patients track when they’ve taken their meds, has markedly improved adherence. Stein was generous in his praise of the HITLAB World Cup, noting whether you win or lose, HITLAB connections and support are invaluable. 

HITLAB World Cup


EarID, Cambridge, MA

EarID screens and diagnoses ear infections with higher sensitivity and specificity than existing clinical methods. Utilizing 3D imaging and data analytics on cloud-based platforms, EarID assists in ear infection monitoring and management, minimizing antibiotic prescriptions and hours lost from work and school.

Green Sun Medical, Fort Collins, CO

Green Sun Medical is developing a tech-enabled dynamic scoliosis brace to help correct the curves of patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. The dynamic brace will continually apply the precise pressure needed to correct a curve while allowing physicians to track brace performance in real time.

MedLogiq, Hazlet, NJ

MedLogiq provides medtech with proven On-Board Diagnostics and “black box” solutions originally developed for the auto and aviation industries. The robust testing, measurement, remote monitoring, and reporting capabilities will dramatically improve performance, safety, quality, time-to-market, and profitability for any healthcare stakeholder. 

Near Infrared Imaging, Wrentham, MA

Near Infrared Imaging is developing photonics-based, non-invasive, non-contact technologies for the visualization of veins, the detection and monitoring of brain injuries and malignant cancers, and the identification of brain diseases.  

UE LifeSciences Inc., Philadelphia, PA

UE LifeSciences is on a mission to bring innovative yet highly cost and clinically-effective technologies to make cancer detection accessible in the developing world. Their flagship innovation, iBreastExam (iBE), is an ultra-portable, FDA cleared, hand-held, point-of-care device designed to enable community health workers to provide a standardized breast health exam in any setting within minutes and without any pain or radiation. 


  • Kara Dennis, MBA, MA, Vice President and Managing Director of Mobile Health at Medidata
  • Jean-Luc Neptune, MD, Partner, Executive Director and Accelerator Leader at Blueprint Health
  • Margaret Griffin, MPH, Senior Manager of Innovation Research at HITLAB
  • Stan Kachnowski, PhD, MPA, CSEP, Chair at HITLAB


  • Grand Prize ($5,000 USD): iBreastExam
  • Second Prize ($3,000 USD): Green Sun Medical
  • Third Prize ($2,000 USD): EarID  
  • Fourth Prize ($1,000 USD): Near Infrared Imaging
  • Fifth Prize: ($1,000 USD): MedLogiq 


HITLAB was honored to offer a potent platform for inspiring concepts and clever inventions. We’re looking forward to facilitating the diffusion of these important ideas, as well as collaborations between enthusiastic healthcare innovators.





Day Three Chair: Bunny Ellerin, Director, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program, Columbia Business School

Precision Cancer Medicine: A Systems Biology Approach

Andrea Califano, PhD, Founder, DarwinHealth, described advances in the molecular characterization of tumors, including compete gene sequencing of multiple cancers, which has led to targeted treatments that extend survival and improve quality of life. Dr. Califano mentioned genomes are prevalent in medicine today because they are cheap and reproducible.

The Future of Telehealth

Ray Dorsey, MD, Director, Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics, University of Rochester, told the audience telehealth is rapidly shaping the future of medicine. He described recent research regarding the use of telemedicine for those with Parkinson’s disease; patients receiving virtual house calls indicated a greater improvement in their disease. He described a “digital divide” due to social and economic factors that he deemed the biggest barrier to providing equitable care via telemedicine. 

The Evolution and Rebirth of MeYou Health

Rick Lee, CEO, MeYou Health, said it’s important to create engaging solutions. They should be personal, convenient, and friction-free. Harness the strength of social media and generate actionable information. People want convenience, explained Lee, and they will pay more for it.

Google’s Vision for Improving the Healthcare User Experience

David Silk, Senior Partner Lead, Healthcare, Google, discussed how health information is shared and consumed on mobile phones. He urged marketers and others to focus on “micro-moments,” brief opportunities to capture users’ attention. One in 20 Google searches is healthcare-related; 40% of customers will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load.  Silk’s talk was described in detail by Medical Marketing & Media. 

Advocating for the Digital Patient: Katie Kopil, PhD, Director, Research Programs, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Sabra Bhat, Manager, HITLAB, interviewed Dr. Katie Kopil, who shared critical insights for the benefit of foundations and advocacy organizations as they adopt digital health to improve healthcare outcomes. The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) is at the forefront of technology use for Parkinson’s research; witness the Fox Trial Finder, a for clinical trials recruitment. The Foundation also leverages a number of strategic partnerships aimed at improving research and treatment for Parkinson’s, including Intel Corporation. The collaboration involves a multiphase research study using big data analytics to detect patterns in data collected from wearables monitoring patients’ symptoms. MJFF is set apart for successfully converging digital solutions with healthcare while retaining focus on the patient. In fact, MJFF is also known for including patients’ representatives on their study steering committees and improving their apps through user-testing. 

A Conversation with the AMA: Sylvia J. Trujillo, JD, Senior Washington Counsel, American Medical Association

Winnie Felix, Associate, HITLAB, interviewed Sylvia Trujillo of the American Medical Association (AMA). Trujillo said the AMA is looking toward digital health in order to “prepare for the reality that by 2050, for every young person, two will be 65+.” Both patients and providers are hoping the AMA will help them sort through new technologies, to improve patient care and outcomes. The AMA is focused on electronics health record (EHR) usability and interoperability. It is looking for physician feedback via its Beta AMA Physician Innovation Network.

HITLAB Solve, an Interactive Session

How Can Digital Health Empower the Patient?

Groups explored the following questions:

  1. How are you including patients, families, and caregivers in your planning?
  2. When you go back to your offices tomorrow, what will be the first place you target within your organization to fill a need or a gap for patient input? 
  3. What challenges do you anticipate encountering when adding patients as partners at this level?
  4. At what stage of your product/process/service/practice etc. do you see the most unmet need for patient input? How do you think patient input will help or impact at this stage? 
  5. What are ways that technology can possibly address these unmet needs? These can be existing technologies or ideas.

Evidence-Based Digital Medicine: The Time is Now

Ashish Atreja, MD, Chief Technology Innovation Officer, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, described the exciting growth of healthcare innovation in the form of apps, wearables, and analytics. He emphasized the importance of proof to establish the effectiveness of new technologies: “evidence-based digital medicine.” Dr. Atreja said we need to talk about endpoints…the value of the digital health initiative for the health system as a whole. 


Driving Innovation for the 50+: Lessons Learned from Project Catalyst

•    Jennifer Draklellis, Senior Director of Innovation, UnitedHealthcare
•    Leatt Gilboa, Project Manager and External Alliances Specialist, MedStar Institute for Innovation
•    Laura Pugliese (moderator), Deputy Director, Innovation Research, HITLAB

Project Catalyst—a partnership of prominent organizations including AARP, MedStar Institute for Innovation, Pfizer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and UnitedHealthcare—has been working with HITLAB on technology research for seniors and their caregivers. Among our findings: caregivers want and need technology to deal with prescription management, home safety, and health assessment but only 7% actually use these solutions due to lack of awareness. By designing for seniors, developers will open opportunities for wider adoption by other demographics. 

VGo Robotic Telepresence

HITLAB’s Amani Sampson, Coordinator, interviewed Bern Terry about VGO, a robotic telepresence with multiple applications, such as enabling patients to see and speak with their doctors from home for virtual visits.  


Digital Innovations in the Life Sciences

•    Meg Griffin (moderator), Senior Manager, HITLAB
•    Rachel Sha, Global Central Transactions Lead, Sanofi
•    Jeremy Sohn, VP, Global Head of Digital Business Development, Novartis

Panelists discussed tech as a tool to realize better outcomes. In the future, pharma will sell not only drugs but also outcomes; therapies and services will revolve around solutions. As we evolve, remember it is ok to fail; success comes from learning why a project failed. 

eGabon: A World Bank Digital Health Initiative

Dominic Haazen, Lead Health Policy Specialist, World Bank, described the World Bank’s digital health efforts in Gabon, a country in Africa hoping to improve public health services through Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The World Bank is supporting this initiative with funding, believing the growth of a digital ecosystem—with associated information systems and eHealth applications—will not only improve health but also increase revenue, so efforts become self-sustaining.

User Centric Design and Continuous Value Creation at HITLAB

Frank Fries, Director, HITLAB, was interviewed by Domenique Harrison, Coordinator, HITLAB, about our work. He said as we build a product, it’s essential to understand what value we are delivering to the user…”always return to the user.” Developers are likely to fail if they do not consider the person at the other end; they risk alienating users. 

Addressing the Opioid Crisis: Identifying Clinical Digital Tools for Physicians

Mike Frost, MD, President and Medical Director, Frost Medical Group, discussed the Prince study, a joint effort by Frost Medical, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, and HITLAB. The study is exploring the potential utility of actigraphy for physicians in their treatment of opioid dependency, with a specific focus on the medication Probuphine and its effects on patient activity levels and sleep quality.


The Impact of Going Digital in the Majority World

•    Matthew Amsden, CEO, ProofPilot
•    Maggie Farrell, Health Development Officer, USAID
•    Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

The final panel of the Summit discussed the impact of digital tools not only on health access and interventions in the majority world, but also on broader human rights issues: as Kerry Kennedy said, talk of digital health leads to talk of democratizing…giving all a voice. Interestingly, when developers create a digital tool, addressing cultural differences is a greater challenge than bridging language barriers. The panel also raised questions concerning the U.S. election and its potential impact on women’s health and digital health in this country.

Isobel Tanner also contributed to this post.