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.