HITLAB’s Breakthrough Alliance Challenge opens doors and windows for innovative start-ups

HITLAB TEAM • May 5, 2023

For over twenty years, HITLAB has been a pioneer in the advancement of digital health research, strategy, and education. In 2016, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) partnered with HITLAB to launch the Digital Health Breakthrough Network (DHBN) as part of its broader efforts to facilitate growth in New York City’s healthcare and life sciences sectors. HITLAB now independently operates this program and continues providing rapid solution verification services to the digital health ecosystem. Renamed the Breakthrough Alliance, through a series of regular challenge events, HITLAB has been helping innovative start ups bridge the gap to industry-leading companies. 

HITLAB has hosted nearly 20 challenges and worked with over 50 BTA Challenge winners spanning 9 years. The BTA Challenge winners receive insights and analysis of their products and services from HITLAB, as will as opportunities to showcase their companies in Symposium and Summit presentations. The exposure and diffusion that the companies receive can be invaluable, opening up doors to networking, investors, strategy, development and research.  

Many of the BTA Challenge winners express that the exposure they have experienced since being named a BTA Challenge winner has been extremely helpful. Following the Challenge appearance and subsequent Symposium presentations, several report being contacted by various individuals and companies and many of those contacts being very fruitful. Rhaeos CEO Anna Lisa Somera noted that “the new spotlight on Rhaeos has been super helpful, especially as we prepare to launch new pilot studies.” BTA Challenge winners have access to the recordings of their symposium presentations and utilize these to further “advertise” their products and platforms, attracting investors and customers. 

In addition to the exposure, BTA Challenge winners receive a research study, designed and executed by HITLAB’s research staff in conjunction with the company to address their real research needs. The process begins with a discussion of their current research question(s) or areas where there are gaps in data, and then proceed to developing a hypothesis unique to their company. The research study can come in the form of a user experience, narrative analysis, acceptability, or usability, which is generated around the needs of the Challenge winner.  

For BTA Challenge winner Mammha, this was real world user data. Founder and CEO Maureen Fura had data on the benefits of her platform for the end user, the patient, but little to no data on benefits for the clinicians who adopt the platform into their practice. “Being able to choose what I could get more data on was key. We have been wanting to get data on physician user experience. Nobody’s looking at that across the board, let alone how this digital health solution impacts their workflow. So that is so exciting and I and I can’t wait to start to use that to leverage just to make a lot of noise about it. This study proved what I knew, that we get care to moms better and faster, but I didn’t know the physician experience and that’s a huge piece of it.” The HITLAB conducted research was not only been presented at the American Telemedicine Association national conference, but also to the Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative, and will soon be presented at an NIH Symposium on maternal mental health. 

HITLAB’s Spring 2022 Challenge winners WellBrain, their research study centered around the recent release of a significant update to their clinician and patient-facing platforms. HITLAB completed a comprehensive heuristic analysis on the platforms. Heuristic evaluation, sometimes referred to as heuristic analysis, is a common usability inspection method for digital solutions that helps to identify usability problems. It involves usage of appropriate, detailed and creative personae to ensure the digital platform is used in full potential.  


Results of the heuristic analysis uncovered problem areas that could be addressed immediately to make the platform more user-friendly, as well as key areas for future functionality and longer term development. WellBrain expressed pleasure and gratitude for not only the results of the study, but the entire experience as well. WellBrain’s Head of Growth and Strategy Susan DiGiaimo statedI just wanted to thank you for everything. This usability study is very helpful for us and we will just put it in our arsenal that we did do a usability study with HITLAB because your organization has a lot of merit. So I think that’s good. It’s all good.”  


Beyond the specific research study results, the overall experience of being named a BTA Challenge winner is quite often a positive “shot in the arm” for many of these startups. Mammha Founder and CEO Maureen Fura expressed that winning the BTA Challenge has been beneficial in immeasurable ways. “So I would say the first thing it does is it gives you this affirmation when you’re running your startup. And that might not seem like a lot, but it’s validation. You can see what you’re doing, but you don’t know if it’s resonating out in the world and it’s hard. Doing this is hard work and it’s great work, but it’s really hard because you have your vision and you know what it looks like. This just gives you that fuel. This gave me the fuel that I need to take me to the next level and I really needed the fuel because you have to do. A lot of pitching and you just don’t know if it is going to be successful. And so I leverage this experience when I’m feeling like it’s getting harder.” 

BTA Spring 2023 Challenge

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