Get to know: The "PULSE" of Boston's Digital Health Community

By definition a pulse is the regular throbbing of arteries, cause by successive contractions of the heart. More simply put, a pulse is life. A pulse is movement. Is the body alive and working? Is it able to move, grow and thrive?

If you haven’t heard about PULSE@MassChallenge, then you are missing the “PULSE” of digital innovation in Boston. As a champion organization to PULSE, the Brigham Health iHub team  pitched this past Wednesday at the monthly PULSE CHECK. Learn more about the PULSE program below.

2017-05-01 pulse horizontal.png

What is PULSE@MassChallenge?

PULSE@MassChallenge is a startup-friendly digital health lab and program. This program aims to connect entrepreneurs to industry experts, partners and resources to advance their ideas and solutions.

Where did the idea for PULSE come from?

“The initiative [for PULSE] started four years ago,” stated CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Jeff Leiden, MD, PhD. “How could we make Massachusetts as competitive in digital health as we are in life sciences?” The Greater Boston area is not only filled with some of the nation’s best hospitals and life sciences companies, but colleges and universities as well. It only made sense to bring together these local minds and highlight Boston as one of the top cities for digital health innovation. With support from the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) and Massachusetts Competitive Partnership (MACP), PULSE@MassChallenge was born.

This year we hope to be the ‘clinical leg of the stool’ together with another champion – perhaps industry or a payer,” said Hardy.

Why is the Brigham Health iHub excited to be a partner champion again this year?

“The first year, we looked to PULSE to help us pre-vet solutions,” said Innovation Strategy Manager Bev Hardy. This gave iHub more time to focus on moving initiatives forward instead of researching companies. “This year we hope to be the ‘clinical leg of the stool’ together with another champion – perhaps industry or a payer,” said Hardy. “The problems we’re trying to solve are multi-faceted: it’s not just about the challenge and digital solution, but also the business model, evidence of effectiveness, or enterprise implementation strategy. Together with another champion, we can have a force-multiplier effect on a startup’s impact.”

What impact has PULSE had thus far?

In its first year the PULSE team chose the top digital health startups out of a pool of 439 applicants from over 20 different countries. Demand from both applicants and area champions far outstripped the PULSE team’s original expectations: there were over 30 startup-champion matches, and Brigham Health was one of those champions. In addition, three iHub alumni were part of the 2017 startup cohort: Cake, Herald Health and Twiage (winner of the 2017 PULSE Platinum Award).

Elizabeth Asai, CEO of 3Derm, spoke about her experience in the PULSE program: “As we were preparing our final presentation, we realized some of our greatest achievements during the program came about from the craziest connections; like an attendee who was at a PULSE event introduced us to his wife, who then became our physician champion, who then introduced us to an admin at another health system, who had just seen us present at a PULSE event.”

Brad Diephuis, MD, co-founder of Herald Health and currently on leave from residency at Brigham and Women’s, had a similar experience. “The PULSE program was great for Herald Health. Most importantly, it introduced us to two new partners: Children's Hospital and Cerner. Through these partnerships, we built out our product and demonstrated that while our roots were at Brigham and Women’s, we had the ability to bring our technology to other medical centers,” said Diephuis.

So, what's next for the digital health community here in Boston?

“It takes a community to raise a digital health startup. My hope is that we can convince both Boston and the world, that by working together, we can truly change this industry for the positive.”

“Our definition of Digital Health is the convergence of digital and genomic technologies with health, healthcare, living, and society to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery. But it is so much more than that to me and the PULSE team,” explained PULSE Operations Manager Nina Kandilian. “The efficiencies created by health technologies have the potential to have a profound impact on patients, providers and the industry; and I truly believe it is a revolutionary time to be working in this industry.”

“In the short term I believe all stakeholders must embrace innovation as a major tool in transforming digital health,” says Kandilian. “It takes a community to raise a digital health startup. My hope is that we can convince both Boston and the world, that by working together, we can truly change this industry for the positive.”

To prove that something is alive and thriving starts with checking the pulse. Digital health innovation is no exception. Within the digital health community here in Boston, this PULSE lies in the Longwood Area: together with PULSE@MassChallenge, it is the goal of Brigham Health and our iHub to keep making it stronger.

ICYMI: Brigham Health adopts innovaton platform to enable acceleration of digital health solutions