A conversation with Together.Health

Together.Health is an organization that uses the power of community to accelerate change in healthcare. When the group isn’t hosting fireside chats and panels at some of the world’s biggest healthcare conferences, they’re busy working behind the scenes to develop standards, identify resources, and champion solutions that promise to move the entire industry forward.

Recently the group rebranded from the “Digital Health Collaborative” to Together.Health. We sat down to interview some of the team members to express our admiration for their shiny new .health domain and to get the lowdown on what they’re up to. Here’s the interview:

DH: OK, let’s start with the basics. What is Together.Health?

TH: Together.Health is a collaborative group of accelerators, incubators, government organizations, and community leaders – including Capital Factory in Austin, Cambia Grove in Seattle, MassChallenge in Boston, TMCX in Houston, and more. Each organization is on the ground in their own area of the country and, at the same time, we all share a passion and enthusiasm for accelerating health innovation. Check out the video below to hear from founding co-chair Stephen Konya as he describes the mission of Together.Health:

DH: Why is community so important to innovation in healthcare?

TH: Innovation is fast-paced. Healthcare, not so much. So, it takes a village. Everyone has a different viewpoint when working in healthcare – the startups, the pharma communities, all of the big players, the government, investors, and thought leaders.

You have to understand everyone’s pain points, everyone’s successes, and bring all of those perspectives together. Only then can you understand the entire landscape, and how to work together to drive change.

DH: So, how does that happen through Together.Health exactly?

TH:  We coordinate different events at some of the biggest health conferences in the world and invite various groups and organizations (big and small) to come out and join us. The conversations that happen at these events often lead to other initiatives that solve specific problems.

For example, at our event at the 2018 Connected Health Conference in Boston, the fine folks at the Department of Health and Human Services decided that the first HHS Startup Days outside of Washington DC would be held in Boston.

It’s no secret that startups continue to struggle with engaging government agencies for specific projects. Thanks to connecting at our event, the government recognized this, and responded with an event that helps entrepreneurs understand their current needs and strategies, while educating them on the process of engaging with government agencies like the FDA, CMS, ONC, and NIH.

HHS Startup Days in Boston completely sold out and was a huge success, but that was only the beginning. HHS took their Startup Days tour around the country and visited many of our member locations. It’s just one example of how we’re bringing the community together.

DH: What are the most exciting initiatives for Together.Health right now?

TH: Right now, our steering committee is focused on three primary projects:

1. A Standard Security Assessment

The goal of this project is to improve the Business Associate Agreement (BAA) process. If a startup wants to work with an organization and exchange data, before any exchange happens, both companies need to complete a security assessment. That security process could take between four weeks to nine months to complete, even a full year. Because it can take so much time, startups are unable to start working and innovating quickly. We’ve been collecting data to understand how to make this process more efficient for startups and larger organizations. The goal is to get the process down to three to four weeks, so everyone can start collaborating sooner.

Anyone who has experience with the BAA process, and wants to help, can complete Together.Health’s BAA survey or sign up to get involved.

2. Mapping the Nation’s Ecosystem

One of our co-chairs, Stephen Konya of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, is heading up this initiative. It’s focused on identifying all of the different key players within health systems across the country: government organizations, startups, accelerators, economic development organizations, etc. It’s a resource for people who want to partner with health innovators in their own backyards or other communities across the country.

For example, if someone wanted to understand the ecosystem in Boston, it would involve the different accelerators in the Boston community, the health tech community, the Boston Children’s Accelerator, hospitals, and government organizations like Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MEHI) which is driving a lot of innovation throughout the state. It’s a snapshot of the community, and the hottest people to know.

3. Establishing a common curriculum 

This project focuses on developing a common curriculum for startups and other organizations who need support implementing innovation in their communities or ecosystems. It’s essentially a playbook for jumpstarting innovation in your community. 

“Building a common curriculum enables leaders to connect and support initiatives that are happening in different parts of the country,” said Maura Little, Executive Director of Cambia Grove and co-chair of the Together.Health.

For example, when the Cambia Grove launched their first TRAILS Competition in 2018, the Together.Health network helped get the word out about the competition. “Because of our amplified voice, applications came in from five different countries and six different states, bringing the best and the brightest innovators to compete,”  said Maura.

DH: What’s the story behind your rebrand from Digital Health Collaborative to Together.Health?

TH: We wanted a more impactful name and Together.Health says it all in a simple, memorable way. It’s reflective of our mission and our focus on community – the only way to make changes in healthcare is together. We also have a great appreciation for the new .health domain extension and what it can mean for our ecosystem overall. There’s a lot of passion and enthusiasm around the .health community and we are excited to be part of that. Everyone is playing a different role in the future of health, and the .health domain is a way to identify and connect with organizations that have a shared vision.

DH: How did everything go at the Spring Summit?

TH: The Spring Summit we held at HIMSS in Orlando was an opportunity to see the growth of our community firsthand. We had great panels and speakers, but the connections that were happening over coffee, or at tables between sessions, were even more inspiring. Many people came up to us and said it was their favorite event at HIMSS. Check out the video below of Mike Bisselli at the Summit talking about Catalyst HTI and the importance of building neighborhoods of healthcare innovators, then watch the full playlist on YouTube.

DH: How can organizations get involved with Together.Health?

TH:  We are always excited to meet new collaborators! You’re a great fit for Together.Health if you:

  • are passionate about accelerating health innovation
  • want to collaborate with great minds all over the country
  • have health innovation initiatives that you want to support or drive

If this is you, and you want to get involved, sign up for the Together.Health newsletter to get regular updates and join us on October 27, 2019, at the HLTH conference! 

Together.Health is using the power of community to accelerate innovation in healthcare. Learn more about who they are, what they are doing, and how you can be part of it. Click To Tweet

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