Eighty-eight innovators from around the world convened in Boston on August 12th for the first ever MIT-HMS Healthcare Innovation Bootcamp. The program engaged a diverse group of thought-leaders, from early stage entrepreneurs to doctors, to designers, biomedical engineers, innovation leaders and others. While standing in a large health innovation hub overlooking Boston’s iconic Fenway Park, attendees from 30 different countries came face to face with the peers who would join them on the intense, six-day journey.
The Bootcamp emerges in a time when innovation is most crucial. Today’s evolving healthcare landscape requires change makers with vision and tenacity who can solve complex problems. Constrained by limitations of the medical domain, early-stage entrepreneurs face extreme barriers. “I was drawn to the program because of the opportunity it would offer to work with some of the best and brightest in the world, and to be in esteemed company to learn as much as I can,” Arvind Ravinutala, a Chief Resident in Internal Medicine from California, said. “I have long been interested in pursuing a healthcare entrepreneurship venture to address the healthcare problems I see as a physician.” The accelerated program provides attendees a forum to network with like-minded individuals facing similar obstacles, as well as learn from entrepreneurs who have been in their shoes.
Participants were assigned to teams and met the coaches who would mentor them throughout the program. They were tasked with creating a venture to address a current healthcare challenge by the end of the week. Bootcampers worked around the clock; they attended lectures, consulted peers, and used actionable feedback to guide iterations of idea development. Jiyoon Lee, a neuroscience student from Australia, remarked on the process, “The MIT-HMS Healthcare Innovation Bootcamp has undoubtedly been the most rigorous and demanding learning experience of my life. This program has challenged me beyond my limits intellectually, physically and emotionally. All the sessions have been invaluable.”
Expert faculty from both MIT and Harvard Medical School taught sessions on topics like problem identification, evaluating innovations, scaling startups, and building buy-in from investors. Zirui Song, an assistant professor of health care policy at HMS and an internal medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, taught a session on healthcare policy. Song’s research has focused on changes in health care spending and quality under global payment, the impact of Medicare fee policies on spending and physician behavior, and the economics of Medicare Advantage. “I’m blown away by the insight I’ve drawn from all the sessions,” Sally Amkoa from Kenya explained. “My favorites were Healthcare Policy 2020 and EMR Data: Capturing the Opportunity. Both sessions were directly related to my personal entrepreneurial interests and provided a wealth of knowledge. I also loved how rich the participant pool was. I benefited greatly from the sharing of information, experiences and ideas.”
Co-founders of 1upHealth, Ricky Sahu and Gajen Sunthara, led the session on capturing opportunity in electronic medical records. Ricky worked at Google on the Google Apps for Business team, and went on to build tools to improve search engine optimization and online marketing using machine learning at Promediacorp for companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Forever21. Gajen is the Director of Innovation Research and Development at Boston Children’s Hospital. Prior to this work, he helped tech-architect President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative at the White House. These innovators are just a few of the many knowledgeable leaders who inspired this cohort of participants. When commenting on session speakers, Bootcamper Arvind Ravinutala remarked, “It’s been hard to find role models that I could aspire towards, and in a few days I’ve found several that have inspired me to keep pushing forward. Frankly, this week already has been the happiest and most excited I’ve felt in years.”
By the end of the program, participants learned how to identify key challenges, present their solutions, and use constructive feedback to excel in their endeavors. Armed with a comprehensive toolkit for healthcare innovation, this global community is sure to solve healthcare challenges that will help patients and practitioners worldwide.