AMA Silicon Valley venture out to clean up medicine's data mess

Andis Robeznieks , Senior News Writer

To help solve health care’s problems, the AMA has gone to Silicon Valley, the place where problem-solvers and entrepreneurs meet.

“We’re not out there to build a better Apple Watch and we’re not out there to build a consumer a product,” said Larry Cohen, PhD, CEO of the AMA’s Silicon Valley venture, Health2047. “We’re located out in Silicon Valley really for access, I’d say.”

That’s access to an ecosystem of experts who can collaborate on the unsolved issues in health care that are “prohibiting us from moving forward,” Cohen said. He explained that the “Silicon Valley way” is to crisply identify a problem, propose a solution and then pull together the elements that are needed to put the solution in place.

“Every problem we look at, we look at through the lens of the physician,” Cohen added.

Cohen appeared at a program updating AMA employees and partners on Health2047, its spinoff companies and the philosophy of innovation that drives them.

Also speaking were James L. Madara, MD, the AMA’s executive vice president and CEO, and Daphne Li, managing director of business acceleration at Health2047. Li also is chief operating officer for First Mile Care, a Health2047 spinoff company focused on getting patients with prediabetes into a lifestyle change program.

“Think of innovation as a new idea that’s helpful brought to market,” Dr. Madara said. “It’s not theory. It’s something that can be applied and can change lives.”

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The first company mentioned was Akiri, developed as a clinical data liquidity solution to promote the useable interoperability and exchange of data in health care.

“The problem with health care data is it’s sort of like your grandmother’s attic. It’s got all this stuff up there; nobody really knows what’s up there, and it’s not organized,” Cohen said. “That data should be assisting us in how we do health care.”

Li described the built-in market for First Mile Care, which facilitates patient participation in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-approved diabetes prevention programs (DPPs) that promote lifestyle changes to reverse prediabetes.

There are 84 million Americans with prediabetes but only 200,000 have participated in a DPP, Li said, “so we need people with prediabetes to know they have it, and to act, and enroll in a diabetes prevention program.”

First Mile works with physicians to identify patients at risk for diabetes, find them DPP coaches and a location “that’s as convenient as the grocery store,” and to develop a patient cohort that will stick together for a full year.

“We bring that physician’s message into their patients’ neighborhood every week,” Li said. “That’s First Mile Care in a nutshell.”

First Mile was launched as a pilot at a San Francisco practice but—with help from local medical societies—it is now making inroads in Houston and Atlanta, where the goal is to get 100,000 of the 1.1 million Atlanta-area residents with prediabetes enrolled in a DPP.

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That latest Health2047 venture is Zing Health, a Medicare Advantage plan structured to provide care to underserved populations.

The target is to enroll 3,000 Medicare beneficiaries from Cook County, Illinois, begin providing their care on Jan. 1, 2020, and then expand to other Midwest regions.

Cohen noted that the three 2047 spinoffs “couldn’t be more disparate,” and require staff with different skill sets but who share the same entrepreneurial attitude.

In Cohen’s discussions with potential business partners from other fields, they are often “amazed at how primitive the health care sector is” compared with advances in the use of data by finance and retail operations. Cohen said he would like to see an end result of Health2047 be to “make health care as modern, as current and as enabled as these other sectors.”

As for Dr. Madara, the AMA CEO returned to Cohen’s previous description of health care data operations and said success for Health2047 would be like “cleaning Grandma’s attic.”