What if you could take the intellectual assets of one of the nation’s premier health care systems and transform them into solutions to improve healthcare delivery across the globe? Not only would it help countless patients, but it would also support the next breakthroughs in therapeutics and patient care.
This is one of the compelling new opportunities the combination of Partners HealthCare Innovation (Innovation) and Partners HealthCare International (PHI) will provide.
For the past two decades in its current and prior structure, PHI has focused on providing capacity building inputs and services to hospitals, health care systems, medical and health professional schools, governments and other health care providers across the globe. These services have included strategic planning, collaborating on the creation and construction of new hospital and academic institutions, updating existing facilities, redesigning clinical programs, revamping medical school curricula, developing quality and patient safety systems and implementing new professional development programs.
Typically, the PHI team directly used their internal expertise and connected clinical experts from the Partners system with colleagues in international markets to co-create customized solutions for the unique needs of each global partner.
“That has been a very successful model, and it is very labor-intensive, which makes it challenging to scale the business,” explains Trung Do, Vice President of Business Development Partners Innovation.
“Connecting PHI with Innovation opens up the possibility of providing those services in formats that could be more readily expanded,” says Do. “The new thing here is technology—the ability to take clinical and research programs and use technology to turn them into more scalable solutions that have a broader impact around the world.”
Mehul Mehta, MD, Vice President for Strategy and Programs at PHI, says there are natural synergies between the two organizations that became clear through the merger. The Innovation office’s connections within the Partners system, its close alignment with the system’s academic mission and its experience with the entire solution development pipeline will enhance the international portfolio of solutions. “I think this opens up a new way of thinking for us and our clients, and our job is—as always—to help our clients think about things that will help them grow and differentiate ,” he says.
One key area of differentiation will come from leveraging Partners’ robust research capabilities and its long history of commercial outcomes. Partners operates the nation’s largest academic research program with $1.6 billion in annual research expenditures. “The commercial application of the breakthroughs of our Harvard faculty yields nearly $120 million per year,” says Chris Coburn, Partners Chief Innovation Officer and PHI President. “It reflects an unrivaled pipeline of new ideas and capabilities that can increasingly support providers and patients around the world.”
Partners is also a highly translational organization. “Not only do we conduct the research, but we also translate that research into real world applications to benefit patients, clinicians and health care systems,” says Do.
For example, modern online or software-based learning management systems make it possible to translate the expertise of Partners’ clinical care specialists in a virtual format. “There are health care providers in emerging countries who are looking for guidance in educating their medical professionals. Using a learning management system would allow us to provide that guidance without having to fly people to India,” Do adds.
Technology could also play a key role in helping international health care providers develop new clinical centers of excellence. For example, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is designing a new set of programs focused on patient stratification and risk management for cardiovascular diseases. These programs offer strategies for both in-patient and outpatient care for patients with conditions such as heart failure, statin intolerance and hypertension.
The cardiovascular disease program—and others like it—could be shared with international clients to assist them in developing their own clinical centers of excellence that include the latest advancements in cardiac care. It may also be possible to co-develop centers of excellence internationally by using technology to connect providers overseas with specialists back in Boston.
“Our strength is our ability to provide clinical interpretation and management, especially around complex diseases and other conditions that generally aren’t routine and typical in primary care,” says Do.
A third growth opportunity is the field of personalized medicine. As we learn more about how genetic and genomic factors play a role in disease risk, diagnosis and treatment plans, there are opportunities to craft more targeted clinical programs. Partners has already developed tools to support personalized medicine that could be adapted for use in international markets.
In population health management, the work that Partners has done to develop strategies for high-risk care management has been codified into documents, processes and methodologies that could be turned into analytics and software programs and delivered to clients as a set of scalable technologies.
“These are examples of real-world programs we have here at Partners that are critical for us, with evidence and outcomes data confirming that they work,” says Do.
Mehta believes that having a direct connection to the resources of Innovation will offer more international opportunities to respond to the feedback they receive from working with international clients.
Often, international clients have insights into the care delivery process coming from implementing the programs and services that are co-developed with the PHS team. Previously, there has not been a clear path to translate those findings back into the development pipeline.
“It’s intriguing to find this bidirectional flow,” Mehta says, “where we give knowledge and they give us their approaches in terms of cost optimization and efficiency.”
Both Do and Mehta agree that the guiding philosophy, which is to work in collaboration with health care providers internationally to help them build their capacity to deliver world-class, modern care provides a durable platform from which an ever growing array of special services and technologies will be provided.
“For us, we are going to focus on collaboration and knowledge transfer, to help folks manage and run their own systems,” Do says. “That’s fundamental.”