New York Launches Digital Health Accelerator for App Development

The New York Digital Health Accelerator will support business incubators to develop IT products in care coordination, messaging and analytics while receiving investments from venture capitalists and being mentored by the state's providers and hospital executives.

Health care providers and government agencies are looking to make New York a center of digital health innovation.

The New York State Department of Health, the New York City Investment Fund (NYCIF) and the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), a nonprofit spearheading the development of health record exchanges in the state, have launched the New York Digital Health Accelerator (NYDHA) to allow new tech companies to receive financial support and to develop their new products for market in a business-incubator setting in cooperation with local hospitals and health care providers.

NYCIF is a private fund geared toward stimulating the city's economy. "This accelerator will help New York keep and attract businesses that grow our state's economy and create jobs in our communities," Maria Gotsch, president and CEO of NYCIF, said in a statement.

The organizations launched the accelerator on April 26.

Over several months, 12 early- and growth-stage companies will work with hospitals and providers to be mentored by senior-level executives. They'll develop products that incorporate care coordination, patient engagement, analytics and messaging.

Vendors will engage with hospitals, long-term care providers, community health centers and primary care providers. Participating New York hospital networks include North Shore-LIJ Health System, NYU Langone Medical Center and Stony Brook University Medical Center.

Each company will receive $300,000 from a group of investors that include insurers Aetna and UnitedHealth Group and venture capital firms, such as Milestone Venture Partners and New Leaf Venture Partners.

"The convergence of health IT and health care expertise will be extremely critical and powerful in making health care more effective, convenient and affordable for everyone," Dr. Lonny Riesman, Aetna's chief medical officer, said in a statement.

"We believe the New York Digital Health Accelerator model will help bring practical solutions to market in a significantly shorter time frame," Tom Vanderheyden, vice president, emerging businesses group at UnitedHealth Group, said in a statement.

Because tech companies have had difficulty adapting to policies and regulations required by the health care industry, the mentorship could provide valuable help for tech companies, according to David Whitlinger, executive director of NYeC, the organization that oversees the state's health information exchange (HIE) network, called the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY).

The program is accepting applications from interested companies until June 1. NYeC is expecting 200 applications, which participating providers and venture capitalists will evaluate, Whitlinger told eWEEK.

A review process will reduce the number of participating vendors to 30 or 40, said Whitlinger. The reviewing parties will be looking for strong management teams and robust applications in managing patient care, he said.

Mobile health applications for the iOS and Android platforms are among the possible development targets in the program, Whitlinger noted. Potential for growth in mobile health exists as doctors are able to engage patients using mobile apps and access patient clinical data from the SHIN-NY network on mobile devices, said Whitlinger.

With its investment of more than $800 million, New York offers an advanced infrastructure for connecting to health records, Whitlinger noted. Incubating companies will get priority access to the SHIN-NY network, he said.

A knowledgeable user community will allow the development community to experiment and incubate new products, he added.

Products can then be marketed internationally after their development in New York, said Whitlinger.

"The Digital Health Accelerator program will further advance New York's national leadership in health IT as it will attract leading-edge companies at the forefront of developing the technology necessary for robust electronic health records and digital care coordination systems," New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah said in a statement.

In November, the NYeC joined a group of states and health care software vendors to form the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup, which issues specifications on the sharing of EHRs in HIEs.

Bringing new software companies to New York is a boost to the state's economy but also provides them with the feedback to bring their products to market, according to Whitlinger.