The American Medical Association, a sharp critic of federal efforts to promote electronic health records, is taking its own path to stimulate health IT improvements and partnering with an incubator “to drive innovation,” according to an AMA statement this week.
The AMA will operate what it describes as an “interaction studio” with Matter, a Chicago-based incubator that a year ago announced plans to lease 24,000 square feet in Chicago's massive Merchandise Mart. Matter's founders have been signing up entrepreneurs and plan to open early this year. Sixty-five companies are enrolled thus far.
The AMA partnership will “create a flexible facility that will allows physicians, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals and industry experts to test new models for healthcare delivery,” an AMA statement said.
“We as an organization have dealt with many problems, correcting many problems that have emerged as our health system evolves,” AMA CEO Dr. James Madara said in an interview. One big problem for many physicians is their IT systems, which are “good for claims and billing,” but “very clumsy for the extraction of data at the point of care.”
The hope is that by working with health IT entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of system development the AMA can help in “shaping products that interact more optimally with the healthcare systems,” Madara said.
That collaboration will include “a variety of educational workshops, interactive simulations and collaboration,” an AMA statement said.
“Our presence there will provide knowledge of the real world at the interface of the provider and the patient,” Madara said. “What we hope is the products that come out of these companies will be optimized for the real world.”
Matter CEO Steven Collens previously was a senior vice president at the Chicago-based Pritzker Group investment firm. Two specialty pharmaceutical company CEOs serve as co-chairmen of Matter's board of directors. Collens was previously involved in launching 1871, a general IT incubator also housed at the Mart.
When Matter opens, it will join dozens of other incubators devoted exclusively to the healthcare industry. Chicago-based Healthbox, for example, launched in 2012.
Incubators typically provide new companies with seed capital running up to the low six figures, office space, mentoring by experienced health IT entrepreneurs, legal and other business services, and introductions to potential industry customers and angel investors. In return, the incubator takes a small ownership stake in fledgling companies; 6% to 7% is common.
Last month, in a letter to Dr. Karen DeSalvo, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, the AMA called for an overhaul of that portion of the federal health IT program devoted to testing and certifying EHRs so that it might better focus “on EHR usability, interoperability and safety.”
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