The featured keynote interview of the 2016 Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit was with the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Charlie Baker by Todd Cozzens, managing director and co-founder of Leerink Transformation Partners.
Cozzens began the conversation by asking, “Pay for value. The train has left the station, is that fair?”
Baker, the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Massachusetts, replied how he was wrong, as far back as 1996, in saying fee-for-service was a thing of the past. “I could not have been more wrong and I think people should be careful about drawing this big conclusion. It’s a relentlessly incremental industry.”
He added, “I don’t know how long it will take, but it will take longer than the optimists, and shorter than the naysayers. Cost centers need to become revenue centers, and revenue centers need to become cost centers, which is incredibly hard to pull off.”
Baker was proud to talk about Massachusetts’ role as a leading digital hub and what the Commonwealth is doing to encourage collaboration.
“We have PULSE@MassChallenge over in the Fenway, which is kind of a skunkworks operation, and it has the potential to bring the right people. The folks at MassChallenge think this is a really interesting opportunity for them. I give [Vertex Pharmaceuticals] Jeff Leiden credit for this, and we have a relatively consistent plan about how innovation will be commercially applied. We have the Tech Collaborative run and funded by the government, and also the Life Science Center. Our goal is to become a point of leverage around investment decisions.”
Given the sensitive nature of personal health information, cybersecurity has become a hot topic of discussion. Baker agrees that this is a huge area for development, and it is one of the reasons why he has been very active in attracting Israeli cybersecurity companies to Boston.
“I can’t separate in my own head cybersecurity from digital health. When I think of digital health I think of all of it, informatics and decision support capability, but also devices and the transfer and movement of data for people with chronic conditions. For all of this to work, it has to be done in a very secure way.”
He added, “If we don’t get the security piece right, and people start to suffer the consequences of a hacked set of offerings in the medical device, and the consequences for all of this are pretty high,”he said.
When Baker was first asked to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1992, he led efforts to make Massachusetts’ social service system more humane, cost-effective, and responsive to the needs of the Commonwealth’s residents.
He believes education is one of the underlying problems. “We have huge issues with the fact that we’ve never built into our nursing, dental, or medical schools any legit training on opioid abuse. We have now made it a required course in order to graduate.”
He also commented on the potential that passive wearable technology could have in the opioid crisis.
“Most of the data says that it’s a year before you really get to the point of being solidly back on the ground. The availability of passive data generating on wearable devices would be helpful for them in dealing with addition, or for their supporters. This is one where you know somebody’s in detox, and then a step down for 30 to 60 days; at some point they have to find a way to exist in a supervised, consistent setting.”
Baker’s final remarks reflected his view on the state of the political system and, with a solid approval rating, what it takes to govern effectively.
“My mom’s a democrat and my dad’s a republican. When you see two people in a fight, everyone’s pretty sure one’s a jerk, but they don’t know which one. If you get into a fight, you need to act like a respectful person.”
He cited Barney Frank’s famous quote, “If you want your elected officials to agree with you 100% of the time, run for office,” and added, “This whole idea we have a country of 300 million people and that everyone is supposed to agree all the time, what is that? This is supposed to be a shared experience. I campaigned a lot in areas where I knew I would lose, but I did it because I wanted to show I was representing 100% of the people.”
Todd Cozzens is managing partner and co-founder at LTP, a healthcare growth equity fund based in Boston. He was previously healthcare partner at Sequoia Capital where, among other investments, he invested in and helped build four billion-dollar valuation healthcare companies.