The New Jersey Innovation Institute held its first Healthcare Cluster Innovation Showcase on March 17, inspired by the idea that targeted, quality networking can help New Jersey’s health IT cluster grow.
Of the 25 companies specializing in health IT or supporting technologies that exhibited at the showcase, 15 were part of NJII’s Health IT Connections program, which accelerates growth in companies with at least $250,000 in yearly revenues; a total of 25 companies have participated in this program so far in two cohorts.
At the showcase, companies were able to interact with possible strategic partners, potential customers, suppliers, sources of capital, and others. More than 300 people attended the event, which was held at the NJIT Campus Center.
The Health IT Connections program is funded by a $300,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward initiative, a five-year $30 million program to help grow various industry clusters around the U.S.
At a program emceed by Tomas Gregorio, Senior Executive Director, NJII Healthcare Delivery Systems, Joel S. Bloom, president of NJIT, under whose administration NJII was founded, spoke about all the projects under the NJII umbrella.
He pointed to the five vertical iLabs at the Institute, Healthcare Delivery Systems, Bio-Pharmaceutical Production, Civil Infrastructure, Defense & Homeland Security and Financial Services. Added to NJII’s purview is economic cluster development.
He noted that the networking at the packed event was fruitful. “As I walk around and listen to the conversations today, I think that you have a lot in common. And we think that, with this common opportunity to network, share information, to dream and be creative, we can have a major impact or the quality of life of the healthcare IT industry,” he said.
Introducing Donald Sebastian, Bloom noted that Sebastian serves as the face of NJII, the single point of contact at NJII for companies wanting to get involved in the activities of that organization.
Sebastian gave an updated version of his 2013 TEDxNJIT talk, and added some comments. During his talk, he had demonstrated (through a series of fictional futuristic interactions with his doctor) how a truly connected world of the future, would include healthcare IT devices that could help doctors take care of patients no matter where in the world they happened to be.
In recreating that TEDx talk, Sebastian pictured a future that defied international language, cultural and payment systems barriers. Afterwards, he acknowledged that the transactions are currently impossible to achieve. “But these things are no different than what you see in the commercial sector,” he said. “It’s time for them to be brought to the health care sector because they speed up the process, take out inefficiencies and ultimately open the doors for more creativity.”
NJII loves healthcare IT, but it views it in a systems way, Sebastian added. “What we are trying to do is bring all of you together, so that each one of you out there, with your niche services, doesn’t have to create an entire medical suite in order to get your technology into play. Those of you here who represent the community (users like hospitals, doctors’ offices) can come together and define your needs and solve your problems as a system rather than as individuals.”
Judith Sheft, associate vice president, technology and enterprise development, at NJII; Michael Ehrlich, associate professor at NJIT’s School of Management; and Travis Kahn, Health IT Connections program manager, are all spearheading the hands-on part of the Health IT Connections program.
According to Sheft, much of the program involves making connections among health IT companies, and between the health IT companies and customers, suppliers, etc. “Making those connections grow is what’s important,” she said.
There is also an educational component to the Health IT Connections program. Ehrlich, for example, leads a six-session structured learning component that features guest lecturers. They talk about the things companies need to do to accelerate business growth, to help them become “gazelle companies,” with revenues that grow as much as 20 percent per year.