Harvard’s InciteHealth fellows work to rethink health care


Harvard Medical School’s Center for Primary Care has launched the InciteHealth Fellowship, a new program that brings together 22 talented individuals eager to transform the delivery of health care in the United States.

During this part-time, one-year program, the InciteHealth fellows, or “inciters,” will focus on broad themes such as patient-doctor communication, the management of complex care, and health care costs.

“They will spend the first six weeks of the program delving deep into problem areas before selecting the right challenge to tackle,” said Paola Abello, program director of InciteHealth.

Not all of the fellows are physicians, and the program will rely on small interdisciplinary teams to find creative solutions, said Russ Phillips, director of the center. “We wanted to recruit individuals who were excited by the opportunity to engage with patients and primary care teams as they, together, invent the future of health care.”

The group is disparate as well as far-flung: The fellows are based in different parts of the United States. They will meet in person at weekend boot camps and then meet virtually on most other occasions. They will have the guidance of physicians, experts, and mentors from the health care industry.

Jonathan Speiser, a Boston software developer with a graduate degree from MIT’s Media Lab, will use the fellowship to explore how wearable devices can help in primary health care. Today, a healthy adult might go to a doctor once a year, meaning that his medical record is not as complete as it could be.

“If we can build devices that consistently and conveniently gather data like ECG, blood pressure, and so on, we can analyze a high-resolution picture of a person’s health status that’ll help take proactive steps instead of reactive ones,” Speiser said.

The end goal of InciteHealth is to make entrepreneurs out of the fellows.

Quote Icon
Technology will enable a better primary care experience only if the end user — the patient — can easily understand and digest the content, said Katherine Pham-Ouyang, a fellow who started her career at Google.

She hopes to apply her work on user experience to improve patient-doctor interactions and to make medical information more accessible.

While there will be a lot of focus on empowering patients, other aspects will include things like physician-architect Stephanie Taylor’s work on building hospitals that are healthy environments for their users.

All fellows will be given tools to approach health care innovation with so-called “design thinking” methodology.

Interactive case studies with Harvard Business School professors will help them understand startup methodology. Guest entrepreneurs will also share their stories and lessons learned.

Each team starts with $1,000 to make a prototype of their idea. Monthly challenges will allow them to make pitches for additional funding.

In the fall, each team will have an opportunity to make a presentation to a panel of patients and investors that will award one team an additional $25,000.

The end goal of the program is to make entrepreneurs out of the fellows.

“We want these teams’ inventions — whether they are new technologies, or new ways of delivering care — to lead to improved health, lower health care costs, or a better health care experience for our patients and their primary care teams,” Phillips said.