A public-private partnership announced Thursday, April 26, in New York launched a new health IT business incubator program to help startup companies develop new digital health software applications for hospitals and health-care providers.

The New York Digital Health Accelerator program was developed through a collaborative effort among the New York City Investment Fund, New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC) and New York state Department of Health. The program will choose 12 “early- and growth-stage companies” that are developing software applications for care coordination, patient engagement, analytics and message alerts for health-care providers. The companies selected for the program will be awarded up to $300,000 and receive mentoring from executives at New York hospitals, according to the announcement.

“Health information technology is helping us transform our health-care system to provide high-quality, cost-efficient and patient-centered care for the 21st century,” said New York Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah in a statement.

According to the program’s website, the state’s Digital Health Accelerator program will leverage $840 million in investments made to adopt electronic health records (EHR), as well as the investment from the NYeC to create the Statewide Health Information Network of New York, a network that will connect EHRs across the state.

Care providers that are participating in the health accelerator program are looking for health IT applications that will assist with the implementation of the new Health Homes model, which is part of the state’s Medicaid redesign initiative. The new model will require increased coordination among care providers, as approximately 975,000 patients with chronic illnesses transition to it.

David Whitlinger, executive director of the NYeC, said that as health-care reform in New York moves from a fee-for-service model to a managed care model, it will use financial incentives to encourage health-care providers to collaborate on patient care. But that need has created a gap in technology — he said software tools for that don’t exist yet, spurring the need for the incubation program.

“We’re at the opportunity to programmatically provide a way for the innovative software development community to work with that platform and create cool new applications to solve health-care problems,” Whitlinger said.

Maria Gotsch, president and CEO of the New York City Investment Fund, said major changes in health-care policies at the state and federal level is spurring the need for the health-care sector to adopt new technologies.

She said while the program’s first goal is to identify and streamline the adoption of new software tools that can help improve health care in New York, the second goal is to create new jobs through the selected companies and in five to seven years from now, have an upswing of 1,500 new jobs in the state as a result of the program.

According to Whitlinger, companies that apply to participate in the program don’t need to be based in the state, but should have the intent to create a New York-based location if selected.

Each company that’s accepted into the Digital Health Accelerator will be paired with several of the health-care providers participating in the program. Gotsch said those providers will provide the companies with guidance and feedback to ensure that the applications developed fit the workflow of physicians, nurses or hospital administrators.

“It’s sort of marrying the people with the ideas and the technology with the people who are actually going to use it,” Gotsch said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.