- Fourteen health systems are building their own health-tech startup.
- They’ll use big tech for some things, but also build special software to sift through provider data.
- Truveta’s leaders told Insider there are certain healthcare skills big tech has yet to master.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Fourteen health systems, including four of the nation’s 10 largest, are forming a new company, Truveta, to learn from their patient data.
The idea behind Truveta, now headed by Microsoft veteran Terry Myerson, is about two years in the making, Rod Hochman, the CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health, told Insider. In 2019, Providence made $25 billion in operating revenue across 51 hospitals and more than 1,000 clinics in seven states.
Hochman, who spearheaded the initiative, wanted big systems like his to work together on complex data problems, knowing their combined insights could be more powerful. It took the coronavirus pandemic, and all the confusion it brought with how to treat patients, to cause this many large institutions to act.
Truveta is funded by the health systems partners for now and will be a for-profit entity, though Truveta wouldn’t disclose financial details. Besides Providence, its backers are AdventHealth, Advocate Aurora Health, Baptist Health of Northeast Florida, Bon Secours Mercy Health, CommonSpirit Health, Hawaii Pacific Health, Henry Ford Health System, Memorial Hermann Health System, Northwell Health, Novant Health, Sentara Healthcare, Tenet Health, and Trinity Health.
Its leaders want to find data insights about health equity, clinical trials, payment models, disease treatment, and even drug creation. The providers will share their de-identified data with Truveta across these variables.
It sounds like a problem that big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, with their cloud tools and data savvy, are usually tapped to solve. But these providers, with their tens of millions of patients spread out across 40 states, wanted to build something themselves.
The only question was how, Hochman said.
“Because typically what’s happened in the past is that people have shipped off data to a tech company and then they kind of do with it what they will,” Hochman said. “And we said, we’re not comfortable with that model.”
Providers are carving out their own data company
For some providers, the pandemic made big tech’s tools all the more important, since they can track things like bed count, coronavirus cases, and ventilator allocation in real time. But there can be a “tech hubris” among leaders who think healthcare’s biggest problems can be solved with technology, Hochman said.
Some providers have concerns about data privacy when it comes to cloud providers like Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure, even with the strictest agreements in place. One of the key stipulations health systems had before joining Truveta was that the data be anonymized, Hochman said.
On the other hand, healthcare leaders, who thought electronic health records were a big deal, don’t always understand technology or how best to apply it.
“Why don’t you marry the two of them together?” he said, referring to tech and providers. “We’re going to do that on a big scale.”
Truveta will build a tech platform for dizzying amounts of data
The technology challenges ahead of the young startup are stark.
It’ll house data from 13% of all clinical care in the US, according to Truveta’s analysis of data from the American Hospital Association, which will reach Truveta in differing formats.
That’s the same challenge that led the US government to tap Peter Thiel’s data company, Palantir, for coronavirus reports. It’s also why many hospitals ended up counting available hospital beds by hand — sometimes aggregating disparate information coming from different buildings, even within the same health system, is too difficult to navigate on a constrained timeline.
But Truveta has a tech-savvy leadership team. Myerson reported to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and helped develop Windows, Surface, Xbox and the early days of Office 365.
Dr. Ranjani Ramamurthy, the chief product officer, founded one of Microsoft’s artificial intelligence tools for clinicians. And Jay Nanduri, the chief technical officer, is an engineer who headed Microsoft’s fraud protection and supply chain for 365.
They’re not building operating systems, memory managers, or data centers, which means Truveta will have to work with cloud providers, Myerson told Insider. But it wants to build its own platform on top of the tech ecosystem that a company like Microsoft provides.
Truveta backer Trinity Health, a Catholic health system, has 92 hospitals in 22 states. Roughly 30% its workloads are on the cloud, but there’s still a lot that existing software doesn’t address, CIO Marcus Shipley told Insider. He joined the Truveta crew early on with Providence.
“Big tech can solve hard problems, but big tech can’t solve hard problems for an industry like this by themselves,” Shipley said.
Google Cloud, Amazon Web Service, and Microsoft Azure have great technology, he said.
“We’ll partner with the right people to leverage those technologies,” Shipley said. “But what’s essential is the layer of software and services that Terry and team will build on top of that.”