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Q&A With MATTER CEO Steven Collens on Digital Health Innovation


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"We’re now seeing pharma companies embrace the possibility of digital health more - @MATTERhealth"

MATTER is a Chicago-based collaborative of healthcare innovators working to disrupt the industrywide status quo with accelerated healthcare technology and new programs that help companies comprehend healthcare’s greater complexity. We last chatted with MATTER in 2015 about the company’s mission, milestones, and partnerships. Since then, MATTER has more than doubled the number of companies within its portfolio to 200 – all with a staff of 20. Here’s what MATTER has been up to since then.

Oliver Wyman Health: How has MATTER evolved over the past couple of years?

Steven Collens: Some things are still the same. We’re still stage agnostic – we have early-stage companies all the way up to companies that have raised $50 million as members. And we’re still technology agnostic – we have health IT, med tech and life sciences companies. We’re now also geographically agnostic with about 25 companies outside of Chicago. The platform and infrastructure we built around areas like growth acceleration, business development, financing, and coaching guidance is appealing to companies, regardless of where they are.

OWH: What, if any, major changes has MATTER undergone recently?

SC: We acquired a program in January of 2016 that at the time was a 5-year-old consortium of several nearby universities – Northwestern, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Argonne National Lab, and the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization. They had come together, through their tech transfer offices, to help the universities’ emerging life sciences technologies identify commercial paths and help them develop as businesses. We’re continuing to build and refine this program.

OWH: What new partnerships has MATTER recently entered into?

SC: BayCare, a health system based in Florida, is our newest health system partner, and Baxter is the newest big industry player to join MATTER. We also have Ohio-based Welltower, the country’s largest owner of senior living facilities. We also work with Johnson & Johnson and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, both of which are not Chicago-based companies. We’re seeing more interest in how the healthcare community can plug in, beyond Chicago. 

OWH: What new developments are you noticing within the pharma sector?             

SC: We’re seeing continued growth and interest in exploring digital health. Pharma companies have looked for new therapeutics and technologies for a long time to feed their pipeline at incubators, and at universities. We’ve seen a real expansion in how they’re looking at digital health. There was a lot of early thinking about digital health, but mainly as a marketing channel. We’re now seeing pharma companies embrace the possibility of digital health more – getting closer to patients, getting more data around people using their products, and providing more services for people with the conditions they treat.

OWH: How else is MATTER continuing to evolve and grow?

SC: We’ve really evolved in the last several months by focusing many programs on 3 broad areas: healthy aging, health data, and precision health. We’ve found our partners have substantial interest in these areas, and in understanding technology trends and specific opportunities. We have a number of entrepreneurs active in those areas. We have different, very specific topics we explore every month across these areas to help identify opportunities, create collaborations, and ultimately build solutions.

OWH: Regarding the 200 companies MATTER currently works with, what is the top challenge your members face?

SC: Working with provider health systems. It’s challenging to sell into healthcare providers, partly because of the way they’re organized; even as the shift to value-based care evolves, they’re generally still operating in a fee-for-service world. It’s challenging because the IT organizations have so much work to do optimizing their systems, they often don’t have time to prioritize the integration of new solutions. 

OWH: Where is disruption in healthcare most likely to occur? What examples of industry disruption have particularly caught your eye?

SC: Healthcare is ripe for disruption, but the reality is it will be an evolution for the foreseeable future – not an overnight dramatic change in how everything works. There’s too much infrastructure, and there’s a meaningful regulatory overlay that will make it hard to blow things up completely. That being said, we recently had a fascinating interview with Iora Heath’s Co-Founder, Rushika Fernandopulle. He wanted to build a healthcare system oriented around patient care, not transactions. But to do that, he needed a different operating system. Their EMR didn’t work for the purposes he was trying to create – so they built their own EMR system. They’re getting great results, keeping people out of the hospital, and are doubling down on primary care. Also, there’s Oak Street Health. They’re working with some of the toughest patients out there in underserved communities, like people with multiple chronic conditions and the elderly. They’re taking full risk and doubling down on relationships and primary care. They’re going back to the basics – and achieving great results. We’ll see more models like that coming up because they work.

OWH: If you had all of the resources and money in the world, and could do whatever you wanted to the healthcare industry, what would you change?

SC: Full risk longitudinally. One of the biggest problems right now is nobody is at risk for your long-term health and well-being – except you. Not the insurance company, the government, your employer, the hospital, your doctor, or the economy. You want somebody to own this full risk so there’s an economic incentive to manage chronic conditions and keep people as healthy as possible.


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