14 U.S. health systems form new Seattle startup, plan to pool data in search for breakthroughs

A group of 14 U.S. health systems, representing tens of millions of patients across 40 states, will pool their data using software developed by Seattle startup Truveta, leveraging artificial intelligence to search for medical breakthroughs and previously undetected patterns of inequity in healthcare.

Terry Myerson, Truveta CEO.

The company, led by former Microsoft Windows chief Terry Myerson, gave new details about its origins and plans Thursday morning, saying it has grown to 53 employees. Truveta emerged from stealth mode in October.

Created and governed by the participating health systems, Truveta says its goal is to extract insights from large amounts of health data, using those insights to improve healthcare without sacrificing the privacy of patients. The health systems will use software developed by Truveta to remove personally identifying information from the data.

In addition, the company says it will be able to provide researchers with more statistically representative populations for studies and clinical trials.

“Data has transformed so many industries, but data has not yet transformed health,” said Myerson, the Truveta CEO, in an interview this week. “This data has never been brought together before, and I feel like we have this really special opportunity to do that.”

Truveta is far from the first startup to see promise in analyzing health data, but Myerson cited the role of the health systems in creating the company as a major difference in its approach.

“We’re not just a new company that’s knocking on the door of the health providers and saying, ‘hi, we’d like to analyze some data,’ ” he said. “We’re very much part of the provider community in that respect.”

The systems taking part are AdventHealth, Advocate Aurora Health, Baptist Health, Bon Secours Mercy Health, CommonSpirit Health, Hawaii Pacific Health, Henry Ford Health System, Memorial Hermann Health System, Northwell Health, Novant Health, Providence, Sentara Healthcare, Tenet Healthcare, and Trinity Health.

Two years in the making, the company was formed with the underlying premise that “data saves lives,” said Dr. Rod Hochman, president and CEO of Providence, the Renton, Wash.-based health system where the initiative began.

One of the driving forces behind the creation of the company was COVID-19, which has illustrated the importance of statistically significant data about what types of treatments and approaches are working or not in different scenarios and with different types of patients.

Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence president and CEO.

Asked about the biggest challenges ahead, Hochman acknowledged that some people will have privacy concerns regardless of the precautions, and noted that Truveta will no doubt face competition from other tech companies as well as electric medical records providers.

But Hochman, an immunologist by training who is also the current chair of the American Hospital Association, said the effort offers new hope for treating difficult diseases, and for identifying inequities in healthcare based on factors such as race, gender, and geography.

“A lot of this is in response to our data being shipped off to the insurers, or our data being shipped off to a tech company, or to some other startup,” Hochman said in an interview. “I said, ‘why wouldn’t we want to do it ourselves?’ ”

Leaders of other health systems agreed with that, and Providence assembled a team to pursue the idea, tapping Myerson to lead the effort. Providence had been expanding its technology footprint already through its Digital Innovation Group, led by former Amazon executive Aaron Martin, incubating startups and investing in healthcare ventures.

Truveta has not yet disclosed specific details of its ownership structure or funding. The company says it’s in the early stages of building its platform but expects to have its technology ready to begin delivering insights in 2021. Truveta has grown from fewer than 20 employees in October to more than 50 employees today, and it lists almost 30 open positions.

Listen to Myerson and Hochman discuss Truveta in the Mekhato Health Tech Podcast above or subscribe in any podcast app.

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