New AWS global accelerator to address healthcare workforce needs

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Clinician burnout in a post-pandemic world is a worldwide problem, with scores of clinicians intending to leave the healthcare profession. Not surprisingly, the resulting workforce shortage is already leaving many patients waiting for treatment.

Amazon announced a new, global program this week, the AWS Healthcare Accelerator Global Cohort for Workforce Development, that seeks to help address some of today’s healthcare employee challenges.

The program is open to startups worldwide and will operate in collaboration with AlchemistX and Plexal across two time zones – U.S. and EMEA. Startups must apply by Jan. 8, 2023, and a total of 20 startups will be chosen – 10 for each region.

Jeff Kratz, AWS general manager, Worldwide Public Sector Partners, spoke with Healthcare IT News to share what a global cohort can expect in an AWS healthcare accelerator.

Q. AWS has delivered healthcare accelerators regionally. What are some of the goals of this first global accelerator in terms of promoting collaboration and addressing the needs of healthcare organizations, as well as of the healthcare tech startups serving them? 

A. We believe global collaboration between healthcare organizations and technology providers can improve provider and patient experience as well as patient outcomes, and that’s really what the AWS Healthcare Accelerator’s Global Cohort for Workforce Development is about. 

The challenges facing today’s healthcare workforce are being felt globally. Burnout has been a concern for years, but the pandemic exacerbated the issue and brought the need for healthcare workforce development and retention into focus.

That said, the healthcare landscape of each country is unique, so with this global accelerator we’ll be providing region-specific guidance for portions of the program, like regulatory pathways and go-to-market approaches.

Ultimately our goal with this global cohort is to help healthcare organizations around the world address critical staffing issues by training, retaining and deploying providers, caregivers and allied medical professions to deliver care in both new and existing settings. 

While technology is not a silver bullet, we do believe it can be an enabler, and a key part of this is utilizing cloud-based technology that allows these solutions to scale. 

By the end of the program, all 20 startups will be fluent in how cloud can help optimize their missions, will have applied these concepts to their own solutions and will be able to tell their unique story. 

In addition, the AWS Accelerator team reviews and retains all submitted applications, not just the selected winners, to look for ways to work with these organizations in future. 

Q. Can you elaborate on how startups that aim to reduce individual workloads or enable well-being might access proof-of-concept opportunities with healthcare organizations through the accelerator?

A. Yes, it’s an important callout that in addition to frontline care workers like doctors and nurses, support staff, including those working in healthcare IT, are feeling increased pressure. 

At AWS, we’ve heard from many of our customers that they do not have enough staff to deliver new technologies, for example, and this is one area this accelerator looks to address. 

We’re seeking applications from startups focused on developing solutions for upskilling the technical workforce like using machine learning (ML) for customized learning and rapid assessment or augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) simulation training, for example. Other solutions might be aimed at automating repetitive or routine tasks.

We believe that one of the best ways to produce impactful solutions is for companies to speak directly with customers to better understand their challenges and discuss potential solutions and ideas. 

Throughout the accelerator, startups will have opportunities to do just that. 

Additionally, to help startups prepare for those opportunities, one week of the program focuses on best practices for connecting with investors, providers, payers, public sector partners and phased deployments/pilots. As part of this curriculum, venture capitalists will give advice and pitch feedback. 

The accelerator culminates with a Demo Day, where startups can exhibit their technologies and what’s next for them to a group of customers, investors and AWS partners. For example, our Health Equity cohort’s Demo Day is at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas this week.

Q. There are to be several AWS partner institutions available to network with the cohort, including the American Hospital Association, National Health Service, CATI and others, along with opportunities for mentoring from healthcare industry experts. How successful have past AWS healthcare accelerators been in matching industry partners with startups? What are some examples that have benefited the healthcare industry?

A. Startups fuel innovation and experimentation, solve challenging problems, create millions of jobs and drive economic development around the globe. 

Our goal with the accelerator is to provide startups with the support they need to scale their technologies — ultimately improving the provider experience and patient outcomes — using the power of the cloud.

We’re proud to be able to offer startups access to a broad, high-quality group of experts as part of the accelerator. 

During the program, established healthcare organizations speak directly to the cohort. This personal connection presents opportunities to discuss problems and solutions. 

We’ve heard from many of our accelerator participants that the exposure to our Amazon Partner Network, AWS experts, AlchemistX and Plexal, and other healthcare industry leaders is a key reason they chose to apply to the accelerators.

And as a result, in each accelerator cohort, we’ve seen solutions that deliver on their promise and provide value for healthcare providers and patients. 

For example, after the first accelerator, one of the participants, Gyant, announced a deal with a national virtual healthcare provider to automate intake and streamline virtual care visits. And OneRecord, who recently announced their acquisition — within a year of their cohort’s Demo Day — is providing its solution to empower consumers related to their healthcare information. 

Other examples are Birdie and Zócalo Health, who recently announced traction in their solutions to transform elderly care at home and launch virtual primary care for Latino patients, respectively, and PEP Health, who shared how the accelerator helped them scale their technology, which is used to gather patient feedback with the goal of improving care.

Q. In 2023, decentralized care delivery through remote patient monitoring is expected to vastly increase, with a quarter of the U.S. adult population to be treated with RPM tools for chronic conditions, according to a new Forrester report. The market research organization predicts that RPM will play a critical role in treating patients and mitigating avoidable hospitalizations. How will this new global healthcare accelerator help speed the delivery of technologies that support new ways of working in healthcare now? 

A. We applaud innovations that improve the status quo in healthcare, and that’s what we’re looking for in the companies we’ll select as part of our new accelerator. 

The AWS Healthcare Accelerator launching today is focused on three key needs in the healthcare space – training, retaining and deploying the workforce. That third area really speaks to the opportunity for decentralized care, and the power of the cloud will be a key enabler in this. 

Technologies that support decentralized care, like healthcare in virtual wards, community settings and home care settings, have huge potential. 

For example, cloud-based video consultations and remote patient monitoring enabled by telehealth reduce the need for hospital readmissions and follow-up visits. They can enable physicians to provide remote care during and after a health emergency. 

Q. How will the accelerator help the cohort participants ensure protections for the healthcare industry’s cybersecurity and compliance challenges?

A. AWS helps thousands of healthcare and life sciences organizations around the world modernize and transform while meeting the most stringent security, compliance and regulatory requirements. 

A core component of the accelerator program is helping startups architect to meet these requirements, which AWS can provide expertise in as we regularly achieve third-party validation for thousands of global compliance requirements, like HIPAA in the U.S., Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, as well as country-level regulation like Digital Health Applications Ordinance in Germany and Hébergeurs de Données de Santé certifications in France, as well as non-government programs like Health Information Trust Alliance. 

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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