Mothers-to-be facing life-threatening cases of high blood pressure. People whose kidneys are at risk of shutting down. Seniors who get rushed to emergency rooms due to preventable problems like dehydration or inadequate care.
Northwell Health and Manhattan-based "startup studio" Aegis Ventures hope those are among the people who will benefit from a new partnership that is plowing $100 million into artificial intelligence-powered research and the creation of new companies.
The companies are expected to analyze massive troves of data in an effort to improve treatment, bring down costs and close disparities in health care. They could be launched within three to six months, and their new health care data products and services could be available three to six months after that, executives with the joint venture said.
What's distinctive about the partnership is that it’s health care providers from Northwell’s network who are identifying problems to be solved, and they are working closely with technology specialists to find solutions, said Richard Mulry, president and CEO of Northwell Holdings and Ventures, the health system’s entrepreneurial arm. Northwell is the state’s largest private employer, with 23 hospitals, 830 outpatient facilities and more than 16,600 affiliated physicians.
Often, tech entrepreneurs take the lead in crafting new products or services, and only later consult health care professionals, Mulry said.
The joint venture "is merging the strengths of two very powerful forces," Mulry said. "Working with our front line clinical team, as well as our researchers, we can look at what the real-life problems are within medicine."
Aegis is putting up $100 million of its own funds, and the joint venture expects to seek out additional investors as the companies are formed, said Tom Manning, chairman of the joint venture. Aegis’ chairman, Bill Schoenfeld, is also chairman and co-founder of Hong Kong-based Asia Pacific Land, which invests in real estate, renewable energy and private equity transactions.
The funding "gives us an ability to be bold in our areas of investigation and company creation," said Manning, who previously served as chairman and CEO of the data and analytics company Dun & Bradstreet. The initial investment is considered "seed stage funds" that would "further catalyze and attract a significant multiple of additional venture capital. … We do believe that the techniques we'll be using will be attractive to other co-investors over time," he said.
Northwell sees about 2 million patients a year from widely diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds, which "provides a true microcosm of the entire United States," Manning said. "So this possibility of using the resources of the entire system to … invent new ways to deliver better care and lower cost care is a really profound opportunity. "
It also gives the health system a chance to close the health disparities that have long been a focus of Northwell’s president and CEO, Michael Dowling, Mulry said. Dowling "has always promoted and advanced a culture of innovation, particularly when it can address issues of health equity," Mulry said.
The joint venture is one of many efforts by Northwell in recent years to cultivate new ideas and create new products. For instance, the health system analyzed data from 2.3 million patient visits and used the information to develop an algorithm that predicts how patients will fare on overnight hospital stays, reducing the need to wake them to check their vital signs, the hospital network said.
The new joint venture’s areas of inquiry include chronic kidney disease, which involves severe illness and very high costs, and the management of hospital emergency departments, Manning said.
Another key focus of the joint venture is preeclampsia, Mulry said. The condition can cause dangerously high blood pressure and other severe — and potentially fatal — problems during pregnancy. The incidence is higher among Black women than among those of other races.
If analyzing large volumes of data can help prevent and treat the condition, Mulry said, "we could make a big difference in the world."