i3 | April 02, 2020

Liftoff PGH

Karen Wolk Feinstein

Can you challenge a region to embrace innovation as inspired by CES? Pittsburgh is about to find out. 

Four years ago, I took a critical leap into the future of health care by attending CES. This is not hyperbolic. I’d settled for decades on incremental improvement as an acceptable pace for health system reforms. I accepted rigid rules (such as those restricting scope of practice) that discouraged new professional players and new roles, while our legacy systems restricted access to care and promoted highly specialized, complex and expensive services over less costly options. 

At CES, I was unprepared for my entrance into a world of disruption, fueled by the broader world of technology. Four eye-opening trips later, we’re set to launch Pittsburgh’s first immersive health care innovation summit, a window into Healthcare 2030 which we call Liftoff PGH. It is real, and it’s happening September 15-16, 2020. 

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) may seem like an unlikely attendee at CES. Founded in 1990, the Pittsburgh-based healthcare organization — a grantmaking, research, program demonstration, and educational “multi-tasker”— advocates for patient safety, quality improvement, and broader health policy reform. We brought lean principles to health care and created one of the nation’s first multi-stakeholder quality coalitions. It’s in our DNA to cross industries and make unusual connections. The difference now is scope and scale. Technological discovery will alter every sector of the economy, and health care is no exception. Before we walked toward innovation, but now we have to run to keep up.

Karen Wolk Feinstein, President and CEO, Jewish Healthcare Foundation

The Digital Health Summit at CES attracted fewer attendees in 2015. Compared to 2020, tech giants were just exploring the health industry’s potential. But my eyes were opened, not to any particular technology or concept, though many were extraordinary, but to the full throttle commitment to breakthrough innovation. Global, age-indifferent, and inviting to new entrants and traditional players from other industries!

Disruption on this scale will benefit some and displace others. Over these past five years, I contemplated how a region can prepare for the rapid innovations coming in this decade. As I wandered the labyrinthine aisles of the exhibit floor, row by row, room by room, I couldn’t help but wonder. Could the Pittsburgh region ride the waves of change successfully and competitively? What would it take to maximize opportunity and minimize disruption?

True, our region boasts internationally recognized institutions across higher education, medical research, and tech entrepreneurship. But these assets will have to realize their combined potential to thrive in a new era. With a finite window for transformation, Pittsburgh needed a reboot. Inspired by CES, JHF launched a daring experiment, challenging our regional institutions to envision their evolution to 2030.

How do we bring the excitement and inspiration of CES to a whole region? Liftoff PGH is an event and a movement, activating more than 1,000 change makers in technology, health, education, and entrepreneurship to reimagine Pittsburgh’s future health care ecosystem. Participants will venture through five immersive Explorations, fueled by an electric mix of speakers, exhibits and interactive learning. We aspire to create an ambitious vision—and connect the people to realize it. We may not achieve our highest aspirations, but what if we do? What if one event catalyzes a regional transformation?

For Pittsburgh, the collective challenge is to reinvent how we effect change, to disaggregate ideas from sectors, and envision an economy based on unfettered innovation. CES has provided a few of us with an essential window to what lies ahead, but also a critical model of ambitious planning. Can local leadership in health delivery, finance, government, education, and philanthropy boost a city’s potential for wildly innovative collaboration? We’ll see. Thank you CES

It’s in our DNA to cross industries and make unusual connections. The difference now is scope and scale.
Karen Wolk Fienstein 
i3 magazine

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