Challenge 2 - Innovations to Support Healthcare Providers

Circle with illustration of a doctor looking at a tablet


Challenge Goal

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we access and provide care, exacerbated the racial and income inequalities in healthcare, and impacted the wellbeing of our healthcare providers. We launched this Challenge to find digital health solutions that support healthcare providers and health systems in facing new challenges to providing care. 

There has been a huge shift in how patients access care during the pandemic. As of September 2020, telehealth represented 20-30% of all office visits, substantially higher than pre-pandemic. Importantly, the share of behavioral health visits performed via telehealth has remained particularly high, with 60% of visits occurring virtually as of September 2020. 

As many people sought to access care remotely, others delayed or skipped care altogether. Parents with lower family incomes and Black adults were the most likely to delay or skip care, indicating that the pandemic has exacerbated existing racial and economic health inequities. 

In addition to the impacts on patients, the pandemic has greatly affected healthcare providers. Between May and October 2020, 38% of healthcare workers responding to an AMA survey self-reported experiencing anxiety or depression, 43% suffered from work overload, and 49% had burnout. Stress scores were highest among women, Black, and Latinx healthcare workers.

This Challenge was designed to find digital health solutions that can help healthcare providers treat and monitor their patients remotely, address racial and economic health inequities, and support healthcare providers in recovering from increased stress, anxiety, and burnout brought on by the pandemic. We take a broad definition of digital health and are looking for solutions at the intersection of healthcare and technology.

Program Overview

 

Covid Challenge 2 Graphic- Covid-19 impacts on healthcare statsStartups, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs with digital health-based solutions aimed at helping health systems and healthcare providers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to apply. Intrapreneurs are innovators from within existing, mature organizations who have ideas for a new, innovative product or service.

Up to 8 applicants will be selected to participate in a 12-week, virtual accelerator program run by Lever, Inc The accelerator will offer a  curriculum of lean startup workshops and tailored expert mentoring to help participants develop their solution, business plan, and go-to-market strategy. Participants are required to attend all 5 startup workshops. Dates for the workshops are posted below. During the accelerator, participants will be assessed on their testing and validation needs for their product and will be matched with members of the MA Digital Health Sandbox Network, a group of cutting-edge research and development organizations supporting digital health companies. Participants will work with their Sandbox partners to scope detailed, six-month testing and validation projects.

The accelerator will culminate in a judged competition in June 2022 where participants will pitch both their product and their Sandbox project. Judges will select one winner to receive $100,000 in tuition to complete their proposed Sandbox project and three runners-up to receive $50,000 in tuition for their Sandbox projects. The funding will go directly to the Sandboxes to cover their fees. 

This level of tuition can typically cover extensive user experience testing, access to cutting-edge lab facilities and subject matter experts, or a pilot in a healthcare setting. 

Download the Request for Applications for more information.  

Submit your application here. Applications are due February 25, 2022.

Watch the Infomation Session.

Early Application Opportunity: Applications submitted by February 4th will be reviewed and receive initial feedback by February 18th. Early applicants may incorporate the feedback and resubmit their application by February 25th. Please note this opportunity is applicable only to applications received by February 4th. Those received after February 4th will be reviewed through the normal application process

Workshop Dates

  • Kickoff meeting*: Friday, April 1

  • Workshop 1*: Friday, April 15

  • Workshop 2*: Friday, April 29

  • Workshop 3*: Friday, May 13

  • Workshop 4*: Thursday, May 26

  • Workshop 5 / Semi-Final Pitch*: Friday, June 3

  • Final Pitch Mentoring: Friday, June 17

  • Final Pitch Event*: Thursday, June 23

*Finalists must attend each of these sessions. The kickoff meeting will take one hour. Workshops will take two hours.

Challenge Areas and Solutions Sought

 

The following are examples of challenges that we believe can be addressed by digital health solutions. This is not an exhaustive list and any applicants with ideas for supporting health systems and healthcare providers are encouraged to apply.

  • As telehealth visits remain high, providers need tools to remotely diagnose, monitor, and care for patients. 

  • An increased number of both adults and children reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition during the pandemic. Coupled with a loss of psychiatric beds in Massachusetts and an increased reliance on telehealth for behavioral health visits, mental and behavioral health providers need specialized tools to support their patients remotely. 

  • The pandemic highlighted hospitals’ need to more effectively control infection and reduce providers’ exposure to infectious diseases.  

  • Healthcare providers have faced increased workloads during the pandemic and could benefit from solutions that help them more efficiently and effectively diagnose and provide care. 

  • Healthcare workers reported increased stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout during the pandemic and could use solutions to support their mental and emotional health. 

  • Racial and economic inequities in accessing and receiving care, and among healthcare workers, were exacerbated by the pandemic and are an undercurrent in all of the challenges listed above. Innovators that can address these issues should highlight this fact and explain how their solution will accomplish this.

Solutions to these challenge areas may include the following, but all applicants with relevant solutions are encouraged to apply:

  • Remote monitoring devices

  • Remote diagnostic tools

  • Mental and behavioral health platforms

  • AI solutions

  • Telehealth solutions

  • Care coordination tools

  • Communication tools

  • Mobile applications

Eligibility

 

  • Applicants must propose a new solution that is not yet widely commercially available. 

  • Applicants may be located anywhere in the US. However, Participants must be willing to participate in a pitch event at the end of the accelerator. Winners of the Challenge must be willing to participate in a promotional event at the conclusion of the program. The pitch event will take place in June 2022 and the promotional event is likely to take place in 2023. Both events are currently being planned as in-person events in Massachusetts. 

  • Participants in the accelerator must agree to track and report on the following metrics for five years after the program ends to comply with federal reporting requirements:

    • Number of jobs created at your company

    • Number of new customers gained 

    • Number of new patents, copyrights, or trademarks obtained

    • Diversity of your board members and/or executive team

Blue button with text that reads: Apply for the Challenge.  Deadline: Feb. 25, 2022Blue button with text that reads: Download the Request for ApplicationsBlue button that reads Learn more about the Sandbox Network