Healthcare Innovation at Yale: Five Questions with Margaret Cartiera

From improving medical imaging through artificial intelligence to building new platforms to connect users with health resources, many Yale students see the healthcare system as a critical space for innovation. Meaningfully improving products, services, and interactions in healthcare often involves linking the tools and mindsets of innovation — which CITY aims to promote through all of its programs and resources — with more specialized, sector-specific knowledge, such as the intricacies of regulatory processes or clinical data systems. Fortunately for students, Margaret Cartiera has spent years working at this intersection. In her roles at the Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology (CBIT) and as a mentor-in-residence at CITY, Margaret serves as an advisor to students who hope to make an impact in healthcare. We talked to Margaret about Yale’s health innovation ecosystem and how she applies her background to supporting students.

In addition to serving as a mentor-in-residence at CITY, you work as Investment and Innovation Director at CBIT. How would you characterize Yale’s ecosystem for innovation in healthcare, and how do you see it evolving?

It’s maturing. Since my time here as a graduate student, it’s been amazing to see how innovation and innovation resources have expanded at Yale, with partnerships between different centers and schools that foster a supportive environment for students and innovators to explore, build, and refine their healthcare solutions. It has also been encouraging to see greater connection across our two campuses, where Yale Medicine and Yale New Haven Hospital offer “voice of customer” feedback and identification of unmet clinical needs.

As we work to further expand resources in healthcare innovation, I would like to see increased collaboration with others on campus — particularly in areas such as data science, computer science, organizational behavior, and the visual arts. There is an ever-increasing interest in the use of healthcare data or creating tools around data. Healthcare innovators could also benefit from understanding how to more effectively communicate complex information to different stakeholders.

Before coming to Yale, you had extensive experience in industry, from leading the $200 million Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund to working with corporations in areas like business development, competitive intelligence, and regulatory affairs. How does this experience shape your approach to mentoring students?

In previous experiences, I had the privilege to work not only with many talented early-stage innovators, but also with seasoned executives who taught me the importance of understanding your stakeholders, the competitive landscape, and value assessment. My own time in startups helped me realize that the team you work with is very important. People make things happen. The synergy on a team can enable you to scale mountains or crawl at a snail’s pace. Collectively, the team needs to understand the problem they are solving and anticipate what obstacles lie ahead — always keeping the big picture in mind, but focused on the task at hand. They need to be coachable and willing to pivot as the solution evolves and they navigate the landscape.

I learned many of these lessons “on the job,” often in scenarios when stakes were high and funding was critical. In coming back to Yale, I wanted to share my knowledge and experience with students early in their innovation journey. If I could help them gain a better understanding of the market, funding, regulatory, and strategic issues, then they would be one step ahead. My interactions with students range from quick Q&A conversations to deep mentoring engagements to career sessions.

What do you see as major innovation opportunities in the healthcare space right now?

There are several shifts in the healthcare landscape and many technical advancements that are creating opportunities for innovators. For example:

· Aging population: As our population ages, there needs to be a fresh look at preventative care models, care delivery approaches, and development of therapies and tools for conditions such as dementia.

· Precision medicine: With continued advancement in genomics, the discovery of novel treatments, biomarkers, and diagnostic tests is possible, allowing the right intervention to be delivered to the right patient at the right time.

· Digital health and data analytics: The electronic health record (e.g., Epic, Cerner), smart phone, health data tracking (e.g., Apple Watch, Fitbit), artificial intelligence, and machine learning advancements have all played a role in the strong interest in healthcare data and ways it can be leveraged to improve clinical outcomes and the healthcare experience.

You run two Intensives: Health Data Sandbox and Clinical Redesign. Can you tell us a bit about these Intensives and their goals? What have students been working on in each of these Intensives?

In Clinical Redesign, which is a joint program between Tsai CITY and Yale New Haven Health System’s Clinical Redesign Group, students of varying backgrounds and disciplines get a firsthand look at challenges facing frontline providers. Students are able to offer a fresh perspective on current problems and create innovative solutions, which could drive improvements and process change.

Students are grouped into interdisciplinary teams with assigned clinical and project mentors who provide structured guidance and feedback. Each team works on a defined challenge and draws from their unique skillsets to “rethink, realign, redesign.” In past cohorts, students were able to select from topics that included virtual glucose management, the 24/7 hospital, and reducing medication waste.

In Health Data Sandbox, students have the opportunity to work alongside experienced medical and information technology (IT) professionals to develop a unique, customized solution for real-time data analytics and data integration that uses the electronic health record (EHR). The Intensive is a good fit for students and innovators who are interested in how software workflows and backend systems in a healthcare system operate or may be thinking of building an application that interfaces with the EHR. Two projects being explored this semester are a machine learning algorithm to predict patient readmissions and an application for disaster situations.

What are some of your favorite examples of Yale-born innovations, in healthcare or otherwise?

A couple examples I especially like are Nomad Health, Premie Breathe, and Rosie River Boots! The innovators identified a real need and, in response, developed creative solutions.

Learn more about Margaret here. Want to talk about Yale’s healthcare innovation ecosystem, ask for feedback on ideas, or get advice? Sign up for Margaret’s office hours at CITY or send her an email!