An Interview with Michael Blum, M.D., Director of UCSF’s Center for Digital Health Innovation


Besides opening innovation centers, health systems are increasingly forming partnerships with commercial organizations to develop technology solutions. For instance, in September Boston-based Partners HealthCare announced a $30 million population health management strategic initiative with Salt Lake City-based healthcare data warehousing and analytics vendor Health Catalyst. Likewise, in October the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) announced an ambitious plan to Cisco announced this week an initiative to jointly develop an interoperability platform for sharing healthcare information among multiple entities. 

Last Friday I had a chance speak with Michael Blum, M.D., UCSF’s associate vice chancellor for informatics and director of its Center for Digital Health Innovation, about the Cisco deal. He stressed that it wasn’t established to sovle specific issues that UCSF was facing in its own clinical setting.

“It was more to address global interoperability problems, and the barriers they are causing to effective development in the digital health space overall,” Blum said.  He did say UCSF is experiencing some obvious barriers rolling out its accountable care network. “It was pretty obvious that we were going to have to build a bunch of infrastructure to overcome interoperability issues for clinical purposes,” he said, “and then in the more advanced digital health spaces there was really very little progress. That started the discussions.”

Cisco and UCSF are establishing a collaborative center at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus to test and scale an interoperability platform across different devices, IT systems and software.

Although it may not have a big name in the health IT space yet, Cisco already has a tremendous amount of technology assets that do this type of data transfer, data liquidity -- analytics, compute -- in other industries, and it only made sense to bring those assets into the healthcare space, he said.

In The NewsBryan Mazzarello