Data is transforming every industry under the sun. Mountains of data let companies sell toothpaste, manage international logistics and support customers more efficiently.
Healthcare is different.
“We all know that the single largest problem inside a health system is getting access to their own data,” Stacey Kinkead told GeekWire. Since 2015, Kinkead — a veteran technology executive and early Amazon employee — has turned her knack for tech innovation to healthcare, but she kept running into this problem.
Kinkead said she quickly realized that not having easy access to data is a roadblock to even the most basic health innovation. Then she ran into fellow tech executive and Amazon alum Jim Harding, who was working on a new company that is taking aim at that problem: MultiScale Health Networks.
Now, after working in stealth for more than five years, MultiScale is launching its real-time, cloud-driven data platform for health systems, aiming to “liberate” healthcare data and open the door for new innovations. Kinkead said the system wants to be akin to the Apple App Store, but for healthcare providers.
The company is a joint venture between Providence St. Joseph Health and CODONiS, a computational biology company that provides a life science data processing platform. Harding, who serves as MultiScale’s CEO, co-founded the company with David Sabey president and founder of real estate investor Sabey Corp. Kinkead serves as the chief product officer.
Both Kinkead and Harding have impressive tech credentials. They both spent time in Amazon’s leadership in the company’s formative years, as it grew from an online bookseller to a category-destroying e-commerce giant, and they have led companies across the tech world.
In theory, MultiScale’s work is simple. The company partners with health systems to bring their internal data onto a cloud platform, which lets the systems have easy access to that data and build new applications on top of it.
In practice, it’s much more difficult.
Healthcare IT is incredibly siloed and regulated by strict laws around patient data privacy. Healthcare technology systems are fragmented across hundreds of different health systems across the country and are often years behind in technology innovation.
“We’re the first company to put real-time medical record data in the cloud as it’s being generated in the field,” Harding said. That feat in itself involved years of work and navigating a complex and highly regulated IT environment.
The company had to figure out, almost from scratch, how to create a giant, cloud-based healthcare data platform that met the security needs of hospitals but also made the data convenient and accessible.
But even when that was done, it still left healthcare providers with a big problem. “If it’s accessible,” Harding said, “what are you going to do with it if you’re not a computer scientist?”
The answer is building applications, ones that can turn the mountains of newly accessible data into actionable information.
“We’re also here to liberate that data and make products that are useful and convenient and actually make their lives easier,” Kinkead said. More than a platform, MultiScale aims to be an ecosystem.
“We get the data to them when they need it, how they need it, so they can go on to be better providers,” she said.
MultiScale has built four applications on the platform so far, but moving forward the idea is to have health systems build their own applications or partner with third parties to do so.
One example: An application to see and manage the workflow in an emergency room.
ERs are difficult to track as patients with varying degrees of health emergencies move through the system. MultiScale’s application lets a doctor or nurse see everything going on and where each patient is, physically as well as in the treatment process — all from a computer. It is the first application of its kind.
Another interesting tidbit: The platform obviously relies heavily on cloud computing, but also requires strict security around who can see what data and when. Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services both have healthcare-friendly cloud offerings that adhere to national health data privacy laws.
But MultiScale decided to go with the third horse in the cloud race: Google Cloud.
“No one else would agree to the terms we demanded,” Kinkead said, namely terms that prevent the cloud provider from using the data. “They can’t touch it, they can’t look at it, they can’t even sneeze on it,” she said.
MultiScale is already being used at Providence and several other hospitals around the country. It is being financed by Providence and CODONiS and employs about 50, most based at its headquarters in Swedish Cherry Hill Hospital in Seattle.