Pursuing Interoperability Disruption, Akiri Taps Kaiser Permanente Vet as CEO

Jack Murtha
SEPTEMBER 12, 2018
akiri ceo,akiri interoperability,health2047 startups,hca news

Many healthcare stakeholders likely have yet to hear of Akiri, but they surely know one of its indirect backers: the American Medical Association (AMA).

Akiri, a startup focused on interoperability, is the first company to stem from Health2047, a Silicon Valley commercialization enterprise and investor, whose founding backer and chief partner is the AMA. As Healthcare Analytics News™ has reported before, the arrangement poses an intriguing opportunity: that meaningful innovation and, dare we say, disruption could come from within healthcare, not simply from outside tech players.

Akiri pushed that possibility a step closer toward reality today, with the announcement that it has appointed David A. Watson, the former chief technology officer of Kaiser Permanente, CEO. His 30 years in health tech, no doubt, place him squarely in the medical establishment, further supporting the idea that any transformational changes made by Akiri would be of healthcare’s own doing.

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“My career has been dedicated to unlocking the value of data in healthcare, so this position truly is a perfect fit,” Watson said in a statement. “With the support of the (AMA) and Akiri’s talented engineering team, we will overcome one of the biggest challenges in healthcare: how to best secure, share and adopt trusted health data in real time given the unique parameters and complexities of our system.”

Indeed, the idea that healthcare should — or must — play an active role in its technological evolution, precisely because of the intricate nature of the industry, is paramount to many health-tech leaders. (Some key opinion leaders, including those primarily with tech backgrounds, have argued that outside innovation is critical given the “broken” nature of healthcare.) Either way, understanding who’s behind potential innovation and disruption is not merely tracking for tracking’s sake; this sort of examination could hint at the future of healthcare.

First, let’s look at Akiri. Founded last year and based in Silicon Valley, the startup has raised $10 million in capital, according to Crunchbase. It considers itself a “healthcare technology pioneer” and is dedicated to the seamless, secure and compliant exchange of medical data, from physicians and patients to hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

Akiri aims to achieve interoperability by building a “trusted network” that uses permissions to transfer data. It has filed patents for its “proprietary networking technology” and is working with an unnamed pharma giant to test its system on clinical data.

Interoperability, of course, is a major pain point for clinicians, healthcare leaders and patients alike. Government agencies are collaborating with tech innovators to solve the data silo problem, and any number of startups have taken up the cause.

Watson, meanwhile, has dealt with the issue for years, in high-ranking positions at prestigious institutions. In addition to Kaiser Permanente, he has held leadership roles at California Integrated Data Exchange, MedeAnalytics and Oracle. At Kaiser, he developed HealthConnect, a program that the institution once called the “largest private electronic health record system in the world” and a driver of clinical research.

Whether his healthcare credentials make him more likely than a pure software developer to answer the interoperability question is unclear. But Health2047 officials argued that Watson’s track record counts for something.

“Dave’s deep healthcare experience and passion for driving technical innovation to new heights made him the ideal leader to guide Akiri as it grows,” noted Douglass Given, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, who chairs Akiri and serves as Health2047’s board director.

One thing, however, is obvious: If there were ever a corner of healthcare conducive to disruption, it’s data sharing.

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