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A chief innovation officer discusses innovation and healthcare breakthroughs.


Christopher Coburn is the chief innovation officer at Boston-based Mass General Brigham.

Mr. Coburn will serve on the panel “Start-ups, Investment Arms, Venture Capital and More: Partnership Strategies for Long-Term Financial Stability” at Becker’s 7th Annual Health IT + Digital Health + RCM Annual Meeting: The Future of Business and Clinical Technologies. As part of an ongoing series, Becker’s is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place Oct. 4-7 in Chicago. 

To learn more and register, click here.

Question: What are you most excited about right now?

Christopher Coburn: Breakthroughs in scientific discovery are emerging every day that will change the future of medicine — it’s thrilling to think of their impact on patients. One example of this is the progress in gene and cell therapy, which has the potential to treat and possibly cure many lethal diseases and conditions. Coming out of the pandemic, we are also seeing growth in new healthcare delivery models, including digital and virtual care. As the largest academic research enterprise in the U.S., Mass General Brigham’s Harvard faculty conducts nearly $2.3 billion of research and sees 1.5 million patients yearly. That combination of the latest research and patient experience is compelling.  

Q: What challenges do you anticipate over the next two years?  

CC: Innovation succeeds when there’s cross-collaboration among sectors, including health systems, industry, regulators, manufacturers, investors, and most importantly, patients. Continuing to bring these groups together to propel innovation into patient care is critical. At Mass General Brigham, we ensure inclusive approaches to healthcare innovation. The pandemic exposed a health care system with limited accessibility and uneven distribution of care — we are leveraging innovation to help change that. 

Q: Where are the best opportunities for disruption in healthcare today?

CC: Patient care continues to shift from traditional hospital settings to home and distributed models, making primary and secondary care more affordable and delivering it closer to home. Acute care facilities complement expert community-based care for the most complex cases. There are also expanded opportunities for digital applications, AI, and other new care delivery models. New entrants into healthcare, including nontraditional healthcare companies, continue to prompt innovation on many fronts.   

Q: How is your role as a CIO evolving?

CC: As a chief innovation officer, it’s imperative to constantly encourage and expand the number of researchers and clinicians participating in collaborative innovation and spark constant exchange around unmet healthcare needs — from bed to bench and back. We are working to make innovation more accessible and less opaque for faculty, especially clinicians, early-career and diverse members new to the commercialization process. An underpinning of education and engagement, particularly among early-career clinicians and researchers, helps unlock the innovation capabilities of scientists and caregivers. 


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