Editor’s note: Brian Cooper is the Chief of Staff/Vice President of Operations at the Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) headquartered in Chapel Hill/Durham.

DURHAM — More than 175 healthcare transformers, game-changers, and status-quo challengers convened in Durham for the DHIT Summit last week.

The goal: to discover, define, and design an immersive education curriculum, real-world evidence in clinical research, innovative frameworks for quality improvement, and collaborative market propositions that drive health outcomes and economic development.

The Summit, organized and hosted by the Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) headquartered in Chapel Hill/Durham, drew an eclectic group of digital health experts from around the world to dig deep into how digital health can be used to pervasively transform health.

Funding for the event was supported by sponsorships and grants issued by, but not limited to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Government of Quebec, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Eshelman Institute for Innovation, Bluedoor Group, and Terazo.

“The level of experience and insight from international healthcare leaders was absolutely key in delivering actionable insights and shared learning, keeping the attendees engaged and inspired,” remarked Dr. Michael Ruhlen, VP of Medical Education at Atrium Health, and Chair of DHIT’s Advisory Board.

The Summit also showcased innovative education, research, and quality improvement solutions.

Lee Phillips, Co-founder and Chief Strategist of Bluedoor Group, a member of DHIT’s Industry Council, recapped, “The Summit brought together a truly diverse mix of stakeholders from across the digital health ecosystem, from educators, researchers, payors and providers, to entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors. It was encouraging to see so many dedicated healthcare innovators and digital health enthusiasts challenging the status quo, and reimagining how healthcare can be better designed, delivered and experienced in the digital age, which is something we are dedicated to helping our clients do at Bluedoor.”

A key enhancement this year was hosting the Government of Quebec, the largest Canadian province, who led a delegation comprising of 10 digital health start-ups as well as The University of Montreal Health Center (CHUM). CHUM is considered one of the most progressive health systems in the world and a leader in leveraging Artificial Intelligence to improve patient care. The audience took inspiration as well as real-world examples from Dr. Fabrice Brunet, President and CEO of CHUM, on how health systems and communities can leverage AI for better healthcare delivery.

“I had an opportunity to hear Dr. Brunet speak about his vision last April in Montréal, and was inspired to hear of the urgency and action for a very different operating narrative than our historical models of care and engagement,” said Michael Levy, DHIT President.

“His understanding of what it will take to adapt and transform with the use of these AI-driven digital health tools was refreshing and mirrors DHIT’s operating philosophy as well,”

To wrap up the Summit, DHIT and the Government of Québec co-hosted a matchmaking event, where the delegation from Quebec and leaders from North Carolina and beyond identified opportunities for partnership that spans nations and aligns talent, assets, and resources to drive transformation within underserved communities.

“This Summit allows us to reach our goal to foster Quebec’s economic relationship with North Carolina in the life sciences and healthcare sectors,” said Donald Leblanc, Québec Delegate for the Southeastern United States based in Atlanta.

“It is actually the first time that we have organized a mission focused on digital health in the Southeast, and we can’t think of a better event to connect our innovating start-ups with the NC ecosystem. We also like the DHIT approach to unite the private sector firms, the academics and the government, as we do in Quebec for our major clusters. What’s even more exciting, we are totally ‘en phase’ with M. Levy on the fact that this is just the beginning of a very promising relationship to the benefit of our companies and our population.”

The Quality Improvement panel led a discussion on “Deploying Next Generation Operating Models for Transformation” moderated by Corey Mercy, Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; Anika Gardenhire, AVP of Digital Transformation at Intermountain Healthcare; Marc Saab, Founder and Managing Director of BML Technology in Canada; Anne Bailey, Innovation Specialist at the Veterans Health Administration in Asheville; and Rich Kenny, Chief Impact Officer at Bluedoor Group.

The Summit effectively laid the foundation for DHIT’s 2020 programming that will include strategic partnerships with academic institutions, research organizations and industry leaders looking to deploy DHIT’s social innovation platform, also known as the “Community HUG”, in underserved communities around the state.

Key to DHIT’s focus in 2020 is collaborating with UNC Pembroke where Dr. Todd Telemeco, Founding Dean of the College of Health Sciences, is looking to address the surrounding region’s extreme health disparities leveraging new digital models of care.

“This is a unique moment in time, especially for the University of North Carolina Pembroke campus as we look to build a new College of Health Sciences with innovative ideas of what it means to architect health for people from rural, underserved areas like Robeson, Scotland, and Cumberland counties,” said Dr. Telemeco.

“This Summit and DHIT give us great hope and we are excited to build the future of healthcare together while partnering with our community stakeholders, and patients, to understand their hardships and bring amazing products, services, and technology to bear from North Carolina and from around the world.”

The Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) is a non-profit education and research institute supporting communities through the process of digital health transformation. It collaboratse with leading academic institutions, associations, and industry to cultivate talent and ecosystems with our immersive learning platform, harnessing real-world experiences that drive the adoption of next generation skills, emerging technologies, and mindsets needed to foster the digital health leaders and innovators of the future, today.

Funding for the DHIT Summit was provided in part by a grant through the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

The next DHIT Summit is scheduled for November 2020.