April Conference Aims to Align Health Care Innovation in North Carolina


Although there is no shortage of North Carolina startups developing technology aimed at transforming health care, the road to technology adoption and commercialization can be fraught with challenges if the technology doesn’t align with the needs and priorities of health systems and payers. 

To help these groups better connect and understand each other, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center will host the conference “Aligning Health Care Innovation in North Carolina: Health Systems, Payers, Innovators, and the Quintuple Aim” on April 27.

This event is an extension of the Clinical Innovation Initiative started about six years ago by Greta Brunet, senior director of investments with the Emerging Company Development team at NCBiotech, and Corie Curtis, executive director of NCBiotech’s Greater Charlotte Office. Health care innovation is a topic Brunet, a former physician assistant, is passionate about. The Initiative has served as a catalyst not only for clinician-led innovation but also for health system engagement and collaboration.

“NCBiotech is excited to host this event in conjunction with our partners at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina State University,” said Vivian Doelling, Ph.D., vice president, investments at NCBiotech. “During this event, health care system and payer panels will inform startups about their health care technology needs and early-stage companies will present their innovations.”

Making connections

“We look forward to connecting promising startups from the Triangle with health systems, payers and investors,” said Mireya McKee, Ph.D., director of KickStart Venture Services at UNC. “It is vital that innovations emerging from our universities align with the needs and strategic priorities of health systems in order to develop solutions that can be adopted and can ultimately impact people’s lives. Events like this allow all stakeholders to understand how to work with one another to positively impact the health care, life sciences and innovation communities.”

The meeting’s agenda is targeted at a broad range of attendees, including investors, startups, health system and payer organizations and service providers. It will include health system and payer panels featuring top NC executives and pitches from a group of health care startup companies curated by the event hosts. Investors will also share their top areas of interest in health care and life sciences during a reverse investor pitch session, which will be followed by a networking reception.

Brunet points out that companies with a new technology can encounter a brick wall when trying to secure health system customers or get attention from payers, and they don't always understand why. “This can arise from misalignment between the solution and the priorities of the healthcare and payer realms or a dearth of compelling evidence to substantiate the technology's adoption,” she said. “To bridge this gap, the event aims to help companies better understand the current strategic priorities of health systems and payers and where innovative technology has the potential to facilitate achieving those objectives. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis, health systems have raised the bar as they evaluate new technologies. We hope companies gain a better understanding of how their technology can support the ongoing shift to value-based care.”

The Quintuple Aim

“As part of the Duke University community, we are excited about this uniquely collaborative event,” said Jeff Welch, Ph.D., director of Duke New Ventures at Duke University. “Getting investors, payers, inventors, and health system professionals working together will help all of us align our technology commercialization efforts to better address the current needs of healthcare systems in a sustainable and equitable manner.”

One of the driving forces for health systems and payers is the Institute for Health Care’s Triple Aim for optimizing health system performance, which was first published in 2008. The Triple Aim encompasses a single aim with three dimensions: the simultaneous pursuit of improving the patient experience of care, improving the health of populations and reducing the per-capita cost of health care. More recently, others have proposed adding health care burnout and inequity to the Triple Aim to create the Quintuple Aim. 

During the event, health system and payers panelists will discuss their strategic priorities, how they arrive at those, and to what extent the Quintuple Aim directs those strategic priorities. They will also explore the types of technology their organizations are interested in. The current economic climate and how it affects the ways they engage with startups will also be included in the moderated panel discussions. 

The health system strategies panel will be moderated by Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, M.D., MPH, state health director and chief medical officer for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Tilson will bring her experience as a clinician to the discussion as well as her work on population health improvement and whole-person health. Panelists include Diana Rhyne, MBA, executive director, research & innovation at WakeMed Health & Hospitals; Todd Dunn, vice president of innovation at Advocate Health; and Dan Galles, partner at Providence Ventures. 

The payer panel will be moderated by Marion Couch, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, CEO of IntoValue Group and adjunct professor at Duke Medical School. Payer panelists include Lisa Shock, Dr.P.H., MHS, PA-C, chief population health officer of North Carolina Health Plan, UnitedHealthcare Community and State; William Lawrence, M.D., chief medical officer of Carolina Complete Health; and Sonny Goyal, SVP, diversified business group and chief strategy officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. 

“We are thrilled to participate in this opportunity to showcase NC State startups to the health system and payer industry,” said Tim Martin, MS, senior licensing associate at NC State. “We look forward to the access and interaction with the attendees to help solve real problems in health care.” 

The event is no cost but requires advance registration.


1 to 3 p.m.  Panel: Health System Strategies

Panel: Payer Organization Priorities

3 to 3:20 p.m.  Break

3:20 to 4:20 p.m.  Health Care Company Pitches:

Select startup companies, curated from UNC, Duke, NC State and NCBiotech, will pitch. 
Technology areas of interest will align with target interests shared by health systems/payers.   

4:20 to 4:45 p.m.  Reverse Investor Pitches

4:45 to 5:30 p.m.   Networking Reception


Greta Brunet, MBA, PA-C | Senior Director, Investments | NCBiotech | greta_brunet@ncbiotech.org

Corie Curtis | Executive Director, Greater Charlotte Office | NCBiotech | corie_curtis@ncbiotech.org

Nancy Lamontagne, NCBiotech Writer
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