Healthcare, Homelessness and Hope

SBR Health and a new Boston-area nonprofit, Found in Translation, share an important core value: connecting patients and healthcare professionals through better communication. Found in Translation is the brain-child of Executive Director Maria Vertkin, who thought it would be a good idea to connect homeless, bilingual women with free job training to become medical interpreters, whose average annual salary is over $40,000. In Boston shelters, more than 40% of families identify as Hispanic/Latino (Source: Annual Census Report), and many are bilingual women.

Maria, an Israeli citizen born in Russia, saw an opportunity to help bilingual women by creating a program that offers not only a 12-week medical interpreter’s certification course, but common sense support such as child care and transportation. The Kip Tiernan Fellowship Committee at Rosie’s Place saw the opportunity too, and awarded Maria with a $40,000 start-up grant in 2011. Found in Translation graduated their first class of 21 women, selected from a pool of 164 applicants, in April 2012.

“The potential for women in this job field is tremendous,’ said Maria, who has worked as an interpreter and translator since she was a teenager. ‘Our program participants are looking at a 500% income increase. That not only helps the women and their families, it helps fill a need in the hospital workforce and improves the quality of healthcare for non-English speakers.”

Today, hundreds of low-income, bilingual women are waiting to apply for their next training cycle in 2013, hoping for an opportunity to use their language skills to create a better life for themselves and their families.

The next few months are critical for Found in Translation – additional funds are deeply needed to continue this important program.  Party Around the World is the organization’s first annual fundraiser – a multi-cultural celebration with live Latin, African and Chinese lion dance performances, multi-cultural foods, and world music. It takes place at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, MA on November 16, 2012 from 6 to 10 pm.  Tickets are only $55 general admission and $25 for students/starving artists. Please buy tickets, enjoy a fun night out and support this great organization!


For more information about Found in Translation, please visit their website: or contact Maria Vertkin at


Why Innovation Requires Letting Go to Drive Change

This year’s 2nd Annual Digital Health Conference put the spotlight on efforts to advance healthcare innovation in New York and beyond. While the big apple is home to some of today’s biggest name celebrities like Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, talk of progress on health information exchanges and the secure sharing of data, as well as new mHealth and telemedicine tools, was top of mind at the conference.

Featured over the two-day conference were keynotes with Dr. David Brailer, Chairman of Health Evolution Partners, and often referred to as the ‘grandfather of health IT’, and Stephen Dubner, journalist and award-winning author of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, as well as breakout sessions on some of today’s hottest topics in healthcare.

One of the most well attended and thought provoking sessions was the ‘mHealth Innovators Panel’ with Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique, as moderator and Leonard Achan, Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at The Mount SInai Medical Center; Wendy Mayer, Vice President, Worldwide Innovation at Pfizer; and Martha Wofford, Vice President, Head of CarePass at Aetna as panelists. By addressing the goals, perspectives and challenges of using mHealth for care delivery, this hour-long panel offered key insights on mHealth’s potential to revolutionize the healthcare ecosystem from the key players in the market including hospital providers, physicians, patients, pharma, payers and programmers.

Q: How do you convince the C-suite that innovation is important?

Wendy: My team drives innovation platforms with a focus on transforming digital to support business and develop capability tools across the organization. With digital, you can innovate more quickly. Pfizer is still working towards a corporate digital strategy but has come a long way.

Q: How has innovation changed?

Martha: There’s been an explosion of applications. Now it’s more about navigating the ecosystem and connecting the best pieces brought to market.

Leonard: We’re further along now. Once you get the C-level support and get past the threshold of change, then you build trust and it’s easier to move forward.

Q: What’s the best innovation out there?

Wendy: Accessibility to healthcare beyond the local environment and the global implications of providing care and extending care more broadly.

Q: What’s the best thing about CarePass?

Martha: Allowing people to see a different future with data and get them there. We’re excited about all the things you can plug into mobile. You can revolutionize access to care around the world.

Leonard: The $7 trillion impact of mobile in low and middle income countries across the globe. A lot of more simple technologies will be transplanted from countries around the world.

Q: Why do people say they want mHealth but not everyone is using it?

Wendy: The existence of mobile technology in places where there is no alternative of care allows for quick adoption. Here in the U.S., the alternative is the person, the doctor. We have an immense amount of data from the traditional care delivery approach and less reliable evidence and data to allow doctors to let go and feel more comfortable with mobile. Mobile as a new means of communication is difficult to assess the impact.

Q: What advice would you give to startups?

Wendy: Do your homework around issues that pharma is dealing with. Vendors come in and talk about solutions that don’t connect to our business strategy. We’re looking for ideas that address our challenges and solve real problems.

Leonard: You have to do a lot of research ahead of time. We used to let everyone in. It was a disaster for entrepreneurs pitching to executives and not doing their homework. It’s important to understand the business goals. If you’re going to save lives and money, you have a chance but you really have to differentiate yourself.

Martha: CarePass is attracting developers with new solutions. We’re working collaboratively with other organizations to inspire innovation. We may be further along but not yet attracting the best and brightest. We want to create a community for developers to help us innovate and drive change.


Innovation Gamechangers

This past week, SBR had the chance to sit down with Boston Children’s Hiep ‘Bob’ Nguyen, MD, Director of Pediatric TeleUrology, and his research fellow Chad Gridley to discuss some of the projects underway that are innovating care delivery. Bob, recently named a Champion of Healthcare by the Boston Business Journal, is a real game changer who is always at the forefront of revolutionizing care through the utilization of new technologies to better facilitate communication and engage patients.

Q: How is Boston Children’s innovating today?

Boston Children’s is a very forward thinking hospital. They recognize the capabilities of current technologies and are doing a great job of utilizing them. I think they’ve done an especially great job of creating mobile device apps. For example, hospitals are known for being difficult to navigate. The hospital has created a free app that is downloaded to your phone that helps patients and their families get to anywhere in the hospital.

Q: What are the challenges in innovating?

The most challenging aspect is trying to advance multiple projects simultaneously. The hospital has a wealth of innovative staff and given our close proximity to world-class educational institutions, there is never a shortage of startups wanting to collaborate with the hospital.

Click to watch interview

Q: How is video communications shaping innovation in care delivery? Why is this important?

Video communication is bringing patients and healthcare providers closer together than ever before. The process of getting a child ready, driving to the hospital, and sitting in the waiting room can take the better part of the day. For many parents, this is a great burden and sometimes isn’t even an option. By utilizing available technologies, patients can more easily reach their physician from their own home. This has the potential for increasing patient satisfaction as well as increasing patient follow up.