Risk-based cancer screening, open data ideas win more time with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Fnding Ideas for Practice ManagementBig data and crowdsourcing were the dominant themes at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s pioneer pitch day in New York Wednesday. Three groups were selected from the eight finalists to have a longer conversation with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation staff than the five minutes allotted for their presentations. Those conversations could lead to funding.

Laura Esserman is the director of the University of California San Francisco Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center where she is also an oncologist, surgeon and professor. She proposed a way to reduce false positives in cancer screening, overdiagnosis or potential overtreatment. A risk-based screening approach would include risk assessment and molecular profiling of tumors at the time of screening. That way, doctors learn who is at risk for what type of cancer and can learn as we go, adapting screening frequency based on interval cancer rates, tumor type and stage

Fred Trotter of Not Only Development and DocGraph describes himself as an accidental health data journalist. He said he wants to build a clinical bookmark site to improve the flow of medical information using med students. It’s doing this by mapping their browser histories and filtering out all but their visits to clinical journals. It does this by using Wikipedia’s API and clinical coding to sort out which parts of the browsing threads are probably clinical. It’s looking for a few willing medical students to donate their browser histories as part of the open data project.

Sarah Henrickson Parker, Allan Fong and Raj Ratwani of MedStar Health want to identify influencers within the healthcare system to reduce medical errors. Influencers would be nurses and doctors who always strive to do the right thing. The example they used in their presentation was a complex surgery that involved a lot of sponges and one that could not initially be found. After repeated checks they got another doctor to look and the missing sponge was found.


A pitch day for startups isn’t the first thing one associates with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest philanthropy for public health. Lori Melichar, who heads up the pioneer pitch team at RWJF and is a member of the foundation’s Research and Evaluation unit, said it wanted to try out the format to take a new approach to sourcing ideas. It has been making the rounds of conferences like TEDMED, and attending pitch days to see what’s out there. Since this was its first attempt, it will look at what works and doesn’t work as it considers whether to do it again. Melichar pointed out that has invested in startups before. Earlier this year, RWJF made a big investment in PatientsLikeMe.

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