Boston Children's taps John Brownstein as Chief Innovation Officer

By Jonah Comstock
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Brownstein_1Boston Children's Hospital has tapped John Brownstein, currently the director of the hospital's computational epidemiology group, as its new Chief Innovation Officer. Brownstein will succeed Naomi Fried, who left the company at the end of December to become Vice President of Medical Information, Innovation, and External Partnerships at Biogen Idec.

"John Brownstein, PhD, was the top management choice for Chief Innovation Officer at BCH, for a host of reasons," Boston Children's Hospital writes on its website. "He is a global leader in HCIT and, in particular, the emerging fields of informatics and big data analytics. He currently runs a 50-person multi-disciplinary team focused on digital innovations that span clinicians and consumers. He is a successful entrepreneur having developed new technologies, started multiple companies and outlicensed technologies. John has extensive experience establishing industry/academic partnerships, including work with Google, Twitter and Uber. As a long time (11 years) BCH employee, he is familiar with BCH and the many talented doctors, nurses and scientists here who serve as the core of our innovation engine."

Brownstein wants to continue the tradition of innovation begun by Fried and to make sure that innovation scales into full-blown deployments.

"Innovation is in our DNA here at Boston Children's," Brownstein said in a statement. "But innovation only works if we can make the connections and secure the support needed to turn insights into treatments and tools. I want to work together with hospital administration; our brilliant doctors, nurses and scientists; and incubators, funders and companies to create paths that will benefit everyone: the innovators, the institution and, most importantly, patients.”

In his role with the Computational Epidemiology group, Brownstein has supervised a number of projects that parse large data sets from the Internet and social media to drive health outcomes. A study he worked on about Twitter and insomnia was recently published in JMIR. But the team is probably most well-known for HealthMap, an "internet-based global infectious disease intelligence system". A few years ago, the team spun off and established itself as a new company, called Epidemico, which held the commercial license for HealthMap. It was acquired last year as a fully owned subsidiary of Booz Allen Hamilton. Brownstein told MobiHealthNews he will continue to run his research group and to serve as an advisor for Epidemico.

At HxRefactored 2015, a healthcare design conference, Brownstein recently described five different projects Epidemico has worked on, using social media for everything from flu tracking to investigating black market prescription drug sales to FDA adverse event reporting. Brownstein is also an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Fried has long been an outspoken advocate for mobile health innovation, and during her tenure Boston Children's developed a framework for in-house mobile app development that's spawned projects like ALICE, a smart whiteboard that can print a copy of the caregiver assignment sheet, perform a historical lookup of patient caregiver assignments and pull information from the board to help doctors find their patients; DisCo, a discharge communication service that sends messages to patients after they’ve visited the hospital, or MyPassport, a patient-facing iPad app that gives patients and their parents access to test results, care plans, and the names and pictures of everyone on the child’s care team.

Just a few months ago, Boston Children's showed off a number of other new tools and apps at its second annual innovator's showcase event, including Thermia, a support tool for parents whose children have fevers, which Brownstein helped develop.