Leaders of innovation: Chen Cao of Brigham and Women’s Hospital

January 23, 2018
Julia Zehel -

Last week, we kicked off our “Leaders in Innovation” blog series with a spotlight on Roy Rosin of PennMedicine. The goal of this series is to hear from the actual people driving the adoption of innovative technologies in healthcare—and learn about the initiatives they’re most excited about in 2018.

This week, Innovation Analyst Chen Cao of Brigham and Women’s Hospital discusses how their innovation department (iHub) focused on building a culture of collaboration in 2017, and what pain points they’re looking to address in the new year.  

What was your team’s biggest accomplishment this year?

In 2017, iHub hosted close to 20 events at Brigham Health, across the Greater Boston region, and spanning worldwide that focused on digital health and innovation. 

Our day-long symposium in May, “Digital Health and the Transformation of Care,” brought an audience of over 200 attendees as well as a cohort of digital health startups and vendors to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In October, organized by iHub, the Brigham participated in HUBweek for the first time, which is a civic collaboration and week-long festival in the Greater Boston region that brings together the most creative and inventive minds making an impact in art, science, and technology. Hosting these events allowed iHub to convene individuals from across industries and sectors to foster a culture of collaboration at Brigham Health.

We also participated in the first cohort of PULSE@MassChallenge. As a clinical champion of the program’s inaugural cohort, we engaged with promising digital health startups, collaborated with other champions, and participated actively in the Greater Boston digital health ecosystem.

Beyond all this, PULSE@MassChallenge allowed the Brigham and iHub to solidify a collaboration agreement with Redox. This new collaboration will enable future digital health providers, such as startups and industry leaders, to more easily and effectively partner with the Brigham to pilot and deploy solutions at-scale.

What’s an example of a new tool or solution that made a meaningful impact on your organization, patients, or providers?

In collaboration with external vendors and internal innovators, Brigham Digital Innovation Hub members have created a platform that gives researchers the ability to create custom apps that can enable their research. This platform helps in speeding the process to initiate new research protocols, recruit and retain participants, and simplify data collection, analytics, and research operations.

We at iHub are excited to see what this application can do for current research studies and how it can grow to support those in the future as well.

Is there an area you’ve specifically identified as the next target for innovation? Any pain points you’re looking to address in 2018?

Being a crucial topic in healthcare today, we are focusing a lot of our efforts around clinician wellness; scanning the marketplace for solutions and partners to help us reverse some of the paint points and burnout that clinicians face on a day-to-day basis.

Overall, we at the Brigham are looking towards the digital future here in the healthcare space and are tackling the physical hospital space first. For the past year, our team, working closely with Brigham IS, have focused a lot of our efforts on a Wayfinding navigation tool that will help employees (and more specifically, patients) navigate throughout the hospital to ease some of the stress that comes with trying to figure out where to go, and overall strengthening their patient experience. In the coming year, we plan to advance these efforts further by expanding location services and putting the product in the hands of patients.

iHub is also focusing a lot of our efforts on the patient’s digital mobile experience and what this could look like here at the Brigham. We at iHub are excited to lead our community into this new digital age of healthcare.


Thank you to Chen for sharing his reflections and ambitions for innovating in the coming year. To learn more about Chen’s role at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as well as the Innovation Hub’s mission, please click here.

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