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By: Startland News

Advancing Kansas City’s digital health industry begins with attracting and nurturing talent, said Dick Flanigan.

“What [Digital Health KC] seeks to do is connect ideas to talent; talent to capital; capital to companies and companies to marketplace — and we do not lack for ideas,” said Flanigan, who serves as the CEO of Digital Health KC.

Attendees mingle at a launch event for Digital Health KC at Boulevard Brewing Co.

Click here to check out Digital Health KC.

Digital Health KC is an initiative to support and grow the digital health ecosystem in the region, Flanigan announced during Digital Health KC’s kick-off celebration Thursday at Boulevard Brewing Company. More than 150 digital health executives, entrepreneurs, investors, healthcare providers, payers, university officials, researchers and early supporters gathered to celebrate.

With 70-plus companies and more than 25,000 professionals in the area, Kansas City’s digital health companies are solving healthcare’s biggest challenges, Flanigan said.

“We have a lot of people that live here [who] are working in digital health but not in Kansas City companies,” noted Flanigan, who worked for Cerner (now Oracle Cerner) for nearly 30 years. “One of the things we’re trying to do is get them to return back and help these companies grow.”

Dennis Ridenour, BioNexus KC, speaks during a launch event for Digital Health KC

The newly-launched initiative was founded by BioNexus KC, a local nonprofit highlighting the life science resources and their value to the community through collaboration and commercialization. Digital Health KC positions Kansas City to be a global leader in the research, development and application of healthcare technology, said Dennis Ridenour, president and CEO of BioNexus KC.

“What we’ve never had is a concerted, focused, coordinated effort focused on bringing everybody that’s working in and around this space together for the benefit of the region — until now,” Ridenour said. “… BioNexus and our partners see real opportunity, real promise to impact Kansas City in a very positive way, both economically and for the health of everyone in the region.”

Along with providing opportunity within Kansas City, Digital Health KC is set to make the region’s reputation more well-known to those across the globe, said Maria Flynn, founder and CEO of Ambiologix and advisory board chair of Digital Health KC.

“It reminds me of my time at Cerner — where when you had a new partner or a new sales presentation — your first slide was always about Cerner, and your second slide was always about Kansas City,” Flynn shared. “We told the story about why we’re here, and why this was the place to do this work. When you start to look at all the talented people, who have dedicated their lives to this industry, walking around town, the question is not, ‘Why are you doing this in Kansas City? But it’s rather, ‘Why are you not doing this in Kansas City?’ That is why Digital Health KC exists in my mind.”

Maria Flynn, Ambiologix, speaks during a launch event for Digital Health KC

For Digital Health KC to be truly successful, leaders and innovators in the healthcare industry need to participate in the organization’s programs as students and mentors, Flanigan said. 

“We would like you to tell us what we’re missing,” he continued. “As we do programs, as we have ideas, we would love your help to say ‘that really wasn’t valuable.’ We’re open to that critique.”

On the investment side, Flanigan encouraged investors to first look at local startups and businesses. 

“We are trying to attract a whole range of investors — including angel, seed, all the way up through Series A and beyond; because we know that one of the gaps in the region is getting that early stage capital,” Flanigan said. “Many of you in this room who are building companies know how challenging it is. So if you have capacity, or you have access, we’d ask you to consider becoming involved in the [local] companies.”

With both the talent and the resources, Digital Health KC can help make healthcare a more equitable space, Flanigan concluded.

“If we do all this work in digital health, and all it does is accentuate some of the challenges we have in healthcare today on cost and accessibility, what have we accomplished?” Flanigan said. “… People deserve access to high quality health care that they can afford. The big thing we all have to work on is keeping costs down, and generally folks, technology’s the winner there.”

Digital Health KC powered by BioNexus KC is powered by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Patterson Family Foundation, KCRise Fund, Missouri Technology Corporation, Pipeline and Shook, Hardy & Bacon.