Group pitches region as health-tech hub

Can Central Pennsylvania become a hub for innovations in telemedicine and other health care technologies?

  • That’s the hope of a new consortium coming together to craft a plan for getting us there.
  • The group includes a who’s who of local economic development agencies, health systems, colleges and private-sector players, including Lancaster-based Emerald Asset Management and Siemens Medical Solutions USA.
  • But before the planning can begin, the group has to land a federal grant.

From where: A federal program established under the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, a federal law better known for promising money to the U.S. semiconductor industry in a bid to lessen dependence on overseas manufacturers.

  • Tucked into the law is a $10 billion program –called The Tech Hubs Program — designed to spur innovation at a regional level.
  • The program funds established tech hubs in big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But it also is helping less-urban areas like Central PA lay the groundwork to become tech hubs of their own.

How: The local group, calling itself the Keystone Healthcare Resilience Consortium, is applying for a roughly $450,000 grant to develop a strategy for creating a tech hub here, with a focus on technologies that can improve the delivery of health care in rural areas.

  • The group would have to put up a match to make the total $500,000, said Michele Washko, who is helping to lead the effort as the consortium’s interim regional innovation officer.
  • If the group is funded, it would embark on a two-year planning process starting in 2024 and hire a permanent leader.
  • “The goal would be to identify and bring a shared vision around how our region could leverage its resources to advance rural health,” said Washko, who also is president and CEO of Harrisburg-based venture fund Life Sciences Greenhouse Investments.
  • The vision would include refining telemedicine, training clinicians who would be using new technologies and figuring out how to speed delivery of innovation to the rural areas where it’s needed, she said.

Then what: The group would apply for a larger grant, between $50 million and $65 million, to bring the vision to life over a 10-year period, Washko said.

  • The group could learn by November whether it has been funded for the initial, two-year planning stage, Washko said.

Who’s in: A mix of colleges, health systems, state agencies, economic development organizations and others representing 19 counties, including Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York.

  • A complete list of participants is available here.
  • “The whole idea is that this group works together to devise the strategy and articulate that strategy,” Washko said. “And then, assuming that we develop a compelling-enough vision, we get dollars and carry out the plan.”


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