(781) 786-2662
Council in the News
Health Care

Business, policy leaders say AI can help Mass. keep lead in biotech, healthcare


Mass High Tech Council, Boston Consulting Group publish recommendations for applying AI to boost the state’s biotech, healthcare industries
By Hannah Green – Reporter, Boston Business Journal

Chris Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council; Yvonne Hao, secretary of the Executive Office of Economic Development; John Chartier, partner at McKinsey & Company; and Val Panier, managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. BOSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL

Since taking office in January 2023, Gov. Maura Healey’s administration has started taking steps to make Massachusetts a leader in artificial intelligence. 

The administration earmarked $100 million in its economic development legislation to create an Applied AI Hub for Massachusetts. Healey also established an artificial intelligence task force to develop recommendations for how Massachusetts can support AI adoption across sectors and industries, which is due to report out later this year.

But business leaders and the administration itself say there’s more to be done to make the Bay State a leader in AI.

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts High Technology Council and Boston Consulting Group unveiled a new white paper with recommendations for applying AI to boost the state’s life sciences and healthcare industries. 

The report is part of the High Tech Council’s MassVision2050 effort. Business leaders from across healthcare and life sciences, including Takeda and Biogen, served on a senior advisory council for the report.

“We call it 2050, but it’s a lot about what we can do in the next 12 months,” Val Panier, BCG managing director and senior partner, said at a Tuesday event presenting the report.

Building an AI workforce

Massachusetts’ labor market has been struggling in recent years as the population ages and residents move to lower-cost states. Healthcare will be among the most affected industries as the aging population puts more pressure on the healthcare industry while reducing the available workforce. 

The report contends that AI could help ease the labor shortage by taking on routine tasks — if the state has the workforce to build these AI systems in the first place.

Massachusetts already has a pipeline of AI talent established coming out of local universities and tech companies, according to the report. But more work needs to be done to retain talent and get them into healthcare and life sciences positions. 

The report said more than 6,500 graduates in AI-related fields emerged from Massachusetts universities in 2022. But only about 40% of those grads stayed in Massachusetts — compared to 80% of students in California — and less than 5% went into biotech or healthcare, the report said. 

“Think about the potential if you were able to move just a few percentage points — it would make a huge difference in the ability to actually innovate,” Panier said.

One of the paper’s key recommendations is to forecast AI jobs and skills needed by Massachusetts employers, and to use that feedback for guiding education. 

Other suggestions include creating a branded AI internship program and job-connections platform, training the incumbent workforce on AI tools and funding AI curricula and certification programs. 

There are numerous partners that would need to work together to make this possible, but the paper recommended that the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development take on orchestrating these efforts.

Other potential partners called out were the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, MassBio, Massachusetts Nurses Association and the University of Massachusetts system.

Putting healthcare data to work

The report also called on the state — specifically, the Executive Office of Health & Human Services — to find ways to use health data to develop and validate AI models in healthcare and life sciences. The authors found that 97% of health data is not used.

Last year, the federal government kicked off the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA), a national framework for federated health data sharing. 

The report recommended that Massachusetts endorse TEFCA implementation, assess funding or resources needed to opt in to TEFCA and create incentives for providers to participate in the agreement. The authors would also like to see the state create statewide health data standards.