Got any idea what 271 NFL players, 360,000 Veterans and 1.7 million other Americans had in common last year1,2,3? The answer is they all suffered from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), mostly mild cases, but any TBI has the potential to dramatically impact the lives, families and communities of TBI patients – even years later.

A traumatic brain injury occurs every 15 seconds in the general population4. Falls are the leading cause of TBIs at 40 percent, followed by unintentional blunt trauma and motor vehicle accidents5. And for Veterans, the numbers are especially troubling with exposure to blasts the leading cause of TBIs among active duty military personnel in war zones. In fact, TBIs are often called the “signature wounds” of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars6. According to the Congressional Research Service, 327,299 incidents of TBI were reported for deployed and non-deployed service members between 2000 and 20157. For older Veterans, falls threaten their ability to live independently as they age.

But it’s important to understand that when it comes to brain health, Veterans suffer from unique challenges; and as healthcare industry innovators, Philips sees this as a special responsibility for our industry. Through a long-standing collaboration with the U.S. military and VA, we’ve worked together to help develop solutions and services to keep Veterans independent and happy, healthy contributors to the world around them.

Collaboration is the operative word. No single organization can find the answers to either Veterans’ healthcare needs or, for that matter, those of a society as large as ours. Nor can we succeed if stakeholders, whether it’s industry competitors, government policy makers or research clinicians, operate in silos behind opaque, unassailable walls.

Leadership can tear down these walls, however, to create what we call co-opetition, a mindset and management approach centered on creating meaningful innovations that matter to people and communities through open innovation. The VA’s Brain Trust: Pathways to InnoVAtion  conference taking place next week is a perfect example of the kind of cooperation and collaboration that can help us discover different ways of innovating; different ways of working together to change the future for our Veterans and, by extension, the healthcare future of the nation.

April 20-21, VA and a number of its MyVA strategic partners, including Philips, will host this first-ever public-private partnership focused on brain health. It’s going to be a fast-moving two days of sharing and collaboration with scientists interacting with federal agency folks, sports figures talking brain health with clinicians from across the country and Veterans sharing their stories of traumatic brain injuries and PTSD with health industry innovators who want to hear it first-hand.

The conference will feature lightning talks from internationally renowned experts on brain health, an Innovation Showcase to put the spotlight on new brain health solutions, especially cutting-edge connected technologies—some on the shelf and others in the R&D pipelines of participating companies. The event will even feature a day-long “invent-a-thon” to drive collaboration among stakeholders in the brain health field across sectors, particularly innovators in connected technologies.

This conference is another step forward in a range of efforts – in government and out – to meet the healthcare challenges of the nation’s Veterans through a commitment to open innovation and cooperation, a priority for Philips. We have been partnering with tVA across the country, for example, to improve the ability of telehealth solutions to remotely monitor patients in critical care settings.

Philips is also aligned with the VA’s Traumatic Brain Injury R&D industry consortium, which was created in response to President Obama’s executive order calling for the development of a “National Research Action Plan” that will include early diagnosis and treatment effectiveness for TBI and PTSD. The $107 million VA/Department of Defense effort creates two jointly funded research consortia to study posttraumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury8.

Both President Obama and Congress have also increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, and this year’s budget request includes a $45 million increase for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative (BRAIN)9. Again, this funding commitment represents the cooperative nature of so many efforts to improve Veterans’ health, with an emphasis on brain health.

These and other partnerships among government, healthcare providers, industry innovators and the scientific community offer hope for breakthrough research and innovations that can make a real difference in the lives of those suffering from the debilitating impact of TBI’s and PTSD as well as other health issues.

How big is the job? Well-known physicist Michio Kaku describes the brain this way, “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.”10

We know we’ve got a long way to go to unravel the mysteries of the brain. But if we are to create a healthy society and healthy Veterans, it’s going to take more than the discovery of pure knowledge. We need the ability to translate that knowledge into solutions to the challenges facing Veterans and the nation’s healthcare system. Only a commitment to open innovation and collaboration by concerned stakeholders across the healthcare landscape can get us where we need to go. Thanks to VA and its partners, that journey is advancing. Philips is proud to be a part of the team.

Dr. Joe Frassica Joseph Frassica, MD, is vice president and chief medical and innovation officer for Patient Care and Monitoring Solutions at Philips, where he focuses on leading broad-based medical, science and technology teams to bring clinically meaningful innovation to the bedside. Joe also serves as senior consultant in Pediatric Critical Care at the Massachusetts General Hospital and is a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



  1. “2015 Injury Data.” (2016): NFL Communications. National Football League, 29 Jan. 2016. Web.
  2. “A Veteran’s Guide to Traumatic Brain Injury.” (2010): 5. Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury. Stateside Legal. Web.
  3. “Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: A Report to Congress.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. “Every 15 seconds, someone in the United States Suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury.” Brain and Spinal Injury.
  5. “Injury Prevention & Control: Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Jan. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
  6. “Traumatic Brain Injury.” Where Soldiers Come From. PBS Point of View, 10 Nov. 2011. Web.
  7. Fischer, Hannah. “Traumatic Brain Injury.” A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom: 3-4. Congressional Research Service, 7 Aug. 2015. Web.
  8. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. DoD, VA Establish Two Multi-Institutional Consortia to Research PTSD and TBI. 10 Aug. 2013.
  9. Meeting Our Greatest Challenges: Innovation to Forge A Better Future. Office of Budget and Management, 2016. Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2017.
  10. “Behold the Most Complicated Object in the Known Universe.” WNYC. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

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Published on Apr. 15, 2016

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One Comment

  1. LarryTrautman April 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Please help me find ways to help Vietnam Veterans. I live in Huntington Beach Ca. I’m experienced in rehab and addiction counseling. Also with meeting the needs of the homeless.

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