Health care is an industry that's ripe for disruption, with various inconveniences posing the potential to erode the customer's experience. And as hospitals increasingly are being asked to reinvent what they do, leaders are looking to disruptors in the tech and startup world to aid in the transformation.
The latest example of such enterprising can be found at Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City. The 22-hospital nonprofit health system announced last week that it's rolling out a new, three-pronged model to pinpoint innovative ideas. That includes both an innovation lab, giving employees a platform to turn their ideas into commercial businesses, and a Salt Lake "accelerator" that links area entrepreneurs with resources.
Nickolas Mark, director of Intermountain's business development group, says the new endeavor is a response to frustrations they've heard from health care inventors unable to bring their ideas to fruition.
"Personally, I believe there's never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in the health care sector, focused on disrupting this space and changing it throughout," he says. "We need to solve this problem and deliver care at lower costs for our communities and with better outcomes to be successful. And you're seeing it. People are coming in here with a vengeance."
Intermountain's program is made possible through a partnership with Chicago-based innovation company Healthbox, which helps big thinkers speed up the time it takes to make their dreams concrete. They have several other similar setups in other markets, such as Nashville and Boston, with more in the works. The Salt Lake City Accelerator, created through the partnership, will select companies to go through a 16-week program, picking the brains of Intermountain leaders to understand their organizational challenges, and then figuring out how to tailor ideas toward toppling those challenges.
Mark couldn't yet point to any specific innovations coming through the pipeline, but says they're focusing attention on areas such as genomics and telehealth. Intermountain is trying to keep the scope broad at this stage, he says, so as not to limit inventors' thinking.
Intermountain certainly isn't alone, as it seems as if every week we receive another announcement about a hospital, health system or other health care organization that is opening an innovation center, or launching a conference around transformation. Just last month, Boston Children's Hospital put together a "Shark Tank"-like event, similar to the TV show, allowing innovators to pitch their ideas to a panel of docs and other experts. The top two companies each won $12,500, along with advice from a panel of experts on their catheter-related innovations.
The Cleveland Clinic, too, held its own 2014 Medical Innovation Summit last month. From it, the institution released a list of 10 medical innovations to watch out for in 2015, including mobile stroke units, new heart failure drugs, and faster, cost-effective and painless blood testing.
Mark believes that any hospital can function as an innovation incubator if it can build the proper channels for internal and external idea-makers.
"It's really about creating the appropriate framework that's flexible enough to allow innovation to grow organically, but, once it's identified, definitely have a feedback loop where you can move that forward, if you so desire," he says. " A lot of people will talk about how, strategically, innovation makes sense, but they don't have a framework or a process to execute it. So, it's really about setting up the fundamentals that allow an organization to do so."