Healthcare innovation centers that develop and test novel ways of delivering care are making waves across the land. Whether the goal is to provide better patient care, improve workflow, reduce costs or extend outreach into the community, hospitals and health systems are moving front and center to solve some of healthcare’s biggest problems today.
Some are funded by foundations and grants, while others operate as departments or divisions within their healthcare system. Healthcare Dive looked at four innovation centers that are offering cutting-edge solutions for patients and providers.
Intermountain Healthcare looks to improve quality and costs
In 2013, Murray, Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare’s established its Healthcare Transformation Lab.
“One thing we’ve really focused on is understanding clinical needs and then collaborating with early-stage companies, either by identifying those through our network … or by collaborating with other health systems to see what early-stage companies they may be working with to solve some of their problems,” said Todd Dunn, Intermountain director of innovation, who runs the lab.
The focus, first and foremost, is does a particular solution improve the quality and cost of healthcare, Dunn said, adding the answer has to be both. The team “looks to make sure it’s good for the patients and clinicians — and not just necessarily making sure that it’s safe, because that’s sort of a given,” Dunn added. “But is it easy for them? Does it improve their workflow? Does it make it easier for [patients] to have and receive healthcare, or for clinicians to provide care?”
Today, it's collaborating with Velano Vascular, an early-stage company that has developed a needle-free device that allows clinicians to draw blood off of an existing peripheral IV without sticking the patient again. The lab and Velano will begin pilot testing the device in the next month or so to define the costs and identify opportunities for improving how inpatient blood draws are performed.
The lab is also working with Tissue Analytics to pilot a smartphone app that accurately measures a wound and provides a longitudinal record across different care settings — whether it be inpatient, a clinic or home care. It recently entered into an agreement to use machine learning company Ayasdi’s clinical variation management software to speed up insights that can be gleaned from Intermountain Healthcare’s vast data set.
Nationwide Children's Hospital on developing pediatric ACOs
At Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice (CIPP) focuses on three streams of research:
- Innovative technology to improve patient care;
- Finance and healthcare policy; and
- Epidemiology and identification of problems in the community.
The center works with hospital clinicians from various specialties, as well as community organizations and agencies like Medicaid and the Department of Health, said CIPP Director Kelly Kelleher. It also participates in multisite collaboratives like PEDSnet, a consortium of eight large children’s hospitals that share EHRs for large-scale research.
Among CIPP’s major efforts has been in developing pediatric accountable care organizations. “We have one of the largest ones in the country and definitely the oldest,” said Kelleher. The center’s research has focused on the implications of healthcare reform for children in accountable care, especially those with chronic conditions, and how pediatric accountable care affects community heath.
The center also pioneered the use of wireless tablets to screen children in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices. Currently, it is distributing smartphones to families and children to track medication adherence over time. The project has helped doctors identify kids on antidepressants and who had suicidal ideation, Kelleher said.
CIPP is also working with Ohio State University to do ecological momentary assessment—using it to look at stress in homeless teenagers. And it is working under grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Drug Abuse to analyze how people look at statistics from large numbers of clinical trials to find effects among children.
“It’s less about inventing technologies and more about prevention,” Kelleher said. “A lot of this is tools for the trade. Statistics, informatics, these are ways to make science better in dealing with kids in high-risk settings like homelessness, foster care, abuse homes and high-risk neighborhoods.”
Sutter Health's bloodbank for population health
Sacramento, CA-based Sutter Health launched its Research, Development and Dissemination (RD&D) division in 2012, promising to invest $20 million over the next three years to fund the program.
Led by Walter “Buzz” Stewart, vice president and chief research and development officer, RD&D works to integrate system-level endeavors for rapid learning, sophisticated predictive analytics, development and testing of value-driven healthcare solutions and scaling and widespread implementation of successful solutions. The division’s team collaborates with clinical leaders and executives throughout Sutter’s 119 healthcare organizations to improve care for patients and their families.
RD&D is financed through a combination of corporate funds, government grants, corporate foundations, and private philanthropy.
The division is currently developing the Sutter Biobank and Precision Medicine Initiative. Given Sutter Health’s diverse population base, the biobank is expected to be among the largest in the U.S., storing a continually growing collection of blood and tissue samples that researchers can use to investigate disease patterns over extended periods of time, said spokeswoman Kathryn Engle.
The biobank will also link Sutter’s systemwide EHR, pairing potential patients to opportunities in precision medicine research.
Virginia Commonwealth University in the middle of a biomedical hub
Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, supports healthcare and biomedical research efforts through its Innovation Gateway. The office, formerly called VCU Tech Transfer, promotes entrepreneurship at VCU, as well as university-industry collaborations.
Recent innovations include the Self-Initiated Prone Progressive Crawler, a skateboard-like device that helps infants with motor-skill disabilities learn to move about and develop like normal babies, said Ivelina Metcheva, Innovation Gateway’s executive director.
Researchers also developed a five-minute noninvasive test that uses infrared light to track eye movements and diagnose conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and traumatic brain injury.
VCU researchers also developed the only test for systemic mastocytosis approved by the World Health Organization. The test was licensed to Swedish-based biomedical company Phadia, which makes it available to some 3,000 labs in 60 countries under under the name ImmunoCAP Tryptase.
In 2015, the Gateway recorded licensing revenues of about $2.6 million, a 50% increase over the previous year, according to its annual report. The number of issued patents reached 17, 40% higher than in 2014.