What leading academic medical institutions want from startups

ihub-teamThe iHub team in front of their soon-to-be headquarters

Brigham and Women’s, the world-renowned 793-bed teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, which saw over 62K ER patients last year, has a long history of innovation in healthcare—including conducting the first organ transplant back in the 1950s. In 2013, they launched their Innovation Hub as part of their commitment to supporting breakthrough ideas and technology. We sat down with Executive Director Lesley Solomon to get their advice for entrepreneurs looking to partner with their hospital and other leading academic medical institutions.

What is the Innovation Hub at Brigham and Women’s and how does it integrate with the larger hospital?

The Brigham Innovation Hub is a support center for innovators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. We provide resources to support clinical innovation and the translational of ideas: project management, introductions to collaborators, help supporting and refining an idea, product management, and business plans to help evaluate the market place. We formally support the dynamic culture of discovery and the curiosity and talent of our clinical and non-clinical employees to take ideas to the next level.

We also work with the startup community to help match solutions with internal challenges, to further the Brigham’s mission. We find or identify an internal challenge our clinicians face and match those clinicians with startups that are well positioned to help solve those problems.

What are you looking to accomplish with the iHub?

Brigham and Women’s Hospital is an international leader in health care innovation. The iHub’s mission is to help BWH remain at the forefront, advancing ideas that can help transform patient care locally and globally.

BWH has a long and rich history of innovation. Clinicians and scientists at BWH have made discoveries and inventions in basic science, clinical and translational research, and in health care delivery dating back to the first organ transplant, a kidney, in 1954 and the use of antiseptic techniques during childbirth in the late 19th century. The spirit of innovation is intrinsic at our academic medical center.

David Bates, our Chief Innovation Officer, is an internationally renowned expert in patient safety, using information technology to improve care, quality of care, cost-effectiveness and outcomes assessment in medical practice as well as care redesign and innovation science. BWH has a history of leadership in using digital health tools to improve care, quality of care, cost-effectiveness, and outcomes assessment in medical practice as well as care redesign. We are excited to accomplish new milestones using digital health to boost patient engagement, care coordination and transitions of care.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs approaching Brigham and Women’s—or hospitals generally—for clinical validation, or a customer relationship?

Be as specific as possible. Think about a clinical or disease area that’s relevant for your product or service. That helps us identify a select clinician/s to introduce you to and it helps us evaluate where your product can add value for us and our patients

Be open and honest about the stage of your company. The three stages people approach us at are, 1) when they are seeking advice, 2) when they are ready for a pilot or 3) when they are ready for a clinical trial. Those are three very different stages—being upfront about where you are helps us better work with you. We’d ideally like to know if your product/technology is pilot-ready today—or if it will be pilot-ready in six months (i.e., If you’ve already dealt with issues like HIPAA, security systems, etc.).

How do you determine what to prioritize when adopting new technologies—and how do you balance the needs of stakeholders?

Primarily, we look at the ability of the product or service to make an impact. We also look for a point of differentiation or external validation. And we look at the founder: if that person has done their research, understands the world of the hospital and knows how things work, that says a lot to us.

What problem or process at Brigham and Women’s would you most like to see technology applied?

Technology can have a profound impact on transitions of care. We plan to create smoother paths of transition as patients are transferred between different locations or different levels of care. Technology could also help clinicians and providers stay connected and involved in a patient’s circle of care as they transition from one care center to another.

Another important area technology could address is around engaging patients in their own care. Patients want to be more engaged around fitness, diet, medication adherence, and getting to appointments—and technology can help us work with our patients and their families to achieve their personal health goals. We’re also interested in technological solutions that could help us engage with patients who are at risk of developing diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as with patients who already have a disease that needs to be managed and monitored.