Hospitals and health systems are increasingly realizing the value of their intellectual property and finding ways to leverage and commercialize new technology ideas.
Though it was unusual in the past, hospitals and health systems are increasingly realizing the value of their intellectual property. One recent health system to step up its development efforts is Mount Sinai Health System, a New York City-based academic medical center and hospital chain with affiliated physician practices blanketing the city.
The health system already has a technology development and commercialization group, Mount Sinai Innovation Partners, but has teamed with healthcare and medical device innovation marketplace Edison Nation Medical to bring more inventions from within the organization to market.
Edison Nation Medical is itself a joint venture formed in 2012 between online inventor community Edison Nation and the Carolinas HealthCare System. The site encourages not only physicians, nurses, and healthcare techs, but also patients and caregivers to submit medical product development ideas.
Concepts already in development with Edison Medical include the Hensler Bone Press, a disposable device saving time on bone collection during surgery; the GoGown, a hospital gown with an interior wrapper which seals away the contaminated surface for safe disposal after use; and the SiteSaver, a device which attaches an IV needle and tubing to a patient's hand securely and comfortably.
Mount Sinai leaders say they hope the partnership will change and improve the way they leverage and commercialize new technology ideas. While institutions like Sinai typically rely on research faculty to deliver commercially viable ideas for medical improvement, the health system hopes its partnership with Edison will help it expand innovation beyond the lab by encouraging constituents across the health system—including primary care and clinical service personnel—to share new ideas for inventions.
Hospitals focusing on innovation
Academic medical centers have a history of being in the business of technology transfer, e.g. commercializing technologies arising directly from the academic work performed by their faculty.
Sinai's success stories include FluMist, developed by two Sinai microbiologists, which was licensed to MedImmune in 2006 and seems to have been in production ever since. Another product, Fabrazyme, was developed by the physicians in the health system's department of genetics and genomics science, and is currently the only approved product in the market in the US for treatment of Fabry's Disease.
Still, hospital systems like Sinai are realizing that their existing innovation efforts don't take advantage of the broad pool of knowledge found among employees outside of academia, and they're taking steps to exploit this untapped well of ideas.
As an example, Henry Ford Health System has taken a number of steps to encourage employees to submit new technology ideas, including a recent competition among employees inviting them to submit their best ideas for clinical applications in wearable technology.
Winning entries in the contest, which offered a total of $10,000 in prizes, included a system designed to encourage mobility in acute-care patients by using wearable activity trackers, a mobile game interface designed to encourage childhood exercise, and a health and wellness reminder system for elderly patients leveraging location-based sensors and smart watches.
The health system also offers employees a whopping 50% share of future revenues from product ideas.
While Sinai's partnership with Edison isn't likely to produce the broad top-down cultural shifts Henry Ford is seeking—the CEO, Nancy Schilling, told Forbes that "when it comes to innovation, my mantra is yes."
It's certainly a good start.
About the author: Anne Zieger is a veteran journalist who’s been covering the U.S. healthcare scene for over 25 years. She provides “News with a Twist,” combining solid reporting with expert insights and analysis. Her opinions are her own. You can follow Anne on Twitter @annezieger.