Health Technologies

Why Healthcare Organizations Are Launching Innovation Centers


Transforming Healthcare with Innovation Funding

Further up the East Coast, MaineHealth established an innovation division in 2020 to help employees foster novel ideas for improving care and operations.

The MaineHealth Innovation Center provides investment funding, education and connections to experts inside and outside the organization to help innovators accelerate their projects or turn their ideas into products, says MaineHealth Vice President of Innovation Susan Ahern.

So far, the center has funded about 25 care team members’ projects, from a new design for hospital gowns to an AR system to help newborns in distress in rural communities.

“We define innovation as a novel idea that solves an unmet care need. It could be a new product, process or care team model,” Ahern says. “Covering all three makes the innovation even stronger.”

DIVE DEEPER: Remote patient monitoring enhances nurse workflows.

In some cases, innovators use funds to buy technology to solve an issue. In other cases, they rely on the division’s partners for technical expertise.

The University of Southern Maine, for example, serves as the in-house engineering and design team for MaineHealth’s innovators. The university’s Maker Innovation Studio has a broad set of technologies to assist the health system’s entrepreneurs, including 3D printers, high-resolution scanners, Apple Mac computers and software that includes Adobe Creative Cloud and Autodesk software.

In one project, two pediatricians wanted to develop an AR system to teach doctors how to resuscitate newborns. MaineHealth Innovation connected the two physicians to Case Western Reserve University, which has AR software expertise.

Together, they developed an AR system that now allows MaineHealth physicians to learn how to perform neonatal resuscitation with a Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headset, Ahern says.

In another project, an internal medicine doctor purchased a specialized, AI-powered retina camera that screens diabetic patients for diabetic retinopathy, which can cause blindness. His rural community faces a shortage of eye specialists, so the technology has enabled more patients to get their eyes screened, Ahern says.

Overall, she has heard positive feedback about the innovation center. Staffers are enthusiastic, and it has boosted morale. “Clinicians tell me they are happy because they can have a larger impact in our community and in the world,” Ahern says.

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