Innovation Never Sleeps: A Look at 2021’s Successes

By Ryan Kelly

Innovation Lab began, as so many great ideas do, with a whiteboard sketch. I had the privilege of seeing the original drawing from 12 years ago, depicting our founders’ vision of a sustainable innovation engine for healthcare organizations.

Since then, Innovation Lab has grown far beyond that vision. We began with one health system investor and now work with seven health systems. We’ve brought 21 products to market, with more on the way. And we’re on the cusp of some really big achievements made possible by our team’s hard work — making this the perfect moment to reflect on the milestones Innovation Lab reached in 2021.

We introduced the subscription partner program.

Historically, health systems had to be a major investor in the Innovation Institute to benefit from our program. But we recognized this level of investment put our capabilities out of the reach of smaller organizations, so we created a fee-for-service option. Subscription partners get access to the full range of our expertise and services without the large capital investment or the expense of building their own team. That allows us to grow our network faster, bring in more partners, and do more of what we do best: turning doers into dreamers.

We reached real-world patients with the Koazie platform.

 Every day, thousands of people transition from acute-care hospitals to post-acute care settings, such as rehabilitation or long-term nursing facilities. That process, quite honestly, is a nightmare. Patients and their families are faced with hard decisions and handed a bewildering stack of paperwork, and they’re told to figure it out.

Koazie is a friendly online platform that streamlines this transition by helping families compare their options, giving hospital case managers real-time updates on open beds, and allowing skilled nursing facilities to connect with the patients they’re best equipped to serve. We’re rapidly expanding the network to benefit more patients and their families.

Learn more about Koazie

We advanced the development of several new healthcare innovations.

 In 2021, we finalized more than five deals and partnerships to bring innovative healthcare products, developed and refined in the Lab, to market. We’re excited about the potential of these medical devices that can improve quality of life and promote rapid recovery for patients, including:

  • LiveBandTM BFR is a blood flow restriction (BFR) device that makes physical therapy more effective and accessible, especially after injury. Current models of this device are large and tethered to an IV pole. We miniaturized it into a portable, fully untethered device the size of a smartphone, delivering all the same benefits in a tiny footprint.
  • ElevateTM is an improved ankle-foot orthosis that provides for controlled ankle articulation and far superior off-loading of the foot when compared with other AFOs. The device is not only suitable for use with patients suffering from a variety of orthopedic conditions, but also can be used to reduce pressure on the foot to preserve tissue integrity.
  • GMES (Gait MyoElectric Stimulator) is a wearable device that’s the first and only dual stimulator for gait improvement in patients with neuromuscular hemiplegia. GMES provides improved muscle control and has been demonstrated to provide clinical benefit beyond the period of use in small-scale clinical evaluations.

We shone a spotlight on startups with our Startup Demo Day series.

We’d often talked about how we’d like to host an opportunity for startups to showcase their projects. Early in the year, National Director Suzy Engwall said, “I’m going to build it.” Thanks to her, and with support from our great team, we hosted four virtual Demo Days in 2021, featuring 43 startups, with 545 unique participants.

And we saw big wins, including licensing and development deals and pilot opportunities. A product from one of the featured startups was picked up for an international distribution deal with one of the world’s largest providers of medical products and clinical solutions servicing the entire continuum of care.

Stay tuned for details on registering for this spring’s Demo Day 5.0: AI Machine Learning in Healthcare.

We adapted our innovation program to the new reality for healthcare workers.

 We all recognize that clinicians, nurses and healthcare staffers are suffering from intense burnout. In 2021, they had less mental energy to dedicate to innovation because they were working in an unending cycle of crises driven by COVID-19. We saw, however, that frontline workers needed opportunities to be creative. They needed to see that their healthcare systems cared about their growth and wanted to hear the good ideas they had to share.

To meet this need, we offered quick-sprint workshops and design thinking exercises. We told them: “We make it easy. All you have to do is come and bring your idea, bring your energy — what you have of it — and we’ll do the rest.”

We stepped on the accelerator.

 We’re an incubator. Our typical approach is developing a product to a certain point, then licensing it to a bigger company. This strategy allows us to maximize our team’s expertise and work on several innovations at once, but also requires a lot of time.

In 2022, we’ll be formalizing a venture studio model. This means that instead of developing every concept in-house, we could set up a new company to take an idea and run with it. If we find that an idea — especially in the digital space — has significant market potential, we’ll bring in our health system partners, technology partners and capital partners to accelerate its development to scale.


Want to be a part of these exciting advances in healthcare innovation? Talk to us about becoming a subscription partner!