CHI Franciscan Health, with eight hospitals and more than 100 clinics serving the greater Tacoma region of Washington, has plenty of challenges in the new healthcare environment spawned by the Affordable Care Act, and it is looking for start-up companies to help develop new technologies.

Two big challenges include increased efficiency of surgical schedules by helping surgeons better determine how long a procedure will take, and a range of changing healthcare consumer expectations, says Thomas Kruse, chief strategy, integration and innovation officer at CHI Franciscan.

Also See: Priming technology innovation for group practices

CHI Franciscan, along with regional business incubator Cambia Grove and consultancy Elevar Labs, hosted a “Reverse Pitch Day” on January 20, explaining to about 250 entrepreneurs the challenges the organization faces and seeking solutions that could be developed and tested in CHI-funded pilot programs. Several other regional providers were invited to attend to aid them in developing their own strategies for meeting challenges.

Thomas Kruse
Thomas Kruse

Most of the entrepreneurs “weren’t the folks who have business cards yet; they were garage guys,” Kruse says. But that’s who the system wants—smart people with an idea and maybe a budding product.

Since January 20, Elevar Labs has helped entrepreneurs shape their responses and develop pitches in a way non-technology folks will understand, and helped CHI Franciscan winnow down 50 formal applications to about a dozen. The organization will meet with these selected vendors on March 15 at Cambia Grove; then, it will meet again on March 25 with three or four of those with the best ideas, hoping to find one or more that agree to participate in a CHI-funded pilot programs.

Accountable care is forcing providers to think as innovators and entrepreneurs. Patients are paying much more of their healthcare bills than previously and are becoming more educated consumers when making medical decisions. Consumers want more information from providers and insurers, and they don’t understand why they can’t get it, Kruse explains. And they want to know why they can’t text a doctor about a medical issue instead of driving to the emergency department when they aren’t sure if an ER visit is necessary. In the age of accountable care, “we have a social responsibility to take technology to guide people to appropriate care at an appropriate place at an appropriate cost,” he adds.

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