How to Bring Innovation to the Hospital – Dallas Startup Week

Agility and security are keys to startup success in the hospital space, according to panelists at Dallas Startup Week’s healthcare discussion, “Bringing Innovation to the Hospital,” hosted by healthcare startup accelerator Health Wildcatters. The panel featured major players in North Texas’ hospital systems and discussed major opportunities, how to get in touch, and where there are gaps in the market.

The panel featured Jason Ickert, division director of application services for Medical City Healthcare, Aaron Bujnowski, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Texas Health Resources, and Matt Chambers, chief information officer at Baylor Scott and White. Dallas Business Journal Market President and Publisher Ollie Chandhok moderated the event.

Ickert highlighted security as an area of opportunity because data is so now housed in the cloud. Innovation needs to hold vendors accountable, especially in the biomedical space, says Ickert. Bujnowski added that medical innovation needs to address cost, especially when technology can do something more effectively and cheaper than the way it is occurring now. “A dermatologist not as good as a computer at diagnosing cancer,” he added.

Chambers noted that startups often fall into a bipolar distribution, where some companies are focused on a small piece of the healthcare puzzle, while others build an entire platform that requires a great deal of buy in from the hospital. He says there is a lack of middle ground innovation. “You have a hammer, so everything looks like a nail,” he says.

Ickert described how entrepreneurs often come tell him about problems that he didn’t know existed, and that they need to be responsive to actual problems. “Don’t be set in your ways, listen to consumers,” he says. He noted that patients are smarter than they ever have been, and the innovations need to reflect that. “We have to meet the patient where they are and make sure the solutions are being done where they are.”

One problem innovators face is connecting to the decision-makers at hospitals, and Ickert mentioned that Medical City has an email address (innovation@medicalcity.com), but said that entrepreneurs need to be responsive and engaged. “We don’t get to stop just because it is a holiday,” he said of the healthcare industry.

Bujnowski and Chambers described an integrated model where innovation happens at every level, and that entrepreneurs should always be ready to pitch an idea, whether it was on an airplane or in a C-suite office. It was probably no surprise to anyone that panelists emphasized networking, “warm handoffs,” and other connections that separate entrepreneurs from every other cold call or email.

The panel ended with a discussion about how innovators should focus on cost reduction, especially as the health system moves to value-based care and hospitals take on more risk about how they manage their patients. “We don’t get paid unless you stay out of the hospital,” Ickert said of the new model. “There are different levels of risk, but we are all headed that way.”

“How can I make sure we are doing the right thing?” Bujnowski asked. “Help us manage that risk.”