Driving Meaningful Solutions
Melissa Cormier, director of the Chronic Disease program at MaineHealth, sat shoulder-to-shoulder with Mehmet Kazgan, founder and CEO of the technology startup cliexa. They were meeting to discuss Kazgan’s app that helps patients with chronic disease provide real-time feedback to their doctors via the electronic health record. “No, don’t ask a patient if their pain is on a scale of 1 to 10,” said Cormier. “Instead, ask them, ‘Were you able to walk today? Were you able to make dinner?’ Focus on a functional question. As soon as you ask a patient to focus on pain, it will increase,” she explained.
Feedback like Cormier’s is not only immensely valuable to Kazgan, but also it has the potential to significantly enhance patient experience and quality of care. Cormier is one of dozens of MaineHealth mentors who participated in an exciting partnership in 2017 between MaineHealth, Unum and the non-profit Venture Hall to drive the creation of innovative solutions to some of the healthcare industry’s tough challenges.
“Building a culture of innovation at MaineHealth means we’re constantly seeking ideas and insights to improve patient care, safety and experience, and the processes and environment that support this,” said MaineHealth President Bill Caron.
Six startup companies from across the country traveled to Portland in June to work with Venture Hall, alongside MaineHealth and Unum employees, to develop and hone their new products and services that support the healthcare workforce. These companies were selected because their products had strong potential to improve how the healthcare industry supports the care team. Venture Hall provided a challenging 12-week curriculum and hands-on support for the startup teams that competed to be a part of the inaugural “Summer Accelerator” program.
Putting a Face to Innovation
Tapping into the deep pool of talent at MaineHealth nurtures an “innovation ecosystem.” Venture Hall co-founder Mike Sobol said, “Our Summer Accelerator was designed to put a face to innovation. It’s about bringing people together to convene the talent, insight and experience needed to solve hard problems.”
To be successful, startups need an environment in which to test and improve their new products and services. The MaineHealth mentors, ranging from supply chain pros to clinical leaders, shared their insight and knowledge with the startups to build innovative health and wellness solutions that will benefit patient care. “There’s no better source of testing or introducing new ideas or products than the physicians, nurses, administrators and professionals in our health system,” added Caron.
Kazgan agreed. “I can take my product to the next level because the mentors understand the real challenges since they work with patients and providers directly. Their input increases efficiency and quality in product development, because we checked in and I could make adjustments along the way.”
The Venture Hall partnership is a visible affirmation of MaineHealth’s Values in Action. “As we consider our rural communities, where a patient may be two hours away, we need to get more creative and innovative,” said Cormier. “This program really ties into our values. By focusing on the needs of the patient, and not just the technology, we can build creative solutions together that lead to better quality of care.”