Health systems looking to startups for new solutions

The state’s largest health systems are looking to startups for solutions to some of their most pressing issues, including what to do with all the new information being collected.

Representatives of Marshfield Clinic Health System, Advocate Aurora Health and UW Health spoke yesterday for a “reverse pitch” event at Lambeau Field. The panel was held by the Wisconsin Technology Council as part of this year’s Tech Summit.

Ryan Natzke, chief external affairs officer for MCHS, highlighted two main areas in which the health system is seeking innovation: price transparency and virtual care.

“How do we get to the point where we can give somebody a reasonable estimate before they go in to see their physician? Nobody does that,” Natzke said.

On the virtual care side, he says MCHS wants to upgrade its existing remote care platform to reach a more “seamless” virtual experience.

“Anything in that area is something that we’re interested in,” he said.

Thomas ‘Rock’ Mackie, chief innovation officer at UW Health, said the system’s procurement manager is looking for big ideas in the field of artificial intelligence.

“A-I is going to be extremely important, because they’ve got a ton of data and it’s very difficult to mine it,” Mackie said.

People are adding to this treasure trove of data all the time, through their own wearable devices. Mackie notes many companies have sprung up with various wearable tech, “but that still seems to be something that’s interesting to providers.”

UW Health is also interested in startups working with blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But it can be used for many other applications, including secure data storage, Mackie added.

“And anything that addresses physician burnout; I think that’s a big problem,” he said. “In fact, I think some of the electronic health records systems promote physician burnout.”

He says any solutions that help aggregate knowledge are in high demand, as they help free up more time for doctors. He says providers can be more effective and efficient when they spend more time with the patient, rather than behind a keyboard.

Mackie also expects more advanced robotics to have a big impact on health care moving forward. As it stands, the current usage of robotic surgery equipment doesn’t technically count as robotics, Mackie adds. He says those machines should be considered manipulator tools, because the motion is entirely controlled by the surgeon.

He expects true robots will eventually be introduced in medical scenarios, but says “there are certain things A-I and robotics aren’t going to do.”

“Physicians aren’t going to lose their jobs because of that; radiologists aren’t going to be losing their jobs of diagnosing a tumor to a program,” he said.

Aurora Healthcare’s head of strategic innovation, Mike Rodgers, says the system wants to improve delivery of primary care outside of the traditional clinic setting. Aurora is also looking to “help with situations that exist where people aren’t getting the medications they need to be healthy.”

Rodgers highlighted other areas the system is looking to improve and solve problems, including: how to improve so-called food deserts that lack nutritional options for local residents; how to track and gauge athletic performance; and even how to help aging seniors live independently at home.

“If you have solutions or know of solutions … we’re very interested in that,” he said.


–By Alex Moe