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Cedars-Sinai Joins the Group of Hospital-Based Organizations Nurturing Technology Development

September 1, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Richard Riggs, M.D., vice president and CMIO at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, discusses the importance of fostering technology innovation in healthcare
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Last year, the Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center collaborated with Techstars, a startup accelerator company, to launch the inaugural class of the Cedars-Sinai Healthcare Accelerator program. Like other programs of its type that have been emerging at hospitals and health systems around the country, this one has the aim of helping healthcare technology startups advance their solutions. As part of the 13-week program, companies selected for the Healthcare Accelerator have access to Cedars-Sinai’s clinical expertise, through its physicians and researchers, and information infrastructure, including hardware, software and digital health technical resources. And, the accelerator companies receive mentorship from the health system’s physicians, researchers, healthcare professionals and executives.

For Cedars-Sinai, a 900-bed hospital and multi-specialty academic medical center with 2,100 physicians, the healthcare accelerator program is helping to advance technology that empowers the patient or healthcare professional to better track, manage, and improve health and healthcare delivery. 

The 2016 Healthcare Accelerator class was comprised of 11 companies, and Cedars-Sinai has announced two partnerships so far with emerging companies that came out of the inaugural program. The next accelerator class is slated to begin in early 2017, and applications for the Winter 2017 program are being accepted through October.

Healthcare Informatics Assistant Editor Heather Landi recently spoke with Richard Riggs, M.D., vice president and CMIO at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, about the importance of fostering technology innovation in healthcare and how the accelerator program is helping the health system bring breakthrough ideas to the bedside to improve patient care.

What was the catalyst for developing this healthcare accelerator program?

There’s a good body of literature that talks about innovation, and innovation within spaces in relationship to the continual refinement and change in industries, but in healthcare in particular, and we’ve particularly seen this in the last decade or so with the emphasis on quality and understanding how to innovate around quality and also around value and efficiency. To give you an example, we’ve had an M.D./R.N. innovation challenge over the years, and this year, we had the frontline staff also develop ideas they see as clinically relevant. So we had a M.D./R.N. innovation challenge and we selected five groups to present their final product and then selected one of those for development. Those were things like developing an application and communication piece on an iPad for people that were intubated but alert, and the application focused on understanding what that patient needs and how to communicate with that patient.

I think that innovation comes from the concept of how can we change things, how can we do things better, what new pieces, either software or processes or communication styles or portals can we utilize to impact and accelerate our understanding of how we can care for patients and have better outcomes. At a system level, it’s really about innovation being a part of what we do. Cedars-Sinai is a very large teaching hospital and we are very much in the space of research, education and certain traditional academic models. So, having innovation running across the system is one of the tenets of why we wanted to do this.

Richard Riggs, M.D.

In addition, in healthcare we lack the accelerators that other industries have to expose these startup companies and help get them started. I think that many of these companies may not see the light of day. And, some of the solutions that have been developed have a more global application. The one I’d point out is Stasis Labs, a company that built a health monitoring device that’s being deployed in India because they don’t have the technology there to monitor patients. This particular monitor ranges about $100 in cost versus $1,000 or $1,500 for a standard monitor. There are different ways that this program can be helpful both in this system itself for innovation, but also for helping to understand how we can promote healthcare processes and companies even outside of the United States.

Many of these emerging companies and their technology solutions originated outside of the healthcare setting, so how is this accelerator program beneficial to Cedars-Sinai providers and the health system?

If you look at the 11 companies that were selected for the accelerator inaugural class, you’ll see that they covered a wide variety of topics that are germane to the healthcare space as well as intersect with technology. So they range from data analytics to mindfulness applications to medical device development to virtual reality to finding pricing models for underutilized services. So there’s a wide range of impact and focus within the initial group that participated in the accelerator program, and I think that speaks to not only the amount of opportunity within the healthcare field for this type of work, but also the different avenues in which technology may touch the healthcare environment, from administrative processes down to improving actual patient care, and even changing paradigms around patient care with regards to certain types of technologies.


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Technology has become almost intertwined with medicine and it's impact is only growing larger. Technology has helped healthcare take many positive steps forward and I believe that Cedar-Sinai's accelerator program is an incredible opportunity for businesses to receive proper assistance to continue this productive incorporation of technology and healthcare. Drawing from this rise of technology in healthcare, Kumba Health has combined the two in order to benefit healthcare for the consumer. Kumba has created an online healthcare system that eliminates insurance companies and successfully incorporates technology and healthcare. With it's online marketplace of providers and easy online booking and transparent pay, healthcare is made easy with this incorporation of technology.

Here’s how we think about Kumba Health.  For those with high deductible insurance plans, healthcare doesn't work like it used to.  100M Americans with high deductible insurance will go out of pocket more than $420B this year (staggering, right?).  Making this more interesting is the fact that the millennials are entering the healthcare market for the first time (meaning getting off their parents’ policies) and tend to use the internet for everything, plus the growth of the so called 1099 economy.  And remember, there are still millions of Americans without insurance, despite the ACA.  

Consumers now need a better way to "shop" for their healthcare, now that they are the ones increasingly footing the bill.  We created Kumba Health as an online marketplace of direct pay providers for exactly this reason.  And what makes it work so well, is that providers covet this very patient (almost universally, doctors want to reallocate their patient portfolio away from insurance plans towards direct pay).  

Kumba currently consists of a variety of providers, including physicians, imaging centers, and labs around the Los Angeles area, and is quickly expanding throughout California (and then the country!). For a low monthly membership fee, providers can introduce their practice to the exact customer they most want - direct pay.  What they do with all their spare time (due to not having to deal with insurance) is up to them.

This is not a sales pitch, but information towards a possible solution to the popular topic of poor healthcare. If you'd like to learn more, here are some quick links that provide more information.
• From the consumer’s perspective:  vimeo/143095250
From the provider’s perspective: vimeo/133493268