Grajewski: Every healthcare system and university is different. There is no easy answer. For some, the university or hospital owns all the intellectual property you create. For others, there is a joint share agreement, and others have no IP policy at all and everything belongs to the employee. We ask people we work with to double-check those policies with their institution. However, we do have relationships with over 60 different universities for whom we are acting as a complementary service to their own university tech transfer efforts.
Are the inventors likely to be someone in the trenches such as a nurse or a radiologist vs. an inventor working alone in a garage?
Grajewski: It really runs the gamut. When we first launched, we targeted nurses and doctors because they are in the field every day. But what they lacked was the risk appetite to quit their job and run with an invention or they lacked the know-how to build a business or access to capital or purchasing arms of hospitals. So that was our initial target, and they are a large part of our overall community. But you will always get those garage inventors who come out of the woodwork.
One invention, called Site Saver, is an IV stabilization device that was invented by a patient who had an extended stay in the hospital. He came up with the idea because he was so tired of the nurse missing his vein. He sketched the idea on the back of his insurance form.
HCI: On your web site I saw five or six idea searches active. Who came up with those and prioritized them?
Grajewski: We have both a push and a pull model. We will speak with healthcare partners, including Carolinas, and do our own market research on general challenges where they are experiencing pain points. We also partner with medical device companies such as Covidien to target technologies that complement their product portfolio. Right now, for instance, we are running a search with Covidien on remote patient monitoring.
HCI: So how does the business model work with those medical device company partnerships?
Grajewski: They get the right of first refusal to license those technologies that we help find for them. If they choose not to license it, then we can go out to a larger pool of healthcare partners.
HCI: Can you give an example of an invention that speaks to the potential impact?
Grajewski: Sure. One is called GuardianOR. It is a bifurcated trashcan with metal detection around the rim. It was invented by a former medical device salesman who kept getting feedback from OR nurses, who said what they really needed was a way to avoid throwing away medical equipment after a procedure. When we looked into that problem, we realized it was a multimillion-dollar problem for numerous hospitals. In the rush to turn over operating rooms, medical equipment gets thrown away inadvertently. So we have created this trashcan and we are rolling it out into Carolinas HealthCare System in the fall. We are already receiving pre-orders, and we are excited because we think it is really addressing a need.