Nurturing innovation to improve healthcare

Published December 2, 2019

On the second floor of a commercial building in downtown Lancaster, Pa., is a hospital room that never has patients, a fully furnished studio apartment that no one lives in and a doctor’s office that doesn’t take appointments. This is the Smart Health Innovation Lab.

These rooms are test environments for the lab’s participants: startups with new, imaginative and commercially available healthcare technologies looking to accelerate adoption in the local market and beyond. In a 12-week program aimed at doing just that, participants gain access to these simulated care settings and a host of healthcare and reimbursement experts to demonstrate how their technologies impact clinical workflows across the care continuum. 

What makes this lab unique is that it is the first equal partnership between a health insurer, a hospital system, a venture capital firm and a digital health network: Capital BlueCross, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health (Lancaster General Health), Aspire Ventures and Clio Health.

“We’re bringing together healthcare’s key players—providers, payors, innovators and patients—so we can harness their diverse perspectives and, hopefully, solve for them all,” says Teke Drummond, Lancaster General Health’s executive director of corporate partnerships. 

“We all want the same thing, which is better health for people,” says Essam Abadir, founder and CEO of Aspire Ventures. “In this industry, the wins only happen if everyone is on the same side of the table.” 

This partnership provides an opportunity for payer-provider collaboration to address these perceived barriers. For example, if a new technology promises to save money in the doctor’s office but drives up in-home costs, it is not a net win. That’s because it doesn’t address the entire continuum of care, explains Aji Abraham, Capital BlueCross senior vice president of business and network development and Smart Health Innovation Lab board chairman. When all partners are in a room together, this is what they consider: Does the solution holistically improve health, cost and the consumer’s care experience?

“If we do our jobs correctly, graduates will come out of the program with a contract from Lancaster General Health and/or a reimbursement model with Capital BlueCross, enabling these technologies to start impacting lives,” says Abraham. 

That’s what Capital BlueCross is doing next, with one of the lab’s first graduate technologies, Emovi KneeKGTM. This solution measures the knee in 3D—while it’s moving—for a quicker, more accurate and less costly clinical assessment. In collaboration with Lancaster General Health, Capital BlueCross has begun piloting this innovative solution with its members.

“I’ve been involved with a lot of incubators and accelerators,” says Craig Nurick, Emovi’s vice president of sales for North America. “Smart Health Innovation Lab is different. The partners are really interested in being part of the market adoption process.”

Explore more ways BCBS companies are innovating healthcare through technology.

Capital BlueCross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. Learn about the Smart Health Innovation Lab and its graduates here.

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