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Community to commercialize innovations

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Community Health Network thinks it can help patients, engage doctors and maybe even make some money by trying to turn ideas within its organization into commercial products, service and companies.

It’s the latest in a string of efforts to capitalize on problem-solving that goes on inside local hospitals.

The Indianapolis-based hospital system last week announced a new Web portal called LaunchPad, which it aims to use to connect internal innovations with outside academic and corporate resources.

LaunchPad is being led by Pete Turner, Community’s vice president of innovation, and Kyle Fischer, chief strategic development officer, along with a six-member advisory board. The initiative is part of Community’s for-profit subsidiary, called Visionary Enterprises Inc.

VEI will be able to put money behind some of LaunchPad’s efforts, if that’s needed. But unlike the venture capital firm that rival Indiana University Health created five years ago, now called CHV Capital, Community is not creating a dedicated fund to back the initiative.

Instead, Community hopes to use LaunchPad as a place where physicians, nurses and other employees at Community’s seven hospitals and numerous outpatient locations can submit ideas to improve hospital processes or create solutions for internal challenges.

Then Community would like to form alliances with in-state universities, large corporations and individual entrepreneurs who could help the hospital system scale up those ideas and commercialize promising ventures for use by other health care groups.

“It could be a new process, it could be a new business, it could be a new technology that improves communication between our physicians and our patients. It could be an investment from VEI, where there could be a financial return,” Turner said.

Community hopes LaunchPad produces some innovations that improve patient care, giving it a competitive edge in the market.

But hospital leaders also see an effort to commercialize new ideas as a draw for physicians, for which it is in fierce competition with other hospitals, and a potential new stream of revenue if one of the ideas turns into a profitable company.

“Anything that we do we want to have a positive impact on patient care,” Fischer said. “We also think this is a great way to really engage our physicians in some really cool interactions. And if we’re really successful, we could have a health care startup come out of it.”

Hospitals have been a relatively untapped source of health care innovations in Indiana. But leaders at Indianapolis-based life sciences development group BioCrossroads have been quietly studying how Indiana might mimic the efforts of the Cleveland Clinic, which has spun out multiple companies from technologies and processes developed in its hospitals.

Also, an initiative of the Indianapolis-based technology group TechPoint has been working to match local information technology companies with hospital executives to try out their products.

For example, Indianapolis-based Diagnotes has been working with clinicians and IT heads at Franciscan St. Francis Health to improve a product that can send patient electronic medical records to the smartphone of any on-call doctor.

“It’s the right initiative at the right time,” Diagnotes CEO Dave Wortman said of TechPoint’s work.

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