The strategy behind Cedars-Sinai Accelerator and best opportunities for growth

Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai launched an accelerator program with the goal of jump-starting innovation within the health system. The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator graduated its first class in 2016 and since then has had 47 external start-ups participate in five accelerator classes.

During the classes, the accelerator hosts companies for three months, embedding them in the health system environment. The participants receive mentorship from Cedars-Sinai experts and $100,000 in the form of a convertible loan to continue developing their products. Cedars-Sinai Accelerator just wrapped up its fifth class and is gaining traction among innovative digital startups.

Companies that have been through the program have investors that include Amazon and Google, and all together have raised nearly $200 million in investment. More than 80 percent of the startups that have participated in the program are still active and have hired more than 375 team members collectively.

What was the strategy behind developing the accelerator?

"We wanted to make sure we were bringing innovation into our health system and helping the companies grow so they could expand beyond Cedars-Sinai," said Anne Wellington, managing director of The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator. "We do this in a way that is supportive of early stage companies but also makes sure we aren't taking on too much risk. We are comfortable and confident that the technology will work the way it's expected to before making a larger investment. Through the program, company leaders are mentored by the people who would use their product and make purchasing decisions. That helps us develop a good understanding of whether this is a collaboration that we would pursue further."

Cedars-Sinai Accelerator accepts applications to the program from across the technology space; it doesn't have a particular focus area. Instead, the strategy is to look at any startup that has healthcare technologies that targets hospital or health system customers. Ms. Wellington said the accelerator selects companies in part based on the priorities of the physicians and clinicians that are working with patients every day.

"We are looking for companies that can solve their issues," she said. "There are some areas we would like to see more of, including voice recognition. As you look out at the early stage company landscape, we have a few different companies coming through our program with that focus. We are focusing more and more on how we can use analytics and patient-specific insights to create a personalized experience for patients that interact with our health system."

In one instance, a company that was focused on improving the patient experience connected with Cedars-Sinai's patient experience officer to get real-time patient feedback through data aggregation in social media.
"It's all about understanding what the patients are saying and looking for, and how we can use technology to help them feel like this is a positive experience here," said Ms. Wellington. "Then we want to help patients everywhere feel like their caregivers understand them."

Beyond just looking at the potential of new technologies, the health system also considers the financial viability of startups and technologies before making a deeper investment. The solution must be financially responsible to move forward. Other technologies that fit this bill include:

• Automation solutions that allow physicians and nurses to practice at the top of their license and focus on patient care;
• Software systems that make frontline staff more efficient;
• Patient billing solutions that make it easier for patients to pay their bills.

"We are seeing consumerization of healthcare having a ripple effect," said Ms. Wellington. "At the service-level, we want to make the patient experience great upfront instead of making them check in at the front desk and then wait. We want to drill down into what comprises the patient's experience with the health system for every aspect of their care. That's something that has the ability to really have a broad impact on healthcare, and many market players are focused there."

The trend toward personalized medicine is also extending to the non-clinical aspects of the experience, including how people prefer to interact with their physicians. Some prefer text while others want a phone call or email. Some patients prefer virtual visits while others want an in-person office visit every time.

The accelerator is now accepting applications for the next class through March 15. The focus areas mentioned in this article are examples of the types of projects Cedars-Sinai Accelerator works with, but it is open to applications from any company developing solutions for hospital and health system customers.

"We want to make sure if there is a promising idea, we can support these companies financially and with mentorship," said Ms. Wellington. "It's a positive thing for any health system or provider group to have this openness to work with early stage companies and make sure that what we are creating is solutions that function well in the real world."

More articles on healthcare innovation:
Cleveland Clinic to split $1B donation for research from Lord Foundation
Why Partners HealthCare invested $80M in 2 new funds to fuel future growth
ProMedica innovation chief's Nike-inspired advice for hospitals considering launching innovation efforts: 'Just do it'


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