Brigham and Women's Fishes for Innovation, "Shark Tank"-Style

 On Monday, 10 health IT startups descended on Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston to compete for the opportunity to conduct a pilot program with the hospital in a contest modeled on ABC's investment reality show, "Shark Tank."

The BWH iHub Pilot Shark Tank Challenge, held by the organization's iHub innovation center, gave the startups the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of six BWH clinicians and leaders, who were serving as the judges and "sharks." The 10 finalists, selected for this final stage of the competition from more than 40 entrants, were given five minutes to pitch the sharks, and then responded to questions to help the panel decide which to select for pilot projects at the hospital.c 2014-04-28 BWH-iHubSharkTnk1 1514 jk-WEB-620x350

The contest was designed to help innovative companies and products catch the attention of BWH leaders, and eventually the larger healthcare industry. "As we have gotten to know the innovation community in the healthcare space here in Boston and as we've spent time developing and launching iHub, we've learned the biggest gap in the healthcare innovation ecosystem is the ability [of startups] to find pilot partners and move forward with projects in a timely manner," says Lesley Solomon, executive director of the BWH iHub. "[At iHub] we're focused on getting the right solutions to patients and providers faster. If we can create an opportunity to speed up those introductions, that's a huge win for the community."

The contest was focused on finding solutions in two areas — increasing engagement among low-, rising- and high-risk patients and improving communication between patients and clinicians. The four startups selected by the sharks address these issues, placing an emphasis on the use of mobile technology:

  • MySafeCare: A mobile app that allows hospital inpatients to report safety concerns.
  • Healo: A mobile platform that allows clinicians to remotely monitor the healing of patients' post-operative wounds.
  • Twine Health: A chronic disease management solution that uses synchronized apps across physicians' and patients' devices.
  • Tenacity Health: A solution that uses social motivation and indirect incentives to promote healthy behaviors in patients.

BWH is already making good on the sharks' "investments" — emails to the winning companies to work out the specifics of the pilot programs went out Wednesday. The hospital has also already begun to discuss plans for next year's contest.

c 2014-04-28 BWH-iHubSharkTnk1 1178 jk-WEB-620x350Ms. Solomon isn't surprised the solutions are so mobile-based. "We live and breathe smartphones," she says. "Our connection to smartphones gives mobile a real opportunity to be a significant part of the patient engagement that needs to happen." Additionally, smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous among patients across risk strata, she says.

"This really went beyond our expectations," says Ms. Solomon. "It created so much energy and excitement and buzz in the community — it was a lot of work to make it happen, but we can't imagine not doing another one next year."

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