A 'legacy of innovation': OSF HealthCare marks 10 years of $50M simulation center

Executives at Peoria, Ill-based OSF HealthCare say their $50 million medical simulation and innovation center has brought a return on investment of much more than that — and helped advance healthcare in ways that haven't been realized yet.

"Envision waking up and checking your vitals as you look into the mirror each day. Imagine a robot inserting your IV. Or picture artificial intelligence being used to predict your health risks and recommend preventative measures," Becky Buchen, senior vice president of innovation operations for OSF HealthCare, said at a 10th-anniversary celebration of the OSF Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center on April 28. "The seeds have already been planted for these concepts to become a reality."

The $3.8 billion Catholic nonprofit health system launched the six-story center in 2013 after receiving a $25 million donation from the foundation of a family whose daughter was treated at OSF's Children's Hospital of Illinois after an all-terrain vehicle accident. OSF then matched the gift to construct the 168,000-square-foot facility, the largest of its kind in the country.

"We built innovation into our system strategy," Michelle Conger, OSF chief strategy officer and CEO of OSF OnCall Digital Health, told Becker's at the event. "We didn't want it to be just about the building. We wanted it to be cultural. What I'm really excited about is we're not just nurturing ideas — we're actually seeing new products come out."

At the ceremony, OSF showed off some of the technologies in development at the center, including a smart mirror that reads patient vital signs, an app that can tell if athletes might be concussed, 3D printing and virtual reality for presurgical planning, and a hospital-at-home simulation center complete with a bedroom, living room and kitchen that mimics its digital hospital program, the largest in Illinois.

OSF is building a "legacy of innovation," said John Vozenilek, MD, chief medical officer of innovation and digital health at OSF and the center's founding executive director. 

"Since 2013, when we first opened … we've developed better partnerships and connections with health analytics, with our ventures team," he said. "These individuals bring us insights and bring us partners from our economic development community."

Peoria-based Bradley University estimated that the center has created $180 million in economic impact and more than 1,000 jobs.

OSF Ventures, the health system's venture capital arm, is located in the center. Mayank Taneja, MD, vice president of OSF Ventures, told Becker's his portfolio companies are often "blown away" when they come to visit. With its colorful accented walls, exposed ductwork and a staircase that winds up the middle of the space, the facility looks like it could belong to a tech startup.

"People come here like from California, let's say, and they see this environment, this open space of working together, and it's very unlike when they have in their mind about a system based out of Peoria in central Illinois," Dr. Taneja said.

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