Need. Idea. Project. Healing innovation.
Those are the steps behind a new platform for taking the problems doctors encounter in healthcare and developing solutions that are vetted, pushed across the valley of death, developed and placed into the hands of physicians.
ScrubStorm LLC is a cloud-based marketplace where clinicians, investors, companies and contractors go to collaboratively brainstorm, develop and commercialize solutions for unmet medical needs.
The web platform allows clinicians to post problems they encounter in their practice and either propose a solution or open up the problem to companies or individuals. When ideas are generated, others can review and critique them after signing a confidentiality agreement. An investor can then fund an idea and suggest additional resources for product development. Then, a company can license and commercialize the product.
In a widely referenced 2008 Duke University study, researchers cross-referenced data from the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and from the U.S. Patent Office and found that physicians were involved in 20 percent of the medical device patents filed. By counting the number of citations a device received in subsequent patents and using a previously developed scoring mechanism, the researchers also determined that innovations involving physicians had more influence on subsequent innovation activity.
“In my opinion, clinicians are the ones that are closest to the problems that are occurring in medicine, yet when it comes to developing medical devices, they’re used as more of a critiquing resource,” said ScrubStorm President Ken Solovay. Commercializing solutions for problems discovered at the clinic isn’t done as well, especially when clinicians aren’t at large research institution, he said.
Initially, Solovay said, he had an idealistic vision of one big open site where doctors would join for free and companies and investors would pay for a subscription to access the doctors’ ideas and solutions. But as his team began shopping the idea around, what he found was the classic chicken-egg scenario. Companies were willing to pay if there was a large pool of doctors signed up, but doctors wanted to see those companies and investors before putting their ideas out.
So ScrubStorm decided to pivot, focusing instead on creating private versions of the site, where institutions or companies can invite their own clinicians, partners and resources to participate in idea creation and vetting. “It’s really god for accelerators, hospitals and medical device companies that want to work with their own companies and resources,” Solovay said.
A private cloud version of the platform has just launched at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and ScrubStorm is looking to add more private sites. Ultimately, the goal is to use these private sites to validate the platform and improve its functionality in order to get some traction with the open source site.
When it comes to open source innovation, there are two concerns commonly brought up: security and protection of intellectual property. ScrubStorm was built in a partnership with Salesforce.com, so it has the same security measures in place. And, in terms of IP protection, Solovay said the site uses non-disclosure agreements the same way the brick-and-mortar world does, except it allows full traceability through the platform’s proprietary IdeaLock process.
Up to this point, the company has been bootstrapped, with some additional non-equity involvement from a large medical device company who Solovay said is interested in seeing how the beta trials go. As far as competition goes, there are existing open innovation sites including Innocentive (which has partnered with Cleveland Clinic on an open innovation project), Ideaconnection and OpenIDEO, but the biggest challenge for ScrubStorm might just be encouraging a paradigm shift in how companies and institutions look at innovation.