Health Tech, Hospitals

OSF Healthcare launches its version of “Shark Tank”

At an event styled after the TV show but kinder and gentler, OSF HealthCare employees get 15 minutes to pitch their ideas to subject matter experts, stakeholders and other members of the community. They use the presentation to share where they are in the process and what resources they need to validate their concepts and network.



Imagine Shark Tank without the biting commentary and the celebrity investors.

That’s what OSF HealthCare has decided to create in order to encourage innovation from its own employees. The Peoria, Illinois-based healthcare system recently announced that it has created the OSF Innovation Studio to help employees take their novel ideas from concept to commercialization, though first they have to pitch their ideas at a “Slingshot” event styled loosely after the popular TV show.

At Slingshot events, employees get 15 minutes to pitch their ideas to members of OSF Ventures, internal subject matter experts and leaders of OSF Innovation Labs, among others.

These kinder, gentler “sharks” offer immediate feedback and the Innovation Studio team — staffed with employees with expertise in data analytics, product development, sales, early-stage investment and academic and commercial partnership — takes that collective input and determines next steps. In other words, whether or not to pursue the the opportunity. 

Whether employees have a seed of an idea or have already applied for a patent, “we’ve built the infrastructure to help them create, grow or scale their healthcare solutions at any stage of development, even if they aren’t selected for final investment,” said Kip McCoy, vice president of Innovation Studio, in an email provided by a representative.

His team looks for ideas that meet a few criteria — they must have the potential to transform healthcare, be associated with areas of expertise at OSF or be aligned with the health system’s innovation unit focus areas. Those include pediatrics, neurology, medical technology, big data and the social determinants of health, he said. The Innovation Studio also welcomes ideas that would improve processes, safety, recovery, treatment or a patient’s overall experience.

Speech pathologists Melissa Larson and Rachel Lucas at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria recently pitched their idea to design a special cup for children who have difficulty swallowing.

“This was a huge opportunity for us to present our concept to the health care community and learn different ways we can advance our project,” said Larson, in a email provided by a spokesperson. “People were very receptive to our idea and some even discussed different manufacturers that could potentially produce our product.”

McCoy said that at the Innovation Studio experts are probing a variety of questions; everything from ” what level of expertise we might have to bring, the size of the market if we’re looking at commercialization,” to “can this be protected via a patent or otherwise that might bring additional value? Do we have the ability to have a partner who could help bring this to market for us?”

For ideas that are blessed by OSF HealthCare leaders, the next task is the actual formation of a company and it is here that OSF Innovation works with a partner — High Alpha Innovation, the Indianapolis company with expertise in startup creation.

OSF Healthcare is not only providing infrastructure and expertise to spur internal innovation, but is also plowing resources into tapping ideas of novel startups beyond its doors.

In January OSF Healthcare announced that its investment arm OSF Ventures launched a fund worth $100 million, bringing total assets under management for the venture program to $250 million.


Photo: phototechno, Getty Images