Aurora Health Care, a healthcare system with 15 hospitals and over 150 clinics in eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, has just entered the second phase of an effort to use startup software developers to create the applications it needs for population health management.
On July 20, Aurora and Startup Health, an accelerator in which Aurora has made a significant investment, announced a “call for innovations” that was expected to attract responses from a diverse collection of startups. The companies that Aurora and Startup Health select will get a chance to test their applications on Aurora’s IT ecosystem. If a particular company’s test goes well, Aurora may even agree to become its first customer. The winners will be announced this fall, and Aurora will start piloting their apps early next year.
Aurora is seeking applications that, among other things, have the potential to do the following: identify health problems within its patient population, enable people to collect data on their own health conditions, use analytics to personalize care plans for individual patients, connect existing hospital and community programs with individuals who could benefit from community resources, and use technology to help people maintain their health.
Other large healthcare organizations have developed software apps internally, invested in outside developers and/or worked with startups to implement their products. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), for example, has gone so far as to provide space and coaching to startups and in some cases has even agreed to be their first customer, says Greg Kuhnen, senior director, research and insights, for The Advisory Board Company, a Washington-based healthcare consulting firm. But he says he’s unaware of any other healthcare provider that has done what Aurora is doing.
Preston Simons, CIO of Aurora Health Care, compares Aurora’s strategy to crowdsourcing. “The more great ideas you can get in, the more you can evaluate and see how they’re applicable to what we trying to do to give the best healthcare to our patient population,” he says.
Aurora chose to become a lead investor in Startup Health because it’s a proven accelerator with international connections, Simons says. Aurora also likes the way its collaboration with the accelerator has evolved over the past year, he adds. Instead of having Startup Health show Aurora apps that it might find useful, he says, the healthcare system can tell the accelerator what it’s looking for in broad strokes. Then Startup Health can suggest which developers might be able to help Aurora in that area.
Hundreds of software apps designed for population health management are already on the market. But Aurora has found most of them to be “reactive,” says Simons, adding, “we’re trying to be more proactive.”
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