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Dominique's Desk: Entrepreneurial Learning Centers

Dominique Pahud

When I talk to life science and digital health entrepreneurs, their motivation to make an impact is clear. But the biggest hurdle they face – once they have a product or tool of value – is to get their innovation into the hands of doctors, patients, and other stakeholders. There are many reasons why gaining access to the health care setting is challenging for entrepreneurs. Many hospitals and medical centers simply don’t want to take the risk. It’s a problem I see over and over again.

But there are examples, namely C3N out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, that break the mold. C3N, which eMed profiled in a research report this month, developed a set of tools for interventions to help inflammatory bowel disease patients do better. As part of that approach, the project enabled entrepreneurs, such as, to come into their midst. Using its core platform, which culls smartphone data like movement patterns and screen time to develop health insights, the team is working to create a model specifically for inflammatory bowel disease. And they’re collaborating with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients to hone the technology.

When I see care teams embrace innovation – and entrepreneurs – I’m encouraged about the future of collaboration. Similar efforts include Rock Health’s medical partnerships, including the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School, and the new INFUSE Accelerator for digital health entrepreneurs debuting in Indianapolis this summer.

This arrangement is mutually beneficial. Entrepreneurs get access to patients and providers who help them make their products and tools more useful. And, to be honest, there are things you simply don’t think of as an entrepreneur until you’re in the trenches. On the other hand, connections to entrepreneurs – and their innovations – provide physicians and care teams with access to the latest and greatest medical technologies.

It’s all about access. Entrepreneurs do great things. But if they can’t get access to hospitals, clinics, patients, and other stakeholders, their breakthroughs will go nowhere. The entrepreneurial learning center approach gets the traditional sector more comfortable with entrepreneurs, while providing benefits on both sides. Clearly, the plusses outweigh the minuses. I’d encourage entrepreneurs to seek out these opportunities – and I hope we’ll see more collaboration in the future.


Dominique Pahud

Director of Innovation and Networks

Kauffman Foundation

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