Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft were launched by college-age students. To stimulate a similar dynamic for the healthcare industry, Arizona State University is creating a breeding ground to foment a new generation of innovators.
The Tempe, Arizona-based university, which has been ranked the last five years by U.S. News and World Report as the nation’s most innovative university, offers a bachelor’s degree program in Health Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a master’s degree program in Healthcare Innovation, and the Phoenix-based HEALab, a program that help students bring their ideas to life even before they earn their degree. This latter initiative has spawned a number of early stage companies by helping them accelerate the business development process.
ASU’s senior director of health innovation programs and clinical professor Rick Hall, PhD, who oversees HEALab, says that health systems could accelerate their own innovation efforts by working with local universities to collaborate with or establish similar initiatives in their own markets and will benefit from student’s fresh perspectives.
Hall is now in talks with nearby healthcare systems, including Banner Health, Dignity Health (now part of CommonSpirit), and a joint ASU-Mayo Clinic collaboration to determine what role the lab can play in bringing health system and medical school innovation ideas to life.
“The good thing about working with students is that they think outside the box because they don’t know there is a box,” says Hall. “A lot of great startups have [spawned] from college-age students. They don’t know all the barriers. That’s a really good thing.”
While the educational programs prepare students for careers in the healthcare industry, the HEALab, which stand for Health Entrepreneur Accelerator Lab, is a key element in bringing their ideas to fruition. Some students graduate with businesses that are ready to launch and have a real-world impact on healthcare.
The lab operates on its own interesting model with philanthropic support provided through a board of advisors—all health entrepreneurs from the community who donate funds and serve as subject matter experts to students.
HEALab helps students create sustainable business models by providing the following support:
- Providing access to funding sources, including contests and resources that are only available to students
- Finding subject matter experts from outside the system who can provide real-world input and guidance
- Mentoring: Hall, an entrepreneur himself, mentors students and helps them find other ASU faculty members with expertise to guide idea development and provide insights
- Identify collaborative technology partners and support systems
Hall cites the following success stories from HEALab:
- New Trails Navigators, an AI-driven platform that trains recently incarcerated inmates to enter the healthcare workforce
- Hushabye Nursery, a recovery center for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome
- Knosis Health, an app that encourages healthy lifestyles
Other ideas, including a home meal delivery service for diabetics, are in development.