Corporate Startup Agility: A Look at How OSF Health Care Teamed with Startup CareSignal to Help Their Covid-19 Response

OSF and Innovation

When considering innovation, OSF HealthCare has consistently maintained a focus of “What do we need to change to improve outcomes and make health care safer, more accessible, and more affordable?” They launched OSF Innovation, a branch of their organization in 2016 entirely devoted to this mission.

“We really strive to look at innovation that is happening outside of OSF and try to find ways to bend the speed-to-value curve,” said Rob Jennetten, Director of Innovation Partnerships at OSF HealthCare. “We’ve found that, when approached strategically, bringing in independently-built solutions and technologies can significantly advance our learnings and adoptions, so the challenge becomes finding the right kind of exposure and environment to build effective relationships with entrepreneurs.”

OSF Innovation has an active role in innovation ecosystems across the country such as Chicago and San Francisco, and they’ve established a presence on the East Coast. Specifically, around the Boston area, where health care and HealthTech research and development is so strong.

A Startup Relationship in a Health Crisis

OSF Innovation has active relationships with several different startups in varying stages, many from the MassChallenge program. One of them is with CareSignal, a remote monitoring, patient access platform, and 2018 HealthTech Finalist (formerly known as Epharmix), that became particularly productive when in March 2020, Covid-19 reached the United States.

“We had some fairly heavy-handed things in place around more traditional remote monitoring, patient monitoring, Bluetooth peripherals that are attached to a hub to assimilate into a dashboard,” said Jennetten. “But we really didn’t have a lightweight platform that could really scale and look at large numbers of people and simply gather the data to understand what’s happening with our patients in between visits and be able to react to that data as appropriate.”

However, when the public health crisis began, OSF needed fast solutions to a series of very large and complicated problems. That’s when both OSF and CareSignal reached out to each other in almost unison. Because OSF’s proactive initiatives and commitment to supporting entrepreneurs, they were able to look to this resource for fast solutions. A solely internal innovation team — or no innovation strategy at all — might not have had the same type of agility.

“We knew we could help,” said CareSignal CEO Blake Marggraff. “And we knew OSF would support us. And within a week of the idea, we had a fully live program up and running for thousands of OSF community members.”

CareSignal was able to quickly adapt and further develop their platform to fit the needs of OSF’s healthcare workers and, more importantly, their patients, in an agile manner, befit a strong startup. The solution was named OSF COVID Companion, a free text messaging tool for OSF patients to use to gain resources and personalized guidance about Covid-19.

This new tool allowed soft monitoring capabilities and gave patients a way to track their own symptoms or development of symptoms within a dashboard that was connected to OSF’s COVID response resources. If and when those symptoms developed, it would help to direct the patients to next steps.

“The speed we were able to deploy this was immense,” said Jennetten. “And we’ve been able to establish and measure a very strong ROI with the CareSignal platform. We can understand the impact that it has on areas like resource utilization, re-admissions, and ED visits, to name just a few examples.

The relationship between OSF and CareSignal continues to develop in addition to their other MassChallenge startups throughout the pandemic.

How OSF Partners with MassChallenge to Help Source and Build Startup Relationships

OSF began their partnership with MassChallenge in 2017. By working specifically with the HealthTech program, they were able to shape their relationship around their internal innovation goals in areas like:

  • Advanced analytics
  • Aging in place
  • Digital transformation
  • Precision medicine
  • Radial accessibility
  • Social determinants of health
  • Virtual care

These identified areas help guide, without dictating, the cohort selection from the pool of startup applicants. The startups within these fields are not the only path to value for OSF. Throughout their partnership, which includes active participation by 12-14 OSF employees, they have gained significant insights and development by engaging with startups broadly across the program.

“We take so much away from the entire process of ranking and judging,” said Jennetten. “Far beyond the relationships we build with our selected startups, which are obviously the end goal, we gain so much value from the other entrepreneurs throughout the program, and I think that often goes overlooked.”

Even with the startups OSF forms relationships with initially independent of MassChallenge, those startups sometimes find a new opportunity with the Accelerator program.

Beginning in 2018, OSF HealthCare Pharmacy Services piloted MassChallenge HealthTech alum InsightRX for precision dosing of vancomycin for bacterial infections in pediatric patients. Though the relationship formed outside of the MassChallenge program, it continued through and beyond InsightRX’s participation.

Additionally, GYANT, a startup in the HealthTech 2019 cohort has had significant involvement in OSF’s COVID-19 response infrastructure providing symptom checking, navigation, and resources through their AI driven chatbot “Clare”.

Obviously, these are volatile and unprecedented times where everyone and every business is adapting to changing circumstances. The truly impressive aspect of OSF Healthcare is their commitment to proactive innovation and foresight to know that building relationships with startups is a powerful strategy. One that they continue to pursue by collaborating with organizations like MassChallenge.

“MassChallenge continues to deliver access to high quality early stage companies that are working to solve the difficult problems health systems face every day.  Their attention to our challenges, matchmaking, and support throughout the accelerator program, have made MCHT an important partner for OSF Innovation.”

– Rob Jennetten, Director of Innovation Partnerships at OSF HealthCare