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MaineHealth Innovation Center

Care team members in every corner of our health system have unique and important insights that can advance the healthcare opportunities they see every day.

Now we have the expertise and leadership provided by our new MaineHealth Innovation Center to accelerate this work. We have the opportunity to leverage our workforce’s brilliance to drive forward innovative solutions that will benefit the patients and communities that we serve.

The Center provides the needed infrastructure, pathways, and support for any of our 22,000 care team members across the system to explore their novel ideas to:

  • reinvent accepted care team models
  • redefine processes
  • develop new products

A catalyst for change

Established in 2020, the MaineHealth Innovation Center fosters a culture of innovation across our healthcare system, supporting 22,000 colleagues who serve 1.1 million patients in Maine and New Hampshire. We help accelerate creative solutions to solve today’s complex healthcare challenges.

From incubation to acceleration

The Center’s early accomplishments include:

The Innovation Blender event series, in partnership with The Roux Institute at Northeastern University, is designed to mix practitioners, researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators from a variety of backgrounds together to ideate on challenges. Each monthly event consists of brainstorming around innovators’ presented challenges and proposed breakthrough technologies. The goal: Increase collisions of incredible people trying to solve big challenges. Past topics have addressed augmented reality in pediatric healthcare, building better tools and systems to protect our brains, low cost and scalable healthcare devices to target early stage cancer, and novel cancer therapeutics.

The Innovation elective is a four-week course approved by the Tufts University School of Medicine designed to expose 4th year medical students to the principles of innovation. The course employs a project-based approach, allowing students to confront real-world healthcare problems and dream up novel solutions — it is hands on, fast-paced, and 100% interactive. By educating future physicians, we can embed the principles of innovation into how they approach patient care, developing an entrepreneurial mindset that they will take with them for the rest of their careers.

The Innovation Cohort empowers care team members across MaineHealth to advance the “back of the envelope” ideas that address the unmet care needs they see every day. This 8-week program convenes a small group of interdisciplinary healthcare professionals as they embed themselves and their identified project in innovation science, user discovery, prototyping, and intellectual property considerations. Collaborative brainstorming and feedback fuels project breakthroughs and challenges perspectives. An encouraging environment teaches participants how to ask the right questions and connect with innovation colleagues. Past Innovation Cohort projects have yielded 12 provisional patents, two new companies, multiple projects in consideration for licensing deals, and several medical devices and technologies in active development.

The MaineHealth Innovation Fund was established as an internal funding mechanism to foster and accelerate innovation within the system. The Innovation Fund is an essential component of the Innovation Center’s comprehensive approach to research, innovation, education, clinical development, and commercialization. The entrepreneurial activity of MaineHealth faculty, staff, and students will be significantly enhanced through a dedicated source of funding intended to bridge the gap between grant-funded basic research, emerging clinical ideas, and commercialization of technologies. The first stage of funding, the Ignite Fund, will provide small seed capital up to $20,000 to help develop innovations to maturity. The Fund framework is consistent with best practices for seed and gap funding models in use at other universities and healthcare systems. The first call for the Ignite Fund in October 2020 generated 37 innovative ideas from across the MaineHealth system.

Only by working together and taking a comprehensive approach can we start to move the needle on improving health outcomes for our fellow Mainers through innovation. To learn more about these efforts or partner with us on additional opportunities, please contact us today.

Leading health care innovation

As Northern New England’s leading healthcare organization, MaineHealth is strategically positioned to be a national leader in the delivery of innovative, transformational care.

We see innovation — novel ideas that solve unmet healthcare needs — as the connective tissue of education, research, and patient care. Innovation is embedded in the daily work of our care team members as one of our core values.

MaineHealth Innovation Center was established to provide the leadership, expertise, and support needed to identify, cultivate, and accelerate innovative ideas. Its goals are to foster a culture of innovation among MaineHealth’s 22,000 care team members, strengthen innovation infrastructure and create a suite of tools to support innovations at all levels.

MaineHealth Innovation Center is led by an experienced team of entrepreneurs and innovators who aim to lead Northern New England to a brighter, healthier future.

innovation leaders

Strategically positioned alongside hundreds of education and research colleagues, MaineHealth Innovation is overseen by Chief Academic Officer Douglas Sawyer, MD, PhD and Susan Ahern, Vice President of Innovation.

Ignite Fund: Sparking System-Wide Innovation

The Ignite Fund is stimulating the volume of innovations and their readiness for conversion to commercial products and services. The initial round of funded projects demonstrate the varied and collaborative nature of innovating within a healthcare system where patient well-being and care team efficiency are paramount:

  • A respiratory therapist at Waldo County General Hospital has created a simple cloth headband to lift patients’ oxygen tubes off of their ears and prevent uncomfortable skin abrasions.
  • An anesthesiology resident at Maine Medical Center is developing a device to more securely seal ventilating bag masks on patients’ faces.
  • The nursing director at Maine Medical Center’s family birthing center is developing a software tool to predict nursing staffing needs based on patient acuity.
  • A rural primary care physician and resident at Stephens Memorial Hospital teamed up with a research navigator at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute to provide diabetic retinopathy screening and evaluation in an area where optometric care is nearly inaccessible.
  • An endovascular neurosurgeon, neurologist and engineering professor are developing a soft robotic device to more successfully retrieve brain clots.
  • A team of pediatricians at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital is creating a kit for rural hospitals that harnesses augmented reality within high-fidelity simulation training scenarios for neonatal resuscitation.
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