Henry Ford Health System gets grant to educate, incubate digital health ideas

By Jonah Comstock
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dulchavsky Dr. Scott Dulchavsky

Henry Ford Innovations, a spin-off of Detroit, Michigan's Henry Ford Health System, has received a $3 million, 3-year grant from the William Davidson Foundation to establish a new digital health innovation center, the William Davidson Center for Entrepreneurs in Digital Health.

"When we embarked almost four years ago on developing the Innovation Institute as a separate corporation, it was to take these ideas that occur in everybody that works in healthcare almost daily and vet them rapidly as either mission-based right-thing-to-do ideas or ideas with some commercial benefit," Innovation Institute CEO Dr. Scott Dulchavsky told MobiHealthNews. "So we began with an endowment from the Henry Ford Foundation, as well as a philanthropic gift and some funding through the New Economy initiative. The Davidson Foundation's request for a proposal was a natural follow-up of that. When we read some of the hopes of the solicitation, we thought that was right in our wheelhouse, to help the local economy through empowering education, potential job creation, new businesses and rekindling the entrepreneurial space to make Detroit what it was so many years ago."

The new center will have two arms: an education component and a commercialization component. The education piece will include programs aimed at Henry Ford Health System physicians and staff, medical residents, and local middle and high school students.

"We're in talks with a variety of local and regional education centers about either partnering or helping us develop these educational capabilities to either take currently available curriculums or develop new curriculums in entrepreneurship with a particular focus on healthcare entrepreneurship, not necessarily at the physician stage but at the healthcare worker stage at all levels," said Dulchavsky.

The commercial component will help support ideas that come out of those classes, as well as from throughout the Henry Ford Health System. Dulchasky says the Institute has some mobile health innovations in the pipeline already.

"We already have a pretty good commercialization capability right here," he said. "What we don't have are the methods to take ideations beyond that first stage in ... that very early moderate-to-high-risk investment area, where we need some deep funding to take the ideas to the next stage and make them more appropriate -- for venture capital investments, or licensing opportunities, or royalty streams through other partner organizations."

The Center will not limit itself to provider or hospital-centric ideas, Dulchavsky said, and entrepreneurs will have access to not just the hospital but a health plan, Wayne State University School of Medicine, and Ford Motor Company, which Henry Ford has worked with before on smart car concepts.

The Henry Ford Health System has previously launched a number of apps, including a patient-facing cancer surgery app that launched last fall.

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