ProMedica Innovations Bring Big Ideas to Life

ProMedica is committed to big ideas. And for its employees, its patients and the communities it serves, that’s a big deal.

Each day, thousands of ProMedica employees go about their jobs, ensuring people in need get the care they require. Like all employees, they encounter challenges in their work. And in many cases, as frontline experts, they come up with ideas to address those challenges — often, great ideas.

ProMedica Innovations — a department, facility and team dedicated to bringing new ideas to life — helps them turn their ideas into commercially viable products and medical devices that benefit patients locally and worldwide. At the same time, they help the employees develop businesses that provide jobs and economic opportunity, and ultimately support the health and vitality of ProMedica communities. It’s a win-win-win situation.

Evaluating Potential, Laying the Foundation

Getting a new product to market is an arduous task, especially for someone who’s never done it. ProMedica’s experts have the knowledge and experience to help. They turn ideas that may start as nothing more than a sketch on a napkin into thriving businesses that meet real-world needs.

“We, at Innovations, are the resource that inventors have to assess, develop and commercialize those ideas, with goals of improving patient care and economic development,” says Clint Steigerwalt, director of ProMedica Innovations.

Assessment begins with a careful examination of each proposed product, which includes determining if:

  • Similar products already exist.
  • The product would meet a need and be clinically safe.
  • There’s a market for the product.
  • The product could be made and sold at a reasonable price.

If the Innovations team can check all the boxes, they offer the inventor the support they need to handle often difficult, time-intensive tasks such as research, prototype development, patent procurement, product testing, Food and Drug Administration clearance and marketing. They also invest in start-ups and help businesses secure financial backing through venture funds they manage and other resources.

Helping protect the idea with a patent is a key part of the process.

“We feel most comfortable building businesses around things that have intellectual property,” says Emily Kuhn, marketing strategist with ProMedica Innovations.

Ideally, employees who pitch a product will know something about the need for their idea and whether similar products exist. However, it’s not a dealbreaker if they don’t.

“We don’t want to preclude people from submitting an idea because they haven’t done a ton of homework,” says Kuhn. “But any foundational work they’ve done is valuable because it gives us a stronger starting point.”

Businesses are Succeeding

Since its inception in 2013, Innovations has helped inventors obtain roughly 30+ patents and launch five businesses. These businesses include now well-established companies, like VentureMed Group, best known for its Flex catheter, which is used in treating peripheral arterial disease and other vascular conditions, and new companies, like Air Diverter Solutions (ADS).

ADS sells the Air Velocity Reducer, a pioneering product designed to lessen the impact of airborne dust and debris from construction zones in healthcare facilities and other locations. These products redirect airflow from HEPA air scrubbers which normally sit on the floor, where contaminants accumulate. They also slow the speed of air coming out of the scrubbers. In its early stages as a company, ADS had its first sales in June 2021.

“It’s moving forward — generating revenue, creating jobs and spurring local economic development,” says Steigerwalt.

A Culture of Innovation

Employees in all disciplines are encouraged to bring their ideas to ProMedica Innovations. The Air Velocity Reducer, for example, was designed by a ProMedica facilities manager and an infection control specialist.

There’s also an idea hotline, where employees can speak directly with a project manager during business hours, and a simple online submission form that will prompt a return call from program staff. The program’s recent Big Idea Contest also garnered nearly 60 submissions for proposed medical devices or tech-enabled solutions. Contest winners, which included a product focused on blood oxygenation and an ophthalmology device, received funding to propel the products forward.

ProMedica has put ProMedica Innovations products to use in its own facilities, benefiting the companies that produce them and its patients. And others have followed suit.

“These are state-of-the-art-technologies that are setting a new best practice or improving a current practice,” says Steigerwalt.

Other health systems have innovation initiatives, but ProMedica started early. And today, it’s recognized as a leader in the innovation market. In fact, the organization’s innovation program has been recognized for years by Becker’s Hospital Review.

“We’ve been at it so long,” says Kuhn, “we’ve developed real expertise.”

ProMedica Innovations accepts idea submissions from anyone (including members of the public) with great health care related ideas. Have an idea to share? Submit it for the Next Big Idea Contest.