4 lessons from Boston Children’s innovation program

A compass pointing to the word "Innovative"
Boston Children's Hospital launched an internal startup accelerator last year. (Getty/Olivier Le Moal)

Clinicians are often untapped resources for potential innovation, but they may lack the expertise to jump-start a project. One Boston hospital has launched an internal accelerator to help get new programs off the ground, and it's sharing several lessons learned along the way.

Boston Children’s Hospital formed the accelerator in 2016. In the program’s first year, it has engaged with more than 300 clinicians, researchers and administrators and has backed nine projects, three of which have become their own startup companies, according to an article from Harvard Business Review. 

The hospital chose to develop the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator internally because other external options were more geared toward startups instead of early-phase projects. Through the process, HBR writes that the hospital has learned several lessons on design elements that can make a healthcare accelerator successful, including:

  • Encourage staff to have a business mindset. Expose clinicians to the business perspective, and even those who are not selected will learn something from the experience.
  • Offer constructive criticism. Even if a proposal is rejected, you want your staff members to continue to generate ideas in the future.
  • Respond to proposals quickly. Value clinician’s time and evaluate their proposals in a timely manner. Boston Children’s accelerator offers a program called Opportunity SPRINT, where clinical teams meet with business and strategy experts to triage ideas, according to the article.
  • Turn to a leader with entrepreneurial vision. Everyone’s skills are valuable, but the person leading the charge at the accelerator must be able to see projects through to the end.

RELATED: Cedars-Sinai finds success in startup accelerator program

Boston Children’s is not the only hospital to find success with forming an accelerator program. Eleven companies participated in the first run of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s accelerator. The system’s chief medical information officer, Richard Riggs, M.D., said that many of the potential startups that gained traction through the accelerator would not have otherwise seen the light of day.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also opened a dedicated space at New York City-based accelerator Blueprint Health in 2014.

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