New Hanover Regional Medical Center has launched an innovation center to foster and test ideas aimed at improving health and wellness, officials said Monday.
The NHRMC Innovation Center began Monday is in partnership with tekMountain, which offers office space for tech startups, located at 1844 Sir Tyler Drive inside CastleBranch Corp.
NHRMC is occupying two offices at tekMountain with access to flex space for meetings and collaboration, said Julian March, spokesman for NHRMC.
Discussions between NHRMC and tekMountain about the innovation center began in 2016, he said.
NHRMC officials said in a news release that the partnership will work to “strengthen the awareness and adoption of emerging health technology initiatives that are tightly alighted with NHRMC’s strategic initiatives and the health needs of our community.”
The NHRMC Innovation Center is geared toward "allowing employees and physicians to collaborate with community partners and thought leaders from various industries," the release stated.
"NHRMC employees and physicians are encouraged to be involved with the Innovation Center. Our staff and physicians are already creative problem solvers, and we look forward to hearing their good ideas," March said.
Any external involvement will be determined as the center evolves, he added.
“We are looking at health care in new ways,” John Gizdic, NHRMC president and CEO, said in the release. “We are working to make care easier to access, more equitable, and more affordable so everyone has the resources they need to live healthier lives. To do this, we need to collaborate with partners who will help us think differently and try new things.”
To build the program and focus on innovation throughout the health system, NHRMC hired technology entrepreneur Chris Hillier. He will be located at tekMoutain.
Hillier is a co-founder of Angry Health, Exponential Health Group, GIRI, Biopta, Sistemic and 4R. His background includes serving as principal at GuideWell Inc.; senior director of innovation at Florida Blue; COO and CSO at GuideWell Innovation; professor of technology transfer and innovation at the University of the West Indies; and professor of physiology at Glasgow Caledonian University.
The setting at tekMountain provides for an atmosphere outside of the typical office or hospital setting, officials said in the release.
Though the partnership with tekMountain, NHRMC Innovation Center aims to find early technologies that will help solve problems identified by NHRMC and its team with the possibility of adoption. If such technologies are not available to address internal issues, then the innovation team could look to the development of those technologies, said Laurie Whalin, vice president for NHRMC’s Clinical Support Services.
Whalin has been part of the planning process for the NHRMC Innovation Center.
Future technologies are still in discovery phase, and further details on NHRMC’s problem-solving projects were not available due to confidentiality reasons, she said.
The office space at tekMountain can accommodate up to 20 people, but flex space is also available for larger groups that could be needed to facilitate projects.
“The purpose of the innovation center is to give us the space and structure to look beyond what’s happening today, think about where we would like to be tomorrow, and create a path to get there,” Henry Hawthorne, administrator of oncology services for NHRMC, said in the release.
Hawthorne is part of the team that proposed creating an innovation center, officials said.