Medical and administrative know-how and inventions are positively impacting patient care, patient costs and hospital revenue. Yet almost all of the formalized programs to transfer technology to patient bedsides are within major university-affiliated medical centers and not at the thousands of community hospitals nationwide.
In addition to this knowledge and know-how, clinicians and other researchers working in hospitals are creating ideas for new therapies and drugs, technologies (apps, processes, devices, etc. ) and cost-effective care models, often in response to the value-based care models that are part of healthcare reform. Incorporating a basic structure of a commercialization program that is similar to existing models in the academic/university setting could help identify and evaluate the know-how and ideas of the researchers and their staff and provide assistance in such areas as product design and development, intellectual property protections, which could ultimately lead to commercialization (licensing, start-up or spin-off development), funding (including sponsored research agreements) and corporate partnering to translate a hospital’s know-how and innovations into clinical use.
As more hospitals look for additional sources of revenue, they should look within the walls of their facilities and consider tapping into the many innovations taking place amongst their physicians, clinicians and other researchers. In order to get started, the institution must first create a win-win situation, where the inventor and the institution feel there is ultimately a return. Both the inventor and the institution must feel content, secure, collaborative and mutually willing to bring the invention to the market. Establishing this trust relies on effective communication and education.
A first step any institution should take toward harvesting intellectual property is to establish a mechanism to initiate the dialogue between the institution and the innovator. Something as simple as a webpage can both educate the community-at-large regarding the types of inventions with commercial viability and explain the internal pathway for a particular invention’s protection and possible commercialization. This information must be conveyed in a simple, engaging format, and possibly include details regarding patent protection, keeping in mind that patent protection and commercialization are not mutually exclusive. This endeavor can include details regarding a patent program would guides the internal processes and specific decision-making milestones. Every institution will have its unique internal procedures and policies to initiate a constructive dialogue, but once the conversation begins, the certain established processes can both educate the intended audience and reap significant rewards.
There are many additional protocols and relationships that must be considered as organizations develop a technology commercialization initiative. In our experience, though, creating a clear communication pathway between innovator and institution is paramount to the success of any technology commercialization endeavor.