Reforming hospitals from the inside out

Why would anyone want to put a startup accelerator INSIDE a major public hospital? Think of the noise of people rushing around corridors, the beeping of machines, busy doctors and nurses, sick patients, upset relatives, sudden medical dramas…

That’s exactly why a health accelerator SHOULD be in a hospital. So entrepreneurs can see first hand, what life is really like for both clinical staff and patients.

Meet Melbourne Health Accelerator, Australia’s only startup space that is actually attached to a hospital.

As Director of Business Development at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Dr Patricio Sepulveda’s job is to encourage innovation and find business opportunities for one of Melbourne’s oldest establishments.

Chris Kommatas runs the Accelerator Program, which based in an abandoned Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Melbourne. His job is to connecting modern technology, the spirit of entrepreneurship and traditional hospitals.

Startup founders need to validate their products, find out if their technology is ‘user friendly’ and see if there is a solid business model behind their ideas. Meanwhile hospitals need to identify where their inefficiencies are and how they can overcome them.

The program offers them both a chance to work together in a practical and hands-on relationship.

Hospitals have always been conservative and mindful of their long history. The precursor of today’s healthcare system was first documented in Egyptian civilization, 2700 BC. The Medical and Nursing professions were subsequently developed in Military and Church organisations, and carry on their strict hierarchical structure. Medical training involves years of subordination, long hours of work and study. Nursing training involves mixing rotating rosters, hard physical work on the wards and demanding study.

However modern hospitals are being forced to change. As the population ages, hospital demand is rising and as more expensive medical innovations are being requested by the public, costs are simply unsustainable for governments. Hospitals realise that they need interact with the business community. Not only to find alternative funding sources, but also to develop more effective ways of managing their patients.

If this accelerator program proves a financial and technology success, a similar model will be rolled out in every teaching hospital in Australia.

Parkville is the epicentre of biomedical innovation in Australia. It is surrounded by a group of world class hospitals, Australia’s top University and a number of research centres. These include the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, The Royal Women’s, The Royal Children’s, The University of Melbourne, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital was established in 1848. It is a world leader in medical practice and research. It’s specialty includes most major medical and surgical specialties. It is the only hospital in Australia that routinely performs robotic surgery. It houses the Victorian Infectious Diseases Service (VIDS) and the John Cade Psychiatry Ward. It produces 1,400 publications a year.

Seeking applicants

The Melbourne Health Accelerator is currently looking for eight to twenty health startups to apply for their unique program. The cohort is to start mid to late May.

The types of companies they are seeking need to be established, engaged and proactive. The criteria is maturity, teamwork and working on an area relevant to Royal Melbourne Hospital patients. Their research must be solid and the team must participate full time in the program.

As the hospital’s history is strongly linked to public health and charity work, the startup’s product needs to have a social impact as well as a financial one.

Startups on the program are able to access a wide range of hospital facilities as well as hospital mentors and advisors. These include being included in the weekly Grand Round, liaising with Medical and hospital staff and being exposed to the daily tasks of hospitals. They will also be able to use some of the hospitals administration facilities. This helped one of the previous accelerators in the program MedTasker to develop their medical communication system.

The companies that are accepted will sign a confidentiality agreements to protect their copyright, but the focus of the program is collaboration rather than simply making money. While the program is not designed to simply give startups free research, completion of the 12 week program will bring solid academic credibility.

The startups accepted into the program must in the Royal Melbourne Hospital space full time, ie Monday to Friday 0900 – 1700. They will be given a card and 24/7 access key. The space is large and can take a maximum of three members per team. They are desks and 24/7 internet access.

© Wikihospitals May 2017