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Leadership

Top Innovators

From tinkerers to industry leaders, these are the people behind some of 417-land’s latest and most exciting ideas pushing the envelope and propelling the business community forward.

By Claire Porter

May 2016


Each year, SPIN66 hosts a pitch competition in which startups pitch their company to a panel in hopes of winning a prize package including $9,000 and ancillary resources. Photo by Brandon Alms, courtesy Shutterstock.


Incubating Innovation

Big names in healthcare mean big grant opportunities. That was the case four years ago when Mercy Research received a MOBEC (Missouri Building Entrepreneurial Capacity) grant to cultivate the medical technology industry in Southwest Missouri. “As we looked for an event we could go to and meet some of our deliverables for the MOBEC program, we couldn’t find anything, and that hatched the idea of doing it ourselves,” says Cody Stringer, entrepreneurial specialist at Mercy Research and organizer for SPIN66

Stringer and his team started brainstorming an event that would bring together local entrepreneurs and innovators who would have expertise in med tech and medical devices. As they dug, they found a burgeoning but disconnected community. “There were these micro communities popping up all over town, and they weren’t really cross-talking with each other,” Stringer says. “So we thought, ‘Let’s see what we can do to harness the energy that’s already taking place to tear down the walls and create one comprehensive startup community in Springfield.’” With that thought, Stringer and the Mercy Research team, along with organizers from The eFactory, the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations, developed SPIN66. 

“What we really want to do is put all of these great people together in one place and get them bouncing ideas off of each other, feeding off of each other, accelerating existing projects and maybe sparking new projects that would feed the startup and innovation ecosystem here in the area,” Stringer says. Attendance has grown each year, and at its zenith, Stringer hopes to one day see an attendance of 350 or 500 people coming from all over the country. “I would really like this to be one of the top events for entrepreneurs and innovators in the United States,” he says.

In its third year, attendance for SPIN66 has grown year over year. The one-day event features speakers from all across the country, expert panels on investment and funding, a pitch competition (with a $9,000 cash prize) and plenty of opportunities for attendees to connect with each other, making it an enticing opportunity for innovators near and far. “What innovation technically means is doing something new that breaks the status quo,” Stringer says. “That’s why at SPIN66, we throw the word innovation around a lot. This is not an event that is just for startup founders or that’s just for people who self-identify as entrepreneurs. This is really an event for anybody who’s doing something new and creative who can be inspired by the type of programming we have at the event.” 

Staying true to their med tech roots, Stringer and his team always try to incorporate a healthcare or medical element. This year it’s in the form of a tech platform startup from Kansas City. Beyond that, the team makes sure that diverse market segments and organizations ranging all the way from startups to established businesses are welcome and have opportunities to be inspired to cultivate innovation within their own organizations. “Sometimes it’s best to have a multi-disciplinary group of people getting together and talking and thinking about creating something new,” Stringer says. “That’s sometimes where the most disruptive things happen.” 

Ultimately, SPIN66 is an opportunity to connect locals to the resources, ideas and inspiration they need to electrify not only their businesses, but also the community as a whole. Through surveys, feedback and word of mouth, Stringer and his team keep tabs on SPIN66’s impact. “That’s our key measure of success,” Stringer says. “Are we, through this event, creating these outcomes that have a direct and significant impact on the community and the startup ecosystem? Can we measure our impact with an actual dollar amount? Has it created sustainable businesses or accelerated companies here in Southwest Missouri? That’s a really difficult thing to capture, but those are the metrics we like to see.” And as the event continues to grow, its influence is sure to deepen with each connection made. 


One of Mercy Research’s products is Polytrak, a zip tie system that holds the jaws shut during healing, replacing traditional metal wires. Photos By Kevin O’Riley.


Patenting Progress

Innovation develops in any form and in the most unlikely of places, but it’s much more likely to happen when it’s built directly into an organization’s infrastructure. Mercy Research does just that. Its Product Development & Informatics branch is an incubator for the wellspring of inventions and product ideas bubbling up within Mercy. 

The Product Development & Informatics branch started as an R&D department under Mercy Medical Research Institute, which also had clinical studies groups throughout its four-state footprint. R&D utilized the clinical trial sites for testing its own products. “We’ve always known that we have the opportunity to ping these folks, and that’s about all we thought of with those other Mercy research groups,” says Kim Collison Farr, director of Mercy Research’s Product Development & Informatics division. Unbeknownst to Mercy Health, the clinical trials branches were inundated with inefficiencies from filling out paperwork and recruiting patients to completing back office tasks.  

In fall of 2015, Mercy consolidated all of these administrative tasks into one hub called Mercy Research. The transition, which is slated to be complete July 1, should free up the clinical trials branches and Product Development & Informatics to focus on patient care and innovation. When these branches are running more efficiently and have more capacity, the Product Development & Informatics team plans to spread the word about what they do and the type of proposals they’re looking for. “We get lots of fabulous ideas, but because of our limited capabilities, we can’t push every idea into an invention or into a product,” Collison Farr says. She notes that, following the reorganization, their focus is on educating those within the Mercy network about the difference between an idea and an invention. 

For any proposal that is submitted, the Product Development & Informatics team looks first for concepts that are thought-out and versatile. “We want to consider all of the potential applications because that then helps us understand the patent review,” Collison Farr says. “That’s one of our biggest hurdles: patentability.” Because securing a patent and intellectual property rights for each product is so important, an exhaustive amount of research goes into examining the existing market. The team then considers the financial requirements. Every product developed through the department has seed funding provided by Mercy. (They have produced nearly 20 products so far, including Polytrak, which is a zip-tie system that replaces wires for holding jaws shut during healing and drug delivery contact lenses, which help treat eye injuries on the battlefield.) Next, as with any medical device, regulations come into play. Regulations determine how rigorous clinical trials and bench testing for each product need to be, all of which factor into the ultimate cost of development. The team then packages all of this information into a proposal for Mercy. Once approved, the fun starts, says Collison Farr. They begin to play with designs and materials, build prototypes and seek out manufacturers who can produce and distribute the proposed product.  

Many of the inventions the Product Development & Informatics team sees come directly from the healthcare providers themselves. “Healthcare providers tend to be solution-finders,” Collison Farr says. “That’s the type of folks who seem to be drawn into healthcare.” Although that enthusiasm is encouraging for the future of Mercy, it can sometimes be difficult when Collison Farr and her team have to turn away an idea that isn’t a good fit. “People really do want to improve healthcare,” she says. “These products are very important to them. The worst part of this job is when I have to tell them no. I hate that part; I really do. It always makes me a little bit sad because I can see that they’re excited about it.” However, Collison Farr stresses that a no isn’t a dead end. Anyone whose idea is turned down has the opportunity to refine that proposal and present it again and again. “We don’t want them to stop innovating,” she says. “Just because this one wasn’t a great thing doesn’t mean your next solution is not the next great thing.” 

That openness and support for throwing out ideas has become part of Mercy’s culture. By supporting programs like Mercy Research, the entire system has shown that it is open to exploring and fostering improvements in the field. “I believe research is the foundation of all innovation, and by improving our ability to perform research and offer research to our entire Mercy healthcare system, that will only elevate what we do every day,” Collison Farr says. Her hope is that by increasing awareness of the program, healthcare providers will be more aware of their innovative ideas when they float into their heads and will be more likely to present that proposal to a person who can give it the attention and aid it needs to increase innovation in every field.

“To me, innovation is tied to genius, and genius is making connections in new ways,” Collison Farr says. To Collison Farr, innovation is taking the same old information and connecting it in new ways that yield a faster or better outcome. “To me, that’s part of innovation: recognizing the elements that can come together in a new way to improve things,” she says. By serving as a platform through which innovators can funnel their ideas, Mercy Research has the potential to become what Collison Farr says is their goal: a hub of innovation that continues to propel the field of healthcare forward. 



Stratman creates and tests all of his prototypes, like this basic design, in his studio. Photo by Brandon Alms.

Hello Hologram

Sometimes the greatest ideas aren’t, at their core, new ideas at all. In 1862, theatre audiences were wowed by what appeared to be a ghost onstage, made behind the scenes with a technique called Pepper’s Ghost, which strategically aims reflections on glass. Almost exactly 150 years later, audiences at Coachella were equally floored by the appearance of artist Tupac in hologram form, made using the same technique. Jonathan Stratman was transfixed by the Tupac appearance. He had learned about Pepper’s Ghost while studying film at Missouri State and decided to tinker with the method himself. 

His original concept was simply a fish tank–like structure into which he could project a video to form a hologram. As he started to work on his prototype, he began to wonder how he could share the experience with friends and decided to turn the concept into a greeting card. With that, Holoogram was born. Stratman and a programmer friend took the idea of a pop-up card and made a miniature stage on which a thin piece of plastic rests. By syncing up a special video and placing their phones over the plastic, they were able to create a floating image, or hologram, that brought the video to life. 

While the two worked on ironing out the company’s details—would users purchase and send cards through an app or a website? How would users know the phone dimensions of the card’s recipient? What options are there for customization?—Stratman’s business partner moved home to Iowa, so Stratman has been sorting through some of the details himself while looking for a programmer. He’s not letting the setback stunt his creativity, though. “Creative and successful people move quickly, so it’s not a big deal if they fail,” he says. For now, he’s perfecting the intricate and scaling formulas that go into determining the perfect projection angles, the thickness of the paper, the size of the frame or the angle of the phone. 

Stratman considers himself part of the remix generation, which aligns with Holoogram’s strategy. “It’s not about writing a new book,” he says. “It’s taking something that’s already made and doing more with it.” He emphasizes that the core components of Holoogram—holographic videos, phones with video capabilities, Pepper’s Ghost technique and even pop-up cards—already existed. He says the brand’s innovation comes when these elements are brought together in a one-of-a-kind way.


Bethesda Medical Care’s office was designed with an aviation feel, keeping in line with Dr. Bill Graham’s designation as an FAA-certified physician. Photos By Brandon Alms.

The Doctor Will See You Now

We’ve all been there. You feel under the weather and have to head to the doctor, but instead of quick relief for your symptoms, you’re given an appointment weeks or months away, you sit in a waiting room for an hour only to have facetime with doctors for seven to 15 minutes, and then you’re sent home with a prescription and a bill, leaving you frustrated (and not because of your prolonged sniffles). The issue isn’t your doctor, who in almost every case is trying to provide you the best possible care. The root cause is the bottom line. 

Each doctor’s office has to hire extensive administrative staff to handle the complicated paperwork and billing required to bill patients’ insurance companies. The insurance companies set the price per visit, so in order to generate enough revenue to pay for this admin staff, doctors have to see 20 to 30 patients each day, spending no more than 15 minutes with each patient, meaning their patient panel often reaches 2,500 people. As you can imagine, this makes for an exhausting day for the physicians, leaving them feeling drained and leaving patients feeling like a commodity rushed through a system. Dr. Tim Fursa, founder of Triple Aim Direct Primary Care, served as program director for Cox Family Medicine Residency program and recognizes this problem firsthand in his former residents. “They’ve reached the point where they’re done with their training, they’re board-certified family physicians, you would think they would be at the height of having achieved their life’s goal, but what I discovered was talking to them two or three years after graduating from their program, they find their experience was less than they thought it would be,” he says. “It’s not as rewarding as they thought it would be. That really broke my heart because you want them to be happy about their career and [you want it to be] what they’re doing for the decades. This phenomenon we’re seeing nationwide.” And it’s a phenomenon that coincides with an approximately 55 percent burnout rate in family care physicians, according to Dr. Shelby Smith, partner at Equality Healthcare.


A Shimmering Solution

Although the situation seems grim, creative thinkers in the medical industry have proposed a solution: Direct Primary Care (DPC). In this model, insurance is taken out of the picture, removing the costs associated with insurance billing and paperwork and eliminating the pressure to see such a high volume of patients. Doctors in a DPC model work in independent clinics and see between 400 and 600 patients (practically a quarter of a traditional patient panel). Everything is run at cost, and patients pay a monthly or yearly membership fee in exchange for much more facetime with a doctor. Visits typically last a half an hour to an hour, and doctors have a much smaller patient base, meaning they can form a deep and lasting relationship.

“The touchstone of Direct Primary Care in our practice is we take the time to listen to our patients,” says Dr. Bill Graham, founder of Bethesda Medical Care, a DPC clinic. Because they have more time between patients, Dr. Graham and his staff can be advocates for their patients’ health when, in a traditional setting, they did not have the time to devote to researching other options. For example, when one of Dr. Graham’s patients could not afford the sleep apnea machine he needed, Daisy Manteris, the medical assistant at Bethesda Medical Care, was able to research alternative options and found a program that would donate a machine for free. “We never had that option before,” she says. “Even though we wanted to help, we didn’t have the time or freedom to do so.” This is a far cry from the hurried and fast-paced insurance-based system, which patients have come to see as a transactional event: I need a prescription and you can give it to me. “In the transactional event, when the clinic visit is done, the care is done,” Dr. Fursa says. “In the relationship experience, when the visit is done, the care is just beginning because the relationship is just beginning, and it continues to blossom from there. It’s in the care that happens behind the scenes when the patient isn’t even in the clinic that the relationship becomes really beneficial.” 

Becoming Health Advocates

That relationship-driven aspect of DPC makes family medicine an ideal match for the model because at its root is long-term doctor-patient relationships. “Primary care can take care of 95 percent of healthcare needs at a very reasonable cost,” Dr. Graham says. The doctors’ availability for their patients also opens up alternative avenues of communication through email, text, video and phone calls, or what Dr. Fursa calls an alternative context of care, allowing a doctor to be there for all of a patient’s questions on a journey to wellness. 

“This model just makes too much sense,” Dr. Smith says, not only because of the increased access to a deep and beneficial relationship, but also because of the cost savings. A DPC membership fee for an entire year costs less than one visit to the ER before any procedure is even done. Some patients question if paying for a membership in addition to a monthly insurance premium is worth it, but Dr. Fursa stresses that you’re paying for the relationship, and if your plan has a high enough deductible, you would pay out of pocket for a doctor’s visit regardless. 

Bumpy Roads to Clear Skies

As with any new idea, there are significant challenges getting it up off the ground and helping it spread. The biggest hurdle DPC faces involves insurance. Currently, Missouri approves DPC membership fees to be paid for by HSA or FSA accounts, but federally, DPC memberships don’t qualify for pre-tax savings. And though DPC can take care of the majority of your basic healthcare needs, patients still need coverage for catastrophic events such as car accidents or plans that include specialists. Currently, there are supplemental insurance plans available, but they leave gaps in coverage. Dr. Fursa and Dr. Smith say the next step is for more insurance companies to start developing wraparound plans made specifically with DPC in mind. 

Once the DPC model becomes integrated with insurance plans, Dr. Fursa anticipates the model spreading beyond individuals and into small businesses that are typically priced out of comprehensive insurance plan options for employees. 

True to its name, the Equality Healthcare office is located downtown within walking distance of a bus stop. The office was designed to be bright, clean and modern. The walls double as gallery space for displaying artwork for First Friday Art Walk.

An Open-Armed Model

DPC providers can relate to those small businesses because they themselves have to be small business owners. Dr. Fursa notes that this is sometimes a barrier to entry for physicians who are not in a place to accept the risk of opening their own practice. However, as the clinics grow and take on more patients, they will be looking to accept more partners to practice under their umbrella. This option provides an opportunity for physicians experiencing burnout to test the waters, see how the public is reacting to the model and then enter in a lower-risk way. 

“If a physician is burnt out, I would encourage them to take a day off and spend some time with one of us here in town,” Dr. Graham says. He emphasizes that, unlike some pockets of medicine, the DPC community is very encouraging, open and collaborative. When Dr. Graham first started his practice in 2011, he was the first Direct Primary Care provider in Springfield. Several years in, he heard about a summit in St. Louis and attended. “I had no idea anyone was doing something as crazy as this,” he says. “I thought I was the only one.” Opportunities to connect with other DPC physicians creates a stronger network of healthcare providers locally. Some connections are forged through summits, and others through classic Springfield-strong networking. (For example, Command Family Medicine’s Dr. Luke Van Kirk jumped into DPC after learning his cousin, Dr. Josh Umbehr, founded DPC practice Atlas MD and became a leader in the field and a spokesperson for the movement.) Dr. Smith adds that, in addition to making connections, you need to be excited and believe in the model’s potential to disrupt the norm. “At its core, we can be part of a movement to transform healthcare,” he says.



Bethesda Medical Center
One-year memberships start at $420 per person
600 W. College St., Suite 120, Springfield
417-831-0022
bethesdamedical@att.net
bethesdamedicalcare.com
 

Equality Healthcare
Memberships are monthly, based on age and range from $30 to $150 for a family plan
420 W. College St., Suite 100, Springfield
417-633-7020
info@equality.healthcare
Equality.healthcare
 

Triple Aim Direct Primary Care
This consultancy model works with doctors looking to set up their own Direct Primary Care practices.
417-380-1319
tim@tripleaimdpc.com



Digital Monitoring Products’ Springfield headquarters also houses the company’s manufacturing. Photos by Kevin O’Riley, Patrick Bandy.

Armed for the Future

As is the case for many local family-owned businesses, a good business breeds even more good businesses. Rick Britton got his start in Atlas Security Service, the company his father founded. “After I had come back from school, in a while I saw that we could design equipment that worked better than what we were finding,” Britton says. With that thought, he started designing his own products and eventually formed and then purchased Digital Monitoring Products (DMP). 

Forty-one years later, DMP is going strong as a leader in designing and manufacturing security equipment such as burglary and fire alarms and access control equipment for the high-end commercial and industrial markets (think banks, government buildings and large commercial spaces). In that time, the company has followed Britton’s definition of innovation, which is applying a new idea to a common or recurring problem. 

Some of those innovations have revolutionized the industry. For example, DMP’s two-way wireless alarms, called spread spectrum frequency hopping in which both sides of the system confirm received messages, became a widely adopted solution to the less secure one-way systems preceding them. DMP is also anticipating the needs of end-users in a constantly improving digital environment. The company has developed a cutting edge system that delivers alerts and video clips straight to the user’s phone when an alarm trips, allowing the user to confirm or dismiss the alert, drastically cutting back the number of false alarms and greatly reducing the time it takes alarm companies to confirm an alert. 

According to Britton, these innovations are thanks to the company’s outward-looking scope. “We spend a lot of time looking at other industries,” he says. “Looking at the computer industry and looking at the communications industry and then asking, ‘What means do they have that would help one of our customers?’” In addition to outside research, the DMP team spurs their best ideas onward thanks to companywide collaboration. The company’s headquarters houses the manufacturing and engineering departments under one roof. “That gives us one advantage—and we think it’s a technology advantage—because the engineers are 50 feet away from the ones building the product,” Britton says. Not only does that encourage feedback between the departments, but it also allows engineers to design products that can be easily and more efficiently produced. The product development team also capitalizes on this collaborative spirit. “Our innovation is through brainstorming,” he says. “Occasionally, one person will have one idea, but usually it’s half a dozen people who have gotten together to really refine this idea and make it into a workable solution.” To Britton, that’s where DMP’s key advantage lies. By encouraging his team to work collaboratively to improve upon each other’s ideas, the company is bound to discover solutions for its customers’ needs for another 41 years in the future. 



For electronic components to meet extended warranties, they often need to come back to the factory for a refresh, which is where SRC Electronics, Inc. comes in. Photo courtesy SRC Electronics.

Overhauling the Outdated

The concept of a warranty is fairly straightforward: you purchase an item with a warranty, then five, 10 or 15 years down the line, a part breaks or is worn down, you send the item back, and it returns to you as good as new (or sometimes better than new). That last part, the coming back to you as good as new, is where remanufacturing comes in. Traditionally, product parts from out in the field are recovered, revamped and turned around for a second life. Springfield ReManufacturing Corp. (SRC) and its affiliated companies remanufacture products ranging from diesel, natural gas and gasoline engines to water and hydraulic pumps, among other things. SRC’s latest purchase, Ciona Technologies, LLC—now called SRC Electronics, Inc.—takes the concept  of remanufacturing to an underserved market: electronics. Most companies will claim 25 to 30 years of support for their products, but many electronic parts incorporated into those products are only produced new for five to seven years, leaving remanufacturing as the best option for renewing and upgrading those parts as they become outdated or obsolete. 

Ciona started five years ago in Springfield as a fast-growing startup  joint venture with an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) focused on remanufacturing electronic components for commercial vehicles and agricultural, construction and forestry equipment. “We basically take a part that’s failed out in the field, and we remanufacture it back to its original specification, or we enhance or upgrade the product to incorporate design improvements, if that’s an opportunity,” says Mike Finan, general manager of SRC Electronics, Inc. 

Now that the company is under the SRC umbrella, the company is exploring ways to diversify its client base. Its team is being more reflective, strategic and innovative in vetting ways to push the envelope in the electronics remanufacturing field, including stepping into the medical, marine and aircraft industries. “When you think about medical systems and the potential for remanufacturing MRI devices or CAT scanning equipment, that market probably makes more sense if you remanufacture here in the United States and then sell into a tertiary market that can’t afford the higher cost of brand-new medical equipment,” Finan says. He notes that there are many regulatory and logistical hurdles that come with achieving that goal, but the company is exploring it as an option for greatly expanding the reach and use of the electronics remanufacturing field. 

At SRC Electronics’ core is the ability to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate customers’ needs, almost before they even happen. “Something SRC does really well as an organization is identify potential opportunities for clients, even when the clients don’t necessarily see them,” Finan says. The company is exploring the ability to identify those opportunities even earlier in the process by establishing partnerships with OEMs at the pre-production phase. An earlier partnership would allow SRC Electronics engineers to see a map of a commercial vehicle’s entire system, for example, test the parameters of all electronics inside that vehicle and then proactively identify parts that will require remanufacture or updating down the line instead of responding retroactively to a customer’s needs.

Finan says the secret to staying at the top of the game is the open book management culture practiced in each of SRC’s companies. Not only does the culture incentivize associates to perform at their best, but it also encourages critical thinking surrounding ways to improve processes and become more efficient. “One of the things I committed to really early on was I’m going to tell you exactly where I believe we are at, good, bad or ugly, and I expect the same in return,” Finan says. The open, honest culture open book management creates has opened opportunities for associates to offer suggestions on process improvements, increases in efficiency or new markets to explore. “I really believe in and trust in the people doing the job on a day-by-day basis, and if they’ve got a great idea, I want them to feel more than open about sharing it,” Finan says. For SRC Electronics, this culture is the key to holding onto its place at the top.



Jake McWay, CoxHealth senior vice president and CFO, and Steve Edwards, CoxHealth president and CEO, both in navy, were two of the judges during the accelerator’s final presentation period. Photo courtesy Randy Berger/CoxHealth, by Brandon Alms.

Accelerating Advancements

Healthcare is one of the major pillars keeping Springfield’s industry churning, and its power players have to constantly innovate to stay at the top. To do that, CoxHealth named Scott Rogers system director for performance integration and innovation. Within that role, Rogers helps the company think of ways to operate differently and finds links within the system to implement changes without creating redundancies. 

But not all of CoxHealth’s great ideas come from the top down. In fact, Rogers says, many of the best ideas come from those working at the ground level “Trust that your employees have good ideas,” he says. “They’re not just coming to work and going home checked out. Your employees are thinking all day long. Trust that they have these thoughts and figure out a way in your organization to capture them and do something with them.” Rogers and CoxHealth’s senior leadership team wanted to find a way to bring those ideas to life, and they toyed with the idea of an online crowdsourcing concept. Around that time, The eFactory was planning its Startup Weekend, and the team decided to adopt that model for its own interactive day of innovation.

The team started spreading the word about the CoxHealth Innovation Accelerator, which took place February 29 through March 1. They encouraged those who were constantly proposing new ideas to apply for one of the event’s 50 slots. More than 100 people filled out applications, which simply asked for the applicant’s name and posed several questions differentiating between process improvement and innovation. From there, Rogers put the applicants in a spreadsheet and selected 25 frontline employees, 20 midlevel managers and directors and five senior leaders from different specialities, departments and locations. “We wanted [participants] to understand that senior leaders can be helpful, and though they have ideas themselves, they also can be supportive of your ideas,” Rogers says. 

If you are familiar with a startup weekend–style event, the organization of the CoxHealth Innovation Accelerator is similar. For one minute, each participant pitched an idea ranging from product developments to better patient care and community efforts. Everyone voted for their favorite ideas and then formed teams around the top seven. A panel of CoxHealth board members served as business coaches and helped the teams work through their ideas. At the end of the two days, each team presented to a panel of judges, who weighed each presentation on how well it met CoxHealth’s mission, vision and values; if it was financially viable and sustainable; if it helped the organization meet the needs of its customers; how attainable the idea was and how innovative they perceived the idea to be. The judges chose the top three ideas, which senior leadership then assigned to a vice president and worked into the system’s strategic plan and budget for the next year. The three winning ideas covered ways to expand the services of CoxHealth’s Convenient Care Pharmacies, options to expand laboratory services and improved methods for managing patients’ chronic health issues. The ideas that didn’t win didn’t go to waste. Several were what Rogers calls “just do it” ideas, meaning the vice presidents overseeing that idea’s department picked it up and ran with it on their own. 

Launching an accelerator event as a way to encourage new ideas is right in line with a culture of innovation. “We want to develop that culture so that even the concept of trying an innovation accelerator fits right in with that,” Rogers says. “It fits with the idea of ‘Fail fast. Fail forward.’ Let’s try it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, let’s try something different.” But based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback, Rogers and his team are already working out details for 2017.