Innovation Accelerator

By Melissa Kossler Dutton
From the June 2013 issue of Columbus CEO
  • Photo by Ryan M.L. Young
    R. Clay Marsh

Dr. Clay Marsh sees lots of room for improvement when it comes to developing and delivering health care.

His understanding of the gaps in service and his willingness to look at out-of-the-box solutions made him the ideal candidate to lead the new IDEA Studio in Healthcare and Design at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says Dr. Charles Lockwood, dean of the College of Medicine.

“Clay really has an extraordinary grasp of the areas of medicine where we could do a lot better,” Lockwood says. “He’s always asking why do we do the things we do and why can’t we do it this way. That’s very rare in medicine.”

Marsh, a member of the OSU medical staff since 1985, was appointed chief innovation officer for the medical center and head of the IDEA Studio in March. He remains vice dean for innovation in the College of Medicine.

The medical center created the IDEA Studio (short for Innovation DEsign Application) to accelerate health-care innovation and commercialization while delivering better, more cost-efficient care, Lockwood says. The initiative aims to promote “new technologies to improve patient outcomes and lower costs.”

Marsh says the IDEA Studio will help Ohio State’s teaching hospitals develop new revenue streams and improve the quality of care offered to patients at a time when traditional funding sources are drying up and the federal government is closely evaluating medical outcomes. It also will look for ways to make health-care delivery more relevant, he says. Currently, “The medical care we give other people is not the medical care we would want for ourselves or for our families,” he adds.

The IDEA Studio and its approaches to innovation are unique, says Dr. Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. “Ohio State University is taking the lead,” says Hood, an award-winning innovator and scientist. “I don’t know of any other centers that are quite like the IDEA Studio.”

The facility will not only develop devices, applications and processes aimed at improving health care but also form partnerships to expedite getting solutions to market and generate revenue streams for the university. It also will focus on providing personalized care, explore how existing medicines can be used to fight disease and examine what models of care work best for different communities. OSU doctors will be able to evaluate the successes of community medicine at a new wellness center in New Albany. The center will have a strong research component as Ohio State faculty increasingly emphasize P4 medicine, an approach that engages consumer participation, predicts and prevents disease and creates personalized strategies for wellness.

Marsh intends to create what he calls an “ecosystem” that those affiliated with OSU can tap to bring innovations to life. By raising awareness of helpful resources and streamlining the process to access them, the studio can increase the speed at which ideas and products are realized, patented or produced; it also will help determine what partnerships—either inside or outside of Ohio State—can best move the innovations forward.

Creating a system to help faculty develop ideas and innovations is a “terrific idea,” says Hood. “Many academic centers have so much red tape involved, faculty don’t even try,” he says. “It’s really important to have an efficient process.”

The IDEA Studio will provide those working in medicine with a centralized system for developing and capitalizing on discoveries, says Brian Cummings, vice president for technology commercialization at OSU’s Office for Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Transfer, which manages university-generated inventions, including patents, licensing and distribution of royalties. The IDEA Studio will work in tandem with this office as well as the University Health and Wellness Initiative.

The studio will allow for a “uniform experience and aggregation of ideas” while determining the best partnerships, Cummings says. “We’ll be so much more responsive to inventors,” he says. “We can triage ideas quickly.”

University leaders need to think about how they can generate revenue as they face decreases in federal funding and philanthropic dollars, Hood says. Creating a process to help innovators and the university capitalize on the groundbreaking work they do would be beneficial, Hood says. “If you are successful at it, it could become very useful,” he says. “Most academic centers are pretty terrible [at] creating companies.”

Areas of Focus

The IDEA Studio will tackle new ideas as well as existing problems and gaps in health care, Marsh says. It also will allow individuals within different fields to confer and consult. For example, neurosurgeon Dr. Ali Rezai, who has helped patients with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders by implanting brain pacemakers, could more easily confer with other doctors, Marsh says. The IDEA Studio would allow Rezai, director of Ohio State’s neuroscience program, to explore how the devices could be used to treat other conditions or whether it’s possible to make the treatment less invasive, Marsh explains.

Having the IDEA Studio also will allow medical personnel to think more long-term, Cummings says. He anticipates people will start to look five or 10 years out to try to discern the needs of patients and the medical community. By concentrating on those future needs, the university can take a lead role in developing solutions, he says.

The IDEA Studio also will work with the Columbus Partnership, a group of 50 top local organizational leaders, and TechColumbus, a public-private partnership focused on accelerating innovation. Those relationships have the potential to have a great impact on the region’s economy, Cummings says. “There’s just much going on from the city’s perspective and the state’s perspective,” he says. “It’s just a good time.”

Another key initiative will be drug discovery and development, Marsh says. Doctors will take a broader look at the medicines used to treat patients. A likely outcome is that physicians will begin using pharmaceuticals in new ways, or prescribing treatments that have been traditionally used for one disease to help people with different conditions.

One way doctors can determine what medicines to prescribe is by using genetic testing to analyze the makeup of a patient’s cancerous or infected cells. Knowing more about an individual’s illness allows for a more personalized approach to treatment, Lockwood says: “We can either develop drugs or reallocate drugs for a totally different purpose.”

The IDEA Studio will allow medical personnel to “leverage the full force of the campus to design a drug that works,” Lockwood adds. When the medical center runs clinical trials for new treatments, the IDEA Studio can pool its resources to add value to the study, he says.

Knowing more precise information about a person’s disease also can help doctors look for treatments that may have fewer side effects, Marsh says. Imaging scans also can reveal risk factors and other problems that would allow for earlier detection of certain diseases. When cancer is discovered early, “Conventional therapies can work to cure you as opposed to palliate you,” he says.

Lockwood also looks to the IDEA Studio to help lower hospital readmission rates; high rates can lead to Medicare penalties. The studio could help doctors identify factors that might make patients more prone to recovery problems. Armed with that information, doctors could prescribe medications or follow-up treatments to address problems before they send patients back to the hospital, Lockwood says.

Fewer readmissions also would contribute to reduced health-care costs and better outcomes—key goals of both P4 medicine and the IDEA Studio. “Our job is to improve patient outcomes and the quality of care and relentlessly focus on lowering costs,” Lockwood says.

Personalized Medicine

Creating a personalized approach to overall health care—not just the treatment of disease—is an important component of the IDEA Studio. It echoes a systemwide push to prioritize P4 medicine throughout the medical center.

P4 medicine—health care that is predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory—is a passion of Marsh’s. The philosophy focuses on evidence-based practices to reduce costs and improve outcomes, he says. It also looks at how individuals’ unique DNA, environment and behavior define their health and disease. P4 calls for medical providers to create systems that approach patients at the right time with the right treatment or intervention.

The partnership with the New Albany wellness center, which is expected to open next year, will provide ample research opportunities related to P4 medicine. The 48,000-square-foot center will integrate health assessments, education, outpatient medical and rehabilitation services and a fitness center. The Wexner Medical Center is expected to lease 70 percent of the building from the city, which is developing the facility.

Marsh envisions the center will have a very comprehensive connection to area residents. For example, new apps could encourage people to make informed choices about their health. He foresees an app that would help people find healthful, local food choices for their individual dietary needs. The apps would be part of a broader program to help “nudge” people to make the right health and lifestyle choices. “Social media can make you interested in participating,” Marsh says.

Of course, not everything that works in New Albany will work in other areas of Central Ohio. Marsh and Lockwood recognize that communities function differently and also want to create models for health-care delivery in urban, rural and student environments.

As the program moves forward, the IDEA Studio will gather data on patients, their treatments and their outcomes, Cummings says. Staff will “work to overhaul the patient experience” by looking at different types of treatments, whether they worked and how patients felt about the care they received, he says. That information will then be shared throughout the university to improve processes and develop best practices.

While the IDEA Studio’s aims are big, Marsh says he anticipates keeping the staff small to maintain “a special forces feel.” The focus: bringing in specialized people who are experts in their respective fields.

Aside from Marsh, one other key hire has been announced. Dr. Don Rucker was appointed chief operating officer of the IDEA Studio in mid-April. He’s also associate dean for innovation, visiting clinical professor of emergency medicine and visiting clinical professor of biomedical informatics in the College of Medicine. Rucker previously served as vice president and chief medical officer for Siemens Healthcare USA, a $4 billion imaging, laboratory and information technology company.

Marsh’s passion for innovation and change make him the ideal candidate to lead the IDEA Studio team, Hood says. “He has intellect. He has energy,” he says. “He is recognized nationwide as a leader in personalized medicine. He has a good idea of where medicine is going.”

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.