Staff from MedStar Health soon will begin working out of the offices at District-based start-up hub 1776 in an effort to better connect the local hospital network with fledgling health-care ventures, the entities are set to announce Tuesday.
Those same start-ups also will be eligible to pilot promising technology at MedStar’s hospitals across the Washington region, giving the young businesses a testing ground to prove their products work and potentially court major customers.
The Columbia-based health system operates 10 hospitals, including Washington Hospital Center, Montgomery Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital.
By catering to upstarts in industries with strong ties to Washington, including health care, energy and education, 1776 has carved a niche in the local technology community. As a result, it has set out to form partnerships with corporate heavyweights in those areas.
The arrangement with MedStar is the third such partnership 1776 has announced. It has made similar arrangements with textbook publisher Pearson and government contractor Booz Allen. Each partner also sponsors 1776 through an undisclosed financial contribution.
“If we could get Booz Allen and MedStar in and providing their expertise and connections to these start-ups, it can tremendously help these start-ups to grow in particular industries that are native to D.C.,” said 1776 co-founder Donna Harris.
The relationships are mutually beneficial, Harris said. The sponsors’ employees who embed in a fast-paced, quick-thinking environment like 1776 often soak up some of the entrepreneurial fervor that may be lacking inside their corporate homes, Harris said.
“That’s exactly what corporations are struggling to figure out. They’re never going to be like a start-up, but there’s a lot of merit to being nimble because today’s global world requires you to be nimble,” she said.
MedStar has an entire division called the MedStar Institute for Innovation devoted to keeping its business at the forefront of health-care technology. Mark Smith, a longtime emergency medicine doctor, heads up the unit.
The Innovation Institute already solicits fresh ideas from physicians and other employees at MedStar hospitals and keeps tabs on the latest advancements in medical care, such as technology to simulate surgery and other treatment.
But Smith said promising ideas are to be found outside of the organization and industry as well.
“If health care is going to innovate, it cannot only look inside. It has to look outside,” he said.“If we only talk to ourselves, we’re going to keep doing the things we’ve been doing.”
“This is the way the system is going to be transformed,” he added. “The ideas coming out of this cauldron of creative engineers are going to be the health-care system’s promise.”
The MedStar employees who are based at 1776 will also provide regular seminars on such topics as telemedicine, electronic health records and hospital administration for the 20 percent of start-ups at 1776 whose business ventures touch the health industry.
“We’re going to have people who are experts in the nitty-gritty of [health] care,” Smith said. “For start-ups that want to go into that space, we can sort of give them a reality check.”
Capital Business is The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community. For more Washington business news, go to capbiz.biz.