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Henry Ford innovations vary from drug therapy to gowns

November 18, 2016

Crain's annual look at the top 25 most innovative companies

Since launching the Henry Ford Innovation Institute in 2012, Henry Ford Health System has earned 15 patents. In 2015, it was issued seven patents, had 43 invention disclosures and generated more than $1 million in licensing revenue, said Mark Coticchia, vice president and chief innovation officer of HFHS.

Inventions vary from drug and gene therapy to addressing culinary wellness, unflattering hospital gowns and problems with internal communications.

One patent has a predictive medicine component. The hospital system is working with pharmaceutical companies to study a cardiovascular drug that may detect biomarkers that reveal whether certain cardiovascular drugs would help patients with chronic heart failure.

HFHS is also working with a pharmaceutical company in Southeast Asia on clinical trials of a multi-modal cancer gene therapy with the potential to improve tumor metastases control at various stages of prostate cancer.

Researchers are studying the use in other types of cancer, and Coticchia hopes the therapy, which is still subject to approvals, will be on the market in the next couple of years.

Carhartt Inc. manufactured the original version of the hospital gown. Now on version 17, the latest patent for the front-opening gown not only provides patients physical privacy, but it also can be color-coded by size, have hidden rear panels so clinicians can use stethoscopes and have telemetry and intravenous access.

The gown could also be treated with anti-microbial coatings. Coticchia said HFHS recently licensed the commercial distribution rights of the gown to Illinois-based Medline Industries Inc.

Patient privacy is also the basis of newly patented and commercialized software code, CareTrail, that HFHS developed with Microsoft Corp. and Detroit developer VisionIT Inc.

"Inefficient communication costs us," Coticchia said. "Hospitals lose about $12 billion a year due to adverse events, wasted clinical time and decreased patient throughput."

To address the problem, the health system created a "workflow-optimized, secure mobile platform" that allows clinical teams to engage in real-time communication.

"It's a patient-centered page similar to Facebook where the care providers can communicate a patient's needs with one another. It (also) provides a history of what has been done and what needs to be done next," Coticchia said.

HFHS plans to roll out the mobile app to surgery departments and home health in beta form later this year or early next year.

Henry Ford Health System shows no signs of slowing down development. "Twenty-eight innovations are being used both internally as well as in the market place," Coticchia said, with another 150 ideas under evaluation and 11 in development. "We have the potential of impacting just about every patient in our system."

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