Advancing innovations for maternal and infant health
Perspectives on the Healthy Mom and Baby Innovation Competition with Parkview Health
In February of 2020, MATTER and Parkview Health, a not-for-profit healthcare system based in northeast Indiana, announced a partnership to source and develop solutions that improve the health of women during pregnancy and their babies after birth.
Maternal mortality continues to be a challenge both in developed and developing regions of the world. The initiative, called the 2020 Healthy Mom & Baby Innovation Competition, emerged from a call by the governor of Indiana challenging local healthcare providers and innovators to bring Indiana’s infant mortality rate — one of the highest in the country — down to the lowest in the Midwest by 2024.
Finalists for the 2020 competition included concepts from university teams to seasoned, serial entrepreneurs. Each team participated in a three month virtual accelerator and delivered their final pitches to Parkview and MATTER in September of 2020. Two of the companies that were chosen to move forward in development with Parkview were MATTER startups TheraB Medical and Candlelit Therapy.
TheraB Medical, founded by Alexa Jones, is developing a novel jaundice treatment for infants called SnugLit, which provides 360 degree coverage and aims to eliminate parent separation during treatment. TheraB continues to work with Parkview to assess pre-market prototypes and design elements as they prepare for FDA submission in early 2022.
Candlelit Therapy is an online perinatal mental health clinic that founder Lauren Elliott developed for women of color after experiencing disappointment during her own postpartum period. The company is currently working with Parkview to pilot a culturally responsive tool that coordinates care for Medicaid-insured Black women and women of color living in Allen County. Candlelit’s solution can steps in to address needs across the spectrum of social determinants of mental health.
This year, Parkview and MATTER have launched their 2021 competition with a focus on maternal health, asking: How might we better support at-risk pregnant and new mothers throughout their healthcare journey as well as in their daily lives?
We caught up with Parkview leaders Ethel Massing, innovation project specialist and Charlotte Gabet, director of innovation and the simulation lab, as well as the founders of Candlelit and TheraB to hear more about last year’s experience and get their insights and advice for this year’s competition.
A new perspective for startups and health system innovators
The Parkview team shared that, among the many things they learned from last year’s competition, one of the key takeaways was a new perspective on the value they provide to startups.
“MATTER provides their understanding of healthcare startups and the business of healthcare, and we provide a hospital perspective, helping startups better understand how our processes work and really giving them an understanding of the inner workings of a health system,” shared Charlotte.
“MATTER provides their understanding of healthcare startups and the business of healthcare, and we provide a hospital perspective, helping startups better understand how our processes work and really giving them an understanding of the inner workings of a health system” - Charlotte Gabet, director of innovation and simulation lab, Parkview Health
“We’re taking what we learned from the accelerator program and rethinking how we can apply that framework to work with startups regularly,” added Ethel. “For instance, we just had a startup use our simulation lab to conduct user testing. That wasn’t really something that was in the works before the competition.”
For the finalists of last year’s competition, the accelerator program provided them with a level of access and insight that would not be possible through a typical sales process. Conversations with subject matter experts from MATTER and Parkview helped each company to better understand how their solutions fit within the health system.
“One of the best parts of the accelerator program was the consistent meetings with different teams within the health system,” said Alexa. “For example, we met with people at the birthing center and the NICU, in purchasing, engineering, innovation and research. Having a regular cadence of meetings was so helpful.”
“I was really surprised to hear how much anecdotal data Parkview had already gathered prior to us even engaging with one another,” shared Lauren. “They were able to give me a snapshot of the current state of women of color’s experience in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the location of the hospital is really relevant to where there could be possible barriers. They helped us identify where we could intervene with women of color during pregnancy and were helpful in giving us a sense of which social determinants of health were significantly impacting their populations.”
Advice for this year’s applicants
Like last year, the Parkview team chose to intentionally keep the competition open to solutions at every stage of development — from existing startups to anyone with an innovative idea for a product, solution or service. “We’re looking for really out-of-the box solutions,” said Charlotte.
“It’s also important to think holistically. It’s not just about an app that’s going to track blood pressure,” added Ethel. “When we look at healthy moms, we really look at all of the determinants of health, from substance abuse and mental health to housing issues and food deserts.”
Alexa encouraged applicants to consider the mutual benefit of participating: “It’s easy to get excited about what the health system can do for you, like getting access to people that have answers you need. But it’s important to really think about what you can provide to the health system with your product.”
Lauren pointed out that it’s crucial to think about how COVID-19 has changed the healthcare landscape. “There is still a huge need for integrated and virtual health care, and especially during the pandemic, a lot of regulations have been loosened for telehealth components of solutions. If you have a telehealth component to your solution, lead with that. And finally, stay focused on the problem that you’re trying to solve and the people you’re trying to make an impact for. Be flexible about how you administer your solution, because the problem will remain the same.”
“Stay focused on the problem that you’re trying to solve and the people at the center of your impact. Be flexible about how you administer your solution, because the problem will remain the same.” - Lauren Elliott, founder of Candlelit Therapy
Parkview’s vision for 2021 outcomes and beyond
What is the Parkview team most looking forward to in this year’s competition?
“I want to see changes on the medical side for both mothers and children,” said Charlotte. “I have been that high risk patient with babies that have been born prematurely, and treatment options are technology that is 20 and 30 years old. It’s important to push the limits of what we can do.”
“Providers in maternal health are craving something new,” added Ethel. “We’re seeing that in practice, these products can completely change the standard of care and the experience for our patients.”
The Healthy Mom and Baby Competition 2.0 is open to existing startups, as well as anyone with an innovative idea for a product, solution or service that has the potential to reduce the incidence of maternal mortality and improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and infants. Prizes include the opportunity to pilot the winning solution with Parkview Health, a $10,000 cash award and a one-year membership at MATTER.
Interested companies can learn more and apply here. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.
Hear more from Charlotte and Ethel:
Hear more from Alexa:
Hear more from Lauren: