Oh the Places You’ll Go

Post written by Andrew Richards

My #pinksocks journey goes back to day one, ground zero. I was on the floor at HIMSS when the whole phenomena started. While Nick did his best to describe that magic in Chicago, words can’t adequately describe what happened. Honestly I don’t think I can either. At the end of the conference we were sitting down over drinks in what could best be described as shell shock. We knew something had happened but we weren’t quite sure of its scale.

Fast forward a little over two years and I was coming off the roller coast that is a health-tech start-up. #pinksocks were everywhere in health-tech; thought leaders throughout the world were showing solidarity in changing healthcare from the ground up. It was during this time that I was asked to contribute to the brand new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University (ESFCOM).

ESFCOM’s goal in a nutshell is to address the shortage of doctors in the rural and under-served communities of Washington state. With more than 50% of hospitals in the US categorized as rural it can be said that the shortage of doctors in rural and under-served communities is a problem that impacts more than just one state.

Challenges like this are why we have #pinksocks – we as a community can work together to make an impact. The fact that I am an alumni of Washington State University didn’t hurt either – how could I say no to building something new and innovative at my alma mater?

My contributions were small at first; I provided feedback during the accreditation process and talked (at length of course) about the role of technology in the current and future healthcare ecosystem. Before long I was standing in an auditorium presenting what could best be described as a moonshot – what if we expanded the reach of the new College of Medicine? What if we not only addressed the shortage of doctors in the rural and under-served communities but also became a hub of innovation? What if we built a technology incubator that was focused on addressing the unique issues facing rural clinics and hospitals? We were already integrating into communities across the state – why not drive adoption of new technologies that could improve outcomes and quality of care?

My moonshot presentation – delivered while wearing #pinksocks of course – led to a series of events resulting in me joining ESFCOM and driving the creation of a brand new Technology Incubator.

The Technology Incubator at ESFCOM is positioned to provide innovative healthcare technology solutions to rural and under-served communities. By utilizing off the shelf products, emerging technologies from within the university system, and by supporting emerging start-ups the incubator is focused on positively impacting outcomes for patients in rural and under-served communities. Additionally, the incubator will collaborate with the College of Medicine to foster an environment of innovation, entrepreneurialism, and technological understanding for current and future faculty and students.

In order to achieve these goals, the Technology Incubator will work directly with rural clinics and hospitals; it will partner with patients, students, faculty, and providers to understand the major issues facing rural clinics and hospitals. The end result will be a unique collection of challenges that can be addressed by the College of Medicine and the Technology Incubator. The Technology Incubator will then work with existing companies, external start-ups that need mentoring and incubation, and researchers within the WSU system to address these issues.

If existing technology can address an issue, the incubator will work to help deploy it. If a new technology or company needs to be developed, the incubator will provide the support necessary to build a viable and validated business. This includes rapid iteration of technology in conjunction with partner clinics and hospitals, review and vetting of business models in a real world environment, and necessary funding to get businesses to a minimum viable product.

The Technology Incubator might be the most #pinksocks thing I’ve ever done. It will be community driven with input, collaboration, and support from the entire #pinksocks tribe. This is bigger than me, this is bigger than us. I can’t wait to see what comes next. I invite you to join me on this journey.

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