New Investment Ventures

Dr. Mike Cruz - OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

Good things come in small packages. You’ve heard that, right? It’s true… maybe never more so than when small startup businesses try to make a difference in the very big world of healthcare. And this is happening all of the time. Right here in Illinois. Right here in Peoria. Right here at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

Earlier this year, OSF HealthCare started a new venture, appropriately named OSF Ventures. The idea behind it is to strategically invest in new technology and devices that can transform and improve healthcare, as well as fund smaller companies looking to expand or bring new products to the market. And these smaller companies are doing some amazing things—things that would blow your mind—but they need money to make it happen. OSF Ventures is giving it to them.

The goal is to invest in up to eight companies a year. To date, the committee charged with making the final decisions on investments has chosen six. They include a health information technology company; a data warehousing, analytics and outcomes company; a company advancing the fight against stroke and heart disease; and, oh yeah, a startup out of California that’s run by a doctor in Peoria.

His name is Dr. Bob Smouse, and he’s an interventional radiologist who sees patients, teaches at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria and runs BrightWater Medical. In his spare time, he invented a new device called ConvertX, which OSF Ventures funded. Without getting too technical, this product, which helps mostly cancer patients with ureter obstructions, can eliminate 300,000 surgeries per year.

And this is important because healthcare is changing. We are at a critical stage. We have to start changing the way we deliver healthcare, or we won’t be around in 25 years. We have to improve patient outcomes and experiences, and reduce costs to healthcare systems. Devices like the ConvertX help us do that.

This relationship with small businesses that OSF Ventures is forging for us should not be downplayed. It’s huge. We may choose not to invest in a company that comes before us, but it puts them on our radar. We can then track the progress of the service or device said company is touting and be one of the first to bring it to the bedside when it’s approved. It puts us on the radar of hundreds of startups who think, “Hey, maybe they’ll test this new product for us at their hospital.” And we can. Using our resources at Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center and our many doctors and other clinicians, we have the ability to pilot these projects before they get approval for patient use. This places some of the best new technologies and innovations right here in Peoria.

Some may hold the mindset that small businesses don’t stack up to large corporations—that they can’t do as much or don’t have the resources. OSF Ventures is blowing that theory out of the water in a big way. Small businesses have a lot to offer, if only given the chance. It brings new meaning to the phrase, “Does it play in Peoria?” Yes, it does. Most definitely. iBi

Dr. Mike Cruz is president of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

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