HomeHealthcare Network Drives Innovation With ‘Shark Tank’-like Contest

Healthcare Network Drives Innovation With ‘Shark Tank’-like Contest

Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, hosted a ‘Shark Tank’-like contest in which it awarded $1 million to two of its teams of researchers.


On May 15th, Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider and private employer, awarded $1 million to two of its teams of researchers as a way to spark innovation within the company. The company chose its winners in a unique manner: by hosting a ‘Shark Tank’-like contest.

The Northwell Health staff of about 66,000 pitched a total of 121 ideas during the contest, called ‘Innovation Challenge,’ now in its third year.

The winning team is working on a blood test that may lead to an earlier, more effective diagnosis of endometriosis. Affecting one in 10 reproductive-aged women, endometriosis is a costly chronic disease causing pelvic pain and infertility.

The idea earning second place seeks to develop a chatbot that will make it easier for physicians and nurses to pull up electronic medical records (EMR), so they can have more face-to-face interaction with patients.

Watch this video to see the winners pitching their ideas.

The success of this initiative sends a strong signal to leaders in healthcare: internal competition fuels innovation.

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The business sector best showcases the efficiency of this practice; Fortune 500 companies frequently organize internal contests as a way to breed innovation.

Adobe, for instance, through its Kickbox program, offers employees the chance to participate in a product incubator. It also equips them with an “innovation-in-a-box” kit consisting of a $1,000 prepaid credit card, candy bars, and a gift card for Starbucks. Since its launch in 2013, Kickbox has delivered several future Adobe products.

Within the medical field, ‘Shark Tank’- style competitions have been a huge hit. They make for a great business strategy. Unfortunately, they are not cheap.

Besides the $1 million, Northwell Health awarded two additional $100,000 prizes. Similarly, in 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a contest where multiple employee teams competed to pitch their ideas to senior officials for a $50,000 prize.

This goes to show that innovation requires investment. And even if you are a health company on a tight budget, you can still boost medical advancement by leveraging the power of internal contests.

It has been shown that manager-to-peer recognition is critical to retain talent in healthcare. Competition can double as an employee recognition program. On the one hand, it can help CEOs identify key team members whose potential might otherwise go unnoticed. On the other, providing your staff a channel to bring their ideas to life will also boost employee engagement.

For example, most of a researcher’s time is spent in the lab or in clinics. Innovative contests will nudge them to switch from an academic to an entrepreneurial mindset. Coming up with a pitch, putting together a sustainable business plan and defending their ideas before a panel of judges gives researchers a strong sense of the business aspect of healthcare.

It is worth mentioning that employees are more likely to innovate if they are given a specific challenge. In healthcare, all trends show that the future belongs to those companies capable of developing customer-facing products.

Not sure where to start?

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A good place to focus your research efforts would be the Internet of Things (IoT) devices (aka tools) for collecting and sharing data. This includes everything from wearable medical devices to implantable ones (e.g., connected pacemakers and sensors or ‘chatbots’) such as the one Northwell Health is working on. According to recent statistics, the global healthcare sector will invest nearly $410 billion in IoT devices, software, and services by 2022.

To sum up, the greatest benefits of hosting an internal contest include:

  • – Spurs innovation
  • – Reduces employee turnover
  • – Improves your public image which will attract more talent. Northwell Health ranks No. 13 among the best places to work in health care in 2018
  • – Encourages smart risk-taking and rewards out-of-the-box thinking

A well-managed internal competition can pave the way for medical breakthroughs. It’s not going to happen overnight, though. It might take years for your researchers to bring their concepts to the U.S. market. However, when that day comes, both you and your employees will get international recognition and transform the future of healthcare.