Imagine a Venn diagram.
One circle represents the medical field, while another intersecting circle represents private business and technological advances.
The two spheres don’t always peacefully co-exist, according to Twin Cities entrepreneur Richard Tanler. Medical professionals are often slow to adopt emerging technology that could improve treatment and patient care because of the associated risks, Tanler said. And that resistance often frustrates businesses trying to break into the health care market, he added.
Enter Tanler and the Mill City Innovation and Collaboration Center, a nonprofit that seeks to bridge the gap between health care and technology. The 4,000-square-foot center will open formally this summer adjacent to the University of Minnesota Physicians state-of-the-art Mill City Clinic in Minneapolis.
Part laboratory and part theater, the center will give UMP providers a platform to test out and improve new medical technologies in collaboration with companies like Numera, Merck and other significant health care players.
Medical innovations presented by the center will be critiqued by physicians and vetted in proof of concept tests before being incorporated on a trial basis in the day-to-day practices of the clinic, Tanler explained. The rigorous evaluations employed at the center will minimize any risks to the patient.
The innovation center will focus on chronic disease and primary care issues, Tanler said.
“We don’t know how to change health care until the community tells us what they want,” said UMPhysicians’ Dr. Kevin Peterson, a director for Mill City Innovation Center, which is a nonprofit organization. “We have lots of innovation going on in America in primary care, but we don’t have very good adoption.”
Peterson, a primary care physician at the University of Minnesota Physicians Phalen Village Clinic, struck up a partnership with Tanler to pursue the idea of an innovation center. They chose to build adjacent to the Mill City Clinic because of the clinic’s modern facilities and reputation for quality care.
They also found a willing collaborator in Dr. Jon Hallberg, a primary care physician and the medical director of the clinic. The pairing of the innovation center and clinic is a “perfect marriage” that will improve patient care through innovation, Hallberg said.
The initiative also fits well with University of Minnesota Physicians’ own focus on research and academic medicine, Peterson said. With the university’s backing, new technologies explored at the center could quickly find their way out to mainstream medical practice, Peterson added.
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity, and we’re thrilled to have the ability to bring these organizations together,” Tanler said. “We have companies from all over the U.S. that we’re talking with.”