Promoting health equity through collaborations is a prominent issue in healthcare innovation today. In the Windy City, a unique venture collaborative, Chicago ARC, is forging partnerships between health systems and community organizations, increasing access to care and reducing wasteful healthcare spending.
Chicago ARC was launched in June 2022 based on Sheba’s innovation arm, ARC (Accelerate, Redesign, Collaborate), which brings together innovators, scientists, investors, entrepreneurs, corporations, and academia to transform healthcare delivery and improve patient care through innovation. In keeping with this model, Chicago ARC’s goal is to bring together health systems and the communities they serve, overcoming barriers to healthcare access.
Asked about the challenges in healthcare delivery and the motivation for the new center, Kate Merton, Chicago ARC’s Executive Director, explained: “These challenges have always existed. There’s no one I know who doesn’t want to solve that. Ultimately, it’s about the details, which takes time and effort.”
Chicago ARC’s healthcare partners are the University of Chicago Medical Center (UChicago Medicine) and the Sinai Chicago health system. Last June, the two organizations signed memorandums of understanding with Chicago ARC, agreeing to support innovation that addresses issues related to maternal and child health, chronic disease management, rural and urban healthcare disparities, senior services, home-based healthcare, and behavioral health.
“The south side of Chicago has experienced shrinking healthcare resources for many years,” explained Kenneth Polonsky, UChicago Medicine’s Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Biological Sciences Division, in a press release announcing the collaboration. “Partnering with Chicago ARC creates the dual benefit of identifying and integrating global technologies that meet the needs of our patients and healthcare professionals while enabling the University of Chicago to bring its research and innovation expertise to a local and global community seeking to address health inequities.”
“Our job is to understand what keeps healthcare executives awake at night,” says Merton, referencing the surge of attention being paid to social determinants of health and barriers to care that keep people and communities from accessing the care they need.
In large part, the increased attention to these challenges was driven by the pandemic, which highlighted the struggles of underserved populations and communities and turned the spotlight on digital health and telehealth as a means of addressing those inequities. “COVID has incentivized innovation,” Merton says. “People are more willing to take that leap and try new things.”
Chicago ARC may be an ideal example of healthcare innovation strategies discussed at the recent HLTH 2022 conference in Las Vegas, which helped to uncover the benefits and challenges of partnerships, along with the growing realization that innovation needs to expand its horizon and adopt some unconventional approaches to address some of the biggest pain points in healthcare today.
Recognizing that the healthcare sector is in dire need of a transformation that would lead to more sustainable consumer-based solutions, Sheba has launched ARC to be the center of a global ecosystem that aims to develop, pilot, and roll out game-changing solutions. It prioritizes innovations in digital health as its primary change vehicle and fosters an open innovation environment.