What’s a Hub?
Sometimes the things you start take on a life of their own. That’s how it’s been for the Hubs. Even that name wasn’t the one we intended. The program that began this project was originally called the Innovation Centers for the Safety Net—a clunky mouthful we admit. “Hubs” was just a nickname, one that stuck, and grew, and took on an identity that needed to spread, became a story that demanded to be told.
The Hubs is a model for piloting technology innovations in the safety net. Community health centers, public hospitals and other providers that serve the very poor, the uninsured, the most vulnerable patients—these organizations all have unique needs and constraints that require uniquely innovative solutions. What works for a rich hospital with affluent, tech-savvy patients may not work for a rural clinic serving undocumented immigrants. But these organizations, perhaps more than any others, need to leverage new technologies to improve access, experience and outcomes for their patients. To find the right solutions, and find out how to make them right, we needed a way to test them in the safety net itself, with the same patients and providers who will need these interventions to work.
Launched in 2013 by the Center for Care Innovations (CCI) with support from the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), the original Hubs grant funded three such testing beds at four safety net organizations: San Mateo Medical Center, San Francisco Department of Public Health, and a joint project of West County Health Centers and Petaluma Health Center.
Where We Go Now
The Hubs’ project has a new vision: to create a decentralized network of innovation centers by supporting smaller innovation hubs (lowercase) across California and the rest of the country. Using a test-and-spread model, these new hubs will act as engines to identify, pilot, and share new ideas and early-stage technologies that are affordable, effective, and relevant to the safety-net.
Informed by the success and experiences of the first three hubs, CCI, with new support from CHCF, is using this site to provide interactive educational resources—podcasts, an e-course, toolkits, videos, and more. We hope these will inform and inspire leaders, providers and change-makers—like you!—to take bold-yet-simple steps towards becoming test-beds for innovations that matter to the underserved.
The 4-Phase Hub Model
CCI helps scout and vet healthcare start-ups with products that address a critical need or pain point for the safety net. We look for interventions that fit an array of criteria, including company viability, expected return on investment or cost savings, potential to spread. If a vendor and its product meet this criteria, the Hubs decide whether or not to pilot the technology, and CCI helps facilitates the relationship.
Once selected, we work with the start-up to agree on schedule, cost, benchmarks, resources (data, staff, pilot participants, clinic, equipment), and metrics of the pilot. Metrics are developed with the help of CCI’s evaluator.
Once the contract is signed, the vendor and the Hub – with support from CCI where needed – work together to pilot the project. CCI facilitated a series of meetings and demonstrations with key stakeholders, as well as offering training for pilot participants, ensuring data exchange and collection, and providing monitoring and evaluation.
Upon completion of a successful pilot, CCI and the Hubs identify a sister site to which to spread the technology.
The Hubs also consult for medical centers seeking to adopt the test-bed model and help them build an innovation culture that will allow them to transform.
Pilots to date