External Collaboration Connects OSF to the Right Solutions

To better serve its patient base in Illinois and Michigan, OSF collaborates with innovators across the country. Our OSF Innovation Partnerships team externally seeks solutions that can improve patient outcomes, enhance patient experience and reduce the cost of health care. This work is done through partnerships with incubators, accelerators, corporations and universities that are connecting us to technology, products and services we haven’t considered before. These partnerships have led to the successful execution of more than a dozen contracts with digital solution providers in less than two years.

Our Partners

  • collaborationThis month, OSF Innovation announced a partnership with MassChallenge, a start-up accelerator located in Boston, Massachusetts that helps young companies succeed through monetary awards and mentorship from its various sponsors. OSF Innovation recently signed a one-year agreement to be a Platinum Sponsor of PULSE@ MassChallenge, a program that specifically focuses on identifying and accelerating promising digital health businesses. More than 500 startups applied to be part of this year’s second PULSE cohort with about 90 matched to OSF HealthCare. The OSF Innovation Partnerships team will interview 10 companies and pick one or two to mentor and further develop their products soon after.
  • In January 2017, OSF Innovation partnered with Plug and Play, the world’s largest start-up platform headquartered in Silicon Valley that connects startups to corporations and invests in more than 100 companies a year. OSF Ventures recently signed a three-year agreement to be a corporate sponsor of Plug and Play’s program for Health and Wellness to help identify progressive technologies that could benefit the health care industry. PayPal, Dropbox, Soundhound and Lending Club are among the many companies that are part of Plug and Play’s portfolio.
  • In 2014, OSF HealthCare became a founding member of MATTER, a Chicago-based incubator for medical innovation, with the goal of putting us on the front lines of health care technology development. In just three short years of this relationship, our partnership has produced hundreds of introductions and dozens of relationships with startup companies focused on solving health care’s most complex problems.

Choosing the Best Startups

Partnering with external companies to get first-hand knowledge of up and coming technology and devices has introduced us to hundreds of startups—all with great ideas that could make an impact in the health care industry. With guidance from the entire OSF Innovation team and leaders within OSF, we deliberately seek solutions to defined areas we know will positively impact a majority of the patients we serve.

  • Aging in Place: We want to keep our entire community healthy and active. For older adults, that means giving them the opportunity to age gracefully at home and be contributors to society by offering more health care options.
  • More for Those With Less: Core to the Mission of OSF, we want to remove barriers to health care for disadvantaged individuals. We are working to find new ways to engage our most challenged individuals through new business models, care delivery and/or preventive care.
  • Radical Access to Care: We want to develop a number of ways to empower our patients and build communities that foster health care beyond the hospital, making a healthy community everyone’s priority. The solution requires thinking differently about how we, as a health care system, deploy health care and wellness programs.

How External Collaboration Benefits Our Patients

We have a unique opportunity to expose these startups not only to our health care system, clinicians and subject matter experts but to our smaller communities as well. Many startups are designing solutions for larger metropolitan areas that may not translate well into rural spaces.

If we get the chance to mentor them while they are still developing their technology, products and services, we can ensure we are implementing ideas that address the needs we care about most.

Eighteen years later, NICU mom is just as grateful

A simple yet profound phrase on the wall of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois – “Live today by each moment” – provided both strength and encouragement to Tammi Coons – a mom whose precious baby girl spent 30 days in the NICU 18 years ago.

A one percent chance

OSF HealthCare continued the tradition of offering inspiring surroundings in OSF Children’s Hospital building, built in 2010.

Tammi and her husband, Keith Coons, of Dana, Illinois, were expecting their fourth daughter. Tammi’s three previous pregnancies went smoothly, and this pregnancy was no different. But when she reached 30 weeks, she started experiencing flu-like symptoms.“I just wasn’t feeling well,” Tammi said. “It almost felt like I was getting the stomach flu, and I knew something wasn’t quite right.”

To be safe, Tammi called her obstetrician Dr. Chaoming Chen to explain her symptoms. Dr. Chen asked her to come in for some tests to make sure everything was OK with the baby.

The results weren’t good. Dr. Chen and his team determined Tammi had HELLP syndrome, which affects less than one percent of all pregnancies. HELLP stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count. It is a life-threatening condition and considered to be a variation of preeclampsia – high blood pressure during pregnancy.

HELLP generally develops during the third trimester. Symptoms can include pain on the right side of the stomach, nausea or vomiting, headache, blurred vision or easy bruising and bleeding.

Dr. Chen immediately sent Tammi to OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria via OSF LifeFlight.

“I remember being so scared for what was to come,” Tammi said. “The OSF LifeFlight nurse held my hand the entire helicopter ride. When we arrived at Saint Francis, I felt like I was almost outside of my body watching the scenes unfold.”

Living the Mission

Tammi was met by Dr. Yolanda Renfroe, a maternal-fetal doctor, at OSF Saint Francis. Dr. Renfroe confirmed the HELLP diagnosis through more testing. Once confirmed, there was only one option – delivery.

On October 15, 1999, Kelly was welcomed into the world at 2 pounds, 7 ounces, by emergency C-section.

“I remember waking up from the surgery and being told that I had a healthy baby girl, she was being taken to the NICU and didn’t seem to have any health concerns at that point,” Tammi said.

The setup of the NICU was different than it is today – made up of four large rooms with eight to 10 beds in each. The condition of the baby determined which room he or she was put it.

Today, the NICU is a 64-bed private room unit in the OSF Children’s Hospital building – constructed in 2010.

For being born 10 weeks early, Kelly was in excellent condition.

“We were really lucky that she just needed fluids, time to grow and help regulating her body temperature on her own,” Tammi said. “She was a fighter. That’s what they always told me.”

After spending five days in the postpartum unit, Tammi made a full recovery from HELLP syndrome. Symptoms generally stop a few days after delivery.

Tammi reflected on her appreciation for the concerns the NICU team always showed Kelly and her family. “It didn’t matter what was going on – we were the most important people that were there, it felt like. The staff live the name Mission Partner (the OSF HealthCare term for employees). They served our family with the greatest care and love every moment Kelly was there.”

Quadruple the happiness

After 30 days in the NICU, Kelly was released to go home to her three big sisters.

“There was no shortage of love for Kelly, that’s for sure,” Tammi said. “The girls thought Kelly looked like a little baby doll.”

Today, Kelly is an 18-year-old freshman at Augustana College studying to be a counselor. She was able to graduate one year early from high school this past May.

“When I look back, I’m so thankful I called my obstetrician when I started feeling those flu-like symptoms, and he was able to diagnose my condition,” Tammi said. “I am so grateful for the Mission Partners at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois and OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center. The care, comfort and compassion that we received was amazing.”

Human-centered design research: Understanding insider context

In Human-Centered Design, we create experiences. These creations, however, do not just appear from magic drawings or a pad of post-its. They start with Human-Centered Designresearch. Without understanding what we are affecting, the solutions we devise will most certainly fail. In order to avoid this, we dive into user research. We can take patient experience as an example.

There are multiple kinds of research, including observation and interviewing. Both of these types of research heavily involve what we call insiders. If we are designing a patient experience, the insiders are the patients. Insiders are those people who are involved in the experience first-hand. We speak with them via stories. They share a variety of topics, thoughts and histories which involve the experience we are looking to affect.

From these users, we get narrative and contextual information, allowing us to understand the unique characteristics of an experience from the inside. What is it really like to be the patient?

Is speaking to insiders enough to act on?

No, actually we have to do preparatory research before working with insiders. This preparatory research allows us to understand what the theoretical experience is ideally supposed to be. For example, what has to go on to treat a patient?

To get this information, which is usually ideal process information, we speak with subject matter experts or SMEs throughout OSF HealthCare. SMEs are involved in the process second-hand. In our patient example, they may be doctors, nurses or other Mission Partners. In any of these cases, their second-hand involvement cannot give us the specific details of an insider’s perspective. Their information is still valuable, however, for orienting ourselves. After speaking with SMEs, we can then speak with insiders.

Researching in this order allows us to first gain a general understanding of an experience. Then, when speaking with insiders, we can note what differs from the ideal, why and how.

What do the Mission Partners tell us should be happening, and what do the patients really experience? This is critical because variations from the ideal, like workarounds, show a desire line or an unmet need in the real-world context. These desire lines are pieces human-centered designers record and address in the future experience. By comparing and contrasting these two perspectives, we gain a solid foundation on which to start to build solutions.

Prevention, treatment offer hope for diabetic foot ulcers

An estimated 30.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. The percentage of adults with diabetes increases with age, reaching a high of 25.2 percent among those age 65 or older.

Diabetes may be accompanied by other coexisting conditions such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure or lower-limb amputation.

High blood sugar levels, poor circulation, immune system issues, nerve damage and infection may contribute to a nonhealing diabetic foot ulcer, according to Heather Hawkins, program director of the OSF Wound Care Clinic in Bloomington. Approximately 15 percent of people living with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer.

Advanced treatment options

Medical office assistant Brandee Thrasher adjusts the settings on a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for a patient at the OSF Wound Care Clinic.

Medical office assistant Brandee Thrasher adjusts the settings on a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for a patient at the OSF Wound Care Clinic.

Mark Tate, 59, of Leroy, has been visiting the OSF Wound Care Clinic for much of this year due to chronic non-healing wounds on his feet. His healing process has been compromised due to type 2 diabetes.

“Although Mark has not fully healed at this time, healing is in sight for him due to regular visits to the OSF Wound Care Clinic and advanced treatment options, like hyperbaric oxygen and negative pressure wound therapy,” Hawkins said.

An estimated 14 to 24 percent of diabetes patients with foot ulcers will experience an amputation. Even more alarming, people with an amputation have a 50 percent mortality rate within five years.

“The OSF Wound Care Clinic has decreased Mark’s number of hospital admissions due to his nonhealing wounds and has greatly diminished the possibility of any future amputation,” Hawkins said.

Prevention strategies

The OSF Wound Care Clinic recommends the following to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers:

  • Stop smoking immediately.
  • Receive comprehensive foot examinations each time you visit your health care provider (at least four times a year).
  • Perform a daily self-inspection of the feet, or have a family member perform the inspection.
  • Maintain regular care of the feet, including cleaning toenails and taking care of corns and calluses.
  • Choose supportive, proper footwear (shoes and socks).
  • Take steps to improve circulation, such as eating healthier and exercising on a regular basis.


Top 5 reasons kids go to the ER over the holidays

Dr. Ameera Nauman sees a pediatric patient

Working closely with your pediatrician can help you avoid seeing them over the holidays.

The holidays are an exciting time for children. But between playful reunions and hectic schedules, it’s easy for a child to wind up in the emergency room.

Dr. Ameera Nauman and advanced nurse practitioner Elizabeth Schmerold, part of the OSF HealthCare Medical Group pediatric care team, urge parents to be aware of these top five things that can put a wrinkle in your holiday plans.

Flu, illness or fever

Wherever there is a large gathering of people, there’s a risk of spreading bacteria and viruses.

“Even with a greater exposure to people, you can practice healthy lifestyle choices to protect your children,” Dr. Nauman said. “Everyone should wash their hands frequently, especially before meals, and you should try to maintain their sleep schedule.

“If your child has a fever or appears to be ill, you should keep them away from other children.”


Visiting relatives can expose your child to pets that could be scared by the change in routine.

“Friendly pets can become scared and bite. Children can add to the animal’s stress because children tend to hug on the animal,” Schmerold said. “Other times animals can feel the need to protect their immediate family. Children wrestling can trigger that instinct.

“You should warn your child to stay away from pets you aren’t 100 percent sure about.”


Family reunions can lead to rough-housing for excited children.

“Children are energetic and curious and can push each other to the limit,” Dr. Nauman said. “If all the adults or older children watch out for the little ones, your gatherings will be safe and more fun.”

Allergic reactions

Being exposed to new foods or geographical locations can trigger allergies.

“Exposure to new things might trigger a reaction that is unexpected,” Dr. Nauman said. “Allergic reactions are often mild, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. Some reactions can be serious.

“The most common signs of a serious reaction are coughing, difficulty or irregular breathing, abdominal pain and difficulty swallowing. Make sure everyone knows if your child has severe allergic reactions to certain things like peanuts or insect stings.”

Foreign objects in the body

New toys can lead to sometimes dangerous situations.

“Children playing with toys that are not age-appropriate can lead to small pieces ending up in a nostril or ear canal,” Schmerold said. “But the biggest dangers are choking hazards and poisons.

“Ensure children are playing safely, and poisons, like laundry pods, are out of reach.