I am a practicing physical therapist within OSF HealthCare. It was about five years ago, I came up with an innovative idea to improve outcomes for patients with lower back pain. Physical therapists spend much of their time performing manual therapy techniques to the spine to facilitate pain reduction, improve range of motion and promote healing, all of which creates better outcomes for the patient. However, due to increased restrictions by insurance companies, physical therapists receive fewer visits to treat each patient. Fewer visits reduce the exposure patients have to manual therapy techniques which may influence how long it takes for patients to recover. It may also influence the overall reoccurrence rate of low back pain.
I, along with fellow physical therapist Jana Bresch, developed a solution to this ongoing problem. The Invertabelt is a self-application tool that allows patients to perform similar manual therapy techniques they would receive in a clinical setting, but now in the comfort of their own homes. This helps patients increase the exposure time to clinical manual therapy techniques, thus promoting quicker reduction and/or elimination of back pain. We were so confident in our product, we developed a business called The Oakford Group, LLC and applied for and received two patents. The questions was, how do we sell this thing and who do we sell it to?
Enter OSF HealthCare. The hospital system’s innovation partnerships and ventures teams also thought we had a great idea and financially backed us to participate in Brave Launch, a business accelerator led by the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University and sponsored by OSF. The program pushes select teams out into the real world to gain insight and develop their business models through customer discovery.
When launching new products or ideas, many new businesses have not taken the time to identify a set of customers. This matters because you could have a product that goes to market only to find it doesn’t meet the needs of any customers. Brave Launch gives you the tools and mentorship you need to talk to potential clients, get their feedback and determine whether you need to entirely redevelop your idea or make small tweaks before real production begins.
The seven-week program gave us the confidence to continue with our business model and helped us create different versions of our marketing strategy. It also introduced us to potential funding options and prepared our business for how to accept different types of financing. Brave Launch culminates in a so-called “pitch day” which is much like an episode of Shark Tank. We had the opportunity to present our innovative products to organized investor organizations and answer pertinent questions about our business models.
To our surprise, we actually won the competition for Best Business Model. The Oakford Group is now at the point where at least two of the venture groups we presented to are continuing to evaluate The Invertabelt with potential for financial backing.
OSF Creating an Innovative Culture
As we wait for different investor groups to do their due diligence on our company and product, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. It wouldn’t have been possible without the continued efforts of OSF HealthCare to support Mission Partners like me with innovative ideas. OSF was one of the major sponsors for the Brave Launch project. The organization also funded my company’s entry fee to participate.
It’s my hope that my story will encourage others within OSF HealthCare to share their concepts for improving health care. It’s the people on the front lines of care delivery who understand everyday hindrances to care and possibly have many ideas to make care more effective and cost efficient. They just need to know that OSF is a resource and advocate for those wanting to make those ideas a reality.