Florida Hospital opens Medical Device Innovation Lab for surgical medical entrepreneurs
Last month, Florida Hospital Orlando opened the Medical Device Innovation Lab, a novel prototype lab that will provide Florida Hospital physicians a venue for innovating medical devices.
Led by Steve Eubanks, MD, director of Florida Hospital Academic Surgery, said Florida Hospital administrators have been “extremely supportive – financially and otherwise – of this vision and field.”
“It coincides with their set of missions,” he said.
Simply put, the prototype lab at the Institute for Surgical Advancement (ISA) is a space for physicians to bring their ideas for the development of medical equipment they could use in the operating room.
“With a surgeon’s primary focus of treating patients and performing surgery, surgeons have very little time to research, develop and innovate new products and tools they feel could advance their ability to care for patients,” said Eubanks. “The ISA prototype lab team serves as an assistant in making those medical device concepts a reality.”
The Nicholson Center at Health Village will also be a part of the medical product development process by providing a secure training environment for the first performance tests of the devices developed in the ISA prototype lab. If the devices and concepts are successful, the InnovatOR suite at Florida Hospital Orlando – a specialized operating room – will be used for the prototype to be further tested. The ISA prototype lab and the Nicholson Center at Health Village will complement the existing collaborative environment in the InnovatOR suite, where clinical staff are already developing, commercializing and training with new products and techniques to improve patient outcome and clinical efficiency.
“The staff is small and growing,” said Eubanks. “We have a core staff of four people, and we’re recruiting two more immediately. Over time, we’ll have a 10 to 15 person staff when fully matured.”
Florida Hospital’s top-tier physicians are able to use the prototype lab – a very small group of surgeons who meet characteristics in five categories that “separate themselves from the masses of individuals who practice medicine within our system,” said Eubanks.
1. “At a clinical level, they’re high-volume, proven individuals who have reputations that are excellent in terms of patient care,” he said.
2. “They’re academically productive. They submit papers for publication. They present nationally at medical conferences and have built very good CVs from their accomplishments,” said Eubanks.
3. “They’re people who industry recognizes as thought leaders and individuals sought for their ideas on new products, developing products … and wants them as a sounding board and to serve on scientific advisory boards because they’ve established that type of reputation,” he said.
4. “They’ve demonstrated a creative aspect to their practice of medicine as problem-solvers. They’re looking for new procedures and devices and different ways to do things better,” said Eubanks.
5. “Another characteristic: they have the support of hospital administration, not only because of the value they bring to the organization, but also the way in which they carry themselves,” he said. “They carry themselves in an exemplary manner.”
Florida Hospital physicians meeting all five characteristics make for a very small group in the procedural medicine stage, Eubanks noted.
“The prototype lab is a resource for those individuals, much like we’re establishing research staff nurse support, biostatistician support and other programs that have allowed these people the capability to rise above and really fly,” he said. “We’re building the infrastructure, like this lab and other resources, where they can go to work on developing procedures.”
Florida Hospital physicians who aren’t part of the elite group, yet have a really good development concept, may bring their ideas to the prototype lab, Eubanks said.
“We have a filtering process to determine if a potential project makes sense for us to commit time and resources,” he said. “For physicians outside Florida Hospital, the prototype lab has a pricing structure that hasn’t fully matured. We’re working on it now. The physician who wants to outsource a viable idea may bring us a print or hand drawing that we can convert to a computerized drawing and print out a prototype for them.”
Eubanks emphasized “an element that’s an important early one for us to get to the table.”
“When we look at where we’re going one or two years from now, our internal staff might represent the minority of our daily activities,” he explained. “Likely, a large percentage of what we do will be co-development with industry, whether startups or mature companies. That company will own the intellectual property, but they’ll consult with us to help take an early-phase product and develop it further through their interaction with clinicians. We’ll help get it closer to marketability. Perhaps they’ll have a product they’re ready to launch and want us to put it through the paces before they come to market and then learn they have significant flaws.”
Eubanks has managed various aspects of the prototype lab’s innovation cycle, from scribbling on napkins to products that have made a mark in the marketplace.
“I’ve lived for the last 20 years in this entire aspect of the innovation curve,” he said. “That’s why I was able to formulate and verbalize a vision that Florida Hospital could grasp, and believe in, and want to fund.”
Editor’s Note: In the August and September editions, our Florida Medical News papers will publish a two-part Q&A with renowned surgeon and medical entrepreneur Steve Eubanks, MD, considered the “father” of mini-laparoscopy instrumentation. Eubanks will discuss his experience with medical innovations, projects in the works at the Medical Device Innovation Lab, how the prototype lab is a strong recruiting tool, and why Florida Hospital’s culture is open to thinking outside the box. “It’s not a hospital where the administrators will tell you ‘Just go back to the OR. Don’t mess around in this new area.’”