OSF HealthCare and Bradley University formalize partnership to solve pressing health care problems

31 October 2022 | Monday | News

OSF HealthCare and Bradley University are have created a new Innovation for Health (IFH) partnership aimed at generating scholarly research that can translate into practical solutions to improve individual and community health.

Designed to create a robust, collaborative research community, the new agreement is between employees at two of Peoria's largest and most impactful nonprofit institutions: Bradley University and OSF HealthCare. Significantly, Bradley will be the first private university to enter into a formalized research partnership with OSF HealthCare. The two anchor institutions have a shared history within the Peoria community; Lydia Moss Bradley was instrumental to the founding of both organizations.

The IFH partnership will connect faculty scholars from Bradley's five colleges with clinical researchers through OSF Innovation Labs and other OSF HealthCare providers to address health care challenges within and beyond the greater Peoria area. OSF Innovation is an arm of OSF HealthCare, comprised of designers, engineers, data scientists, performance improvement specialists and other experts who work tirelessly to find the best ideas that will bring the greatest value to patients and communities.

The formalized relationship will leverage Bradley's expertise in the health and natural sciences. It will also create opportunities for Bradley University faculty in business, engineering, education, computer science, interactive media, communications, the humanities, the social sciences, and other areas to contribute to solutions-based research focused on the social determinants of health (factors influencing health outside of a medical setting), health literacy, rural health, and dimensions of cancer treatment and prevention.

Financial support

The OSF-Bradley agreement represents a $5 million dollar commitment over five years. The partnership commits each entity to contribute $500,000 each year to provide annual funding opportunities in the fall and spring for innovative, interdisciplinary projects addressing important health care challenges. The first request for proposals with awards up to $50,000 will be announced soon.

 "We believe expanding academic collaborations can assist OSF HealthCare with breakthrough innovations, including new medical devices, digital solutions, improved work processes and new service models," said CEO of OSF HealthCare Bob Sehring. "Bradley University is a natural partner because of its proximity to our headquarters, but more importantly, because we can tap into the expertise and ideas incubated and accelerated through Bradley's Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation as well as the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, also housed at the university."

"For OSF HealthCare, the expanded partnership will support the needs of researchers, medical educators, clinicians and most importantly, patients," added John Vozenilek, MD, vice president and chief medical officer, OSF Innovation and Digital Health. "We'll now have additional resources and a formal process to focus strategically on ideas and novel approaches to significantly impact medical education and simulation, prevention and treatment. Additionally, we're excited about the prospects of developing digital health solutions and novel approaches to improve access to quality patient care and to reduce health care costs, which is vitally important, particularly for our most vulnerable populations."

The newly signed agreement comes as Bradley University celebrates 125 years of giving students practical skills to contribute to the modern world as founder Lydia Moss Bradley desired. Given Bradley's strong commitment to experiential learning, the partnership will also allow faculty to engage their talented students in impactful applied research. Conceivably, students could participate in projects that encompass a variety of disciplines, such as nursing, data security, game design and development, health literacy, psychology, social work and biomedical engineering.

Bradley University President Stephen Standifird, PhD, said expanded collaboration supports the Bradley mission and strategic plan. It also should improve the pipeline and recruitment of future employees for both institutions.

"We want to foster innovation and creativity through collaboration and build powerful alliances that can help each organization," said Standifird. "Bradley's faculty represent curious, industrious and socially conscious individuals who have an entrepreneurial mind-set. Together, we can explore solutions to some pressing needs in health care. In addition, our strategic plan embraces the contributions of each of our colleges and units. They can facilitate learning experiences for our students that will benefit the broader Bradley community while advancing thought-provoking, practical, and interdisciplinary scholarship."

Blazing a Trail

Trailblazer Challenge will be the first effort under the Innovation for Health or "IFH" umbrella, crowdsourcing ideas for later development, while serving as a catalyst for building a connection between Bradley faculty, OSF clinicians and members of the innovation team.

Christopher Jones, PhD, vice president for strategy and innovation at Bradley University, said faculty are poised to make significant contribution to solutions that'll make a difference, not only for health care in Peoria, but for health systems throughout the country and beyond.

"Peoria has been at the epicenter of some amazing developments such as mass production of life-saving penicillin," said Jones. "This collaborative work could also serve as an economic engine, potentially generating intellectual property the two institutions can share, as well as new opportunities that align with the goals of Peoria BioMadeDistillery LabsPeoria Next and other entities advancing discovery, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth in the region."

The agreement provides opportunities for Bradley alumni and other community stakeholders to contribute financially or offer their talents for research, pilots and prototypes that ultimately could attract additional resources through local, state and federal grant dollars.

As a testimony of their visionary philanthropy and as a reflection of their ongoing commitment to innovative health care, Kevin and Lisa Schoeplein and OSF HealthCare Foundation have worked together to create the Kevin and Lisa Schoeplein Innovation Endowment. This will help fund collaborative work with Bradley University, including the best projects emerging from Trailblazer Challenges.

Bradley University affiliate faculty member and director of the OSF Innovation Design Lab, Scott Barrows, is excited about having a reliable source of funding to spur ongoing collaborative research.

"We have seen the importance of health literacy during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to expand options to reach those who can be easily influenced by disinformation and misinformation," stressed Barrows. "This agreement will accelerate and expand our capabilities to advance community health education, and to develop and test solutions that improve health outcomes in Greater Peoria and Central Illinois."

The Innovation for Health partnership is built upon successful models. Since 2014, OSF has partnered with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP) to fund 124 research projects with grants totaling $8.3 million. Those Jump ARCHES efforts are aimed at improving patient outcomes and reducing health care costs. In 2021, OSF formalized a research partnership and made a significant financial commitment with the University of Illinois Chicago through the Community Health Advocacy (CHA) grant program to address health and wellness challenges in urban communities.


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