University of South Carolina and Large Health System Unite to Capitalize on Research & Innovate

Feb 27, 2020 | Health Systems, Innovation, Medical University of South Carolina, Prisma Health, South Carolina

University of South Carolina and Large Health System Unite to Capitalize on Research & Innovate

In a novel move to spur innovation and economic growth along with improve overall health care, the University of South Carolina has formed a partnership with Prisma Health, the state’s largest not-for-profit health organization, to also encourage the development and implementation of innovative health care delivery models, medical devices, digital health applications and treatments for diseases.


The arrangement, approved by University of South Carolina (UofSC) Board of Trustees on February 21, triggers UofSC’s Office of Economic Engagement along assist with the Schools of Medicine in Columbia and Greenville to collaborate with Prisma Health to identify opportunities to develop mutually beneficial relationships with industry partners, bridging the gap between Prisma Health’s health research and the development new technologies that help patients.

Prisma Health and UofSC seek to improve health care outcomes across the state. The two have been collaborating already for years and this new partnership tighten and extends the reach of the two prominent South Carolina institutions, but also help Prisma Health develop research as well as innovation partnerships that can lead to improved healthcare outcomes for patients across the state.

Partnership Focus Areas

Prisma Health will capitalize on UofSC’s infrastructure, know-how and experience, talent and relationships to develop intellectual property patents and technology transfer support as well as improvements to operations development, cybersecurity as well as institutional insights and strategic planning—all in pursuit of furthering research and innovation towards improving treatment and health care delivery. 

Transformational Aspirations

The notable Palmetto State deal tries to accomplish something at the core that transcends traditional academic research center activity on the one hand, and standard regional health system delivery on the other by tapping into both UofSC’s extended success delivery education, mentoring programs and incubation asset development as well as the health system’s clinical and non-clinical expertise in the health care market—to drive innovations from benchside prototypes to clinical outcomes. Prisma Health capitalizes on the state’s flagship university in the pursuit of a research and innovation agenda that can lead to better healthcare outcomes across the state.

Motor for Economic Development via Healthcare Innovation

The two come together and leverage the extensive partnership and innovation models developed at the UofSC Office of Economic Engagement. This group has traditionally been a single convergence point between industry and entrepreneurs, researchers, government and of course students looking to engage with UofSC in pursuit of win-win opportunity from new health care projects to new healthcare ventures—whether they be devices, diagnostics, digital health products or novel drugs. And they have had an impact on the Palmetto State—overall, the university generates approximately $5.5 billion and creates 60,500+ jobs. The Office of Economic Engagement drives new partnerships, grants and entrepreneurial funding to licensing deals and business development with biopharma or device companies in the healthcare sector, for example.

At the helm, executive director Bill Kirkland stated to a UofSC News release authored by Jeff Stensland that  “through this partnership with Prisma Health, we will now apply our commercialization and entrepreneurial success to healthcare and life sciences. While this relationship will bear fruit for both institutions, the real winners are the people of South Carolina, who stand to benefit from better access to care, innovative treatments, and the latest applications of research.”

A Changing World means Health System must ‘Challenge the Status Quo’

This deal evidences Prisma Health’s recognition that the world is changing and that those that don’t continuously learn fall behind and eventually become irrelevant. Nowhere is that more true than in healthcare where, on the one hand, over the last couple of decades, there has been tremendous transformational change (e.g. new drugs, device and diagnostic technologies, etc.), but on the other hand less than optimal outcomes (e.g. U.S. health system as a whole represents ever growing portion of national GDP while simultaneously overall system performance improvements not in alignment with overall spend). As payers drive healthcare providers toward value-based models, this forces heretofore new commitment toward efficiency and effectivity in addition to uniform improvement of health outcomes. 

Because of these fundamental drivers, Prisma Health understands it must adapt in an “ever changing and increasingly challenging healthcare environment by becoming a learning health system that adopts rapid cycle innovation processes,” noted Brenda Thames, with both UofSC and Prisma Health. Ms. Thames correctly points out that “While research provides the mechanism for evaluating and comparing the effectiveness of existing care models, innovation allows us to develop and improve new models.” At the core, these models need to not only improve overall healthcare but also drive efficiencies. Much like a software program called Uber fundamentally transformed transportation, so must other technologies do the same in healthcare—from process of care to new transformational precision-based treatments.

Perhaps Dr. David Cull, vice president of clinical and academic integration at Prisma Health, said it best: “Through this partnership, we will create, test, and implement innovative initiatives that challenge the status quo and have the potential to reduce the cost of care, improve quality and increase access to healthcare services.”

Change isn’t Easy but it is Necessary

Changing healthcare-related systems, processes and dynamics represents a considerable challenge as entrenched, systemic forces drive toward the status quo. The best of institutions are not immune. However, in healthcare, such transformation now must occur. Transformational change in certain sectors or markets, such as the introduction of the app-driven transportation model of Uber, for example, fundamentally altered how people go about traveling from point A to point B in many cities across the world. Think about how much has changed. In the days of the taxi, the individual seeking the service had to do the work of finding the taxi company contact information, calling them and talking to their switch board, ordering the cab and waiting—often 20 to 30 minutes depending on where the service was located. The entire process was laborious and painful and the ultimate price tag was high. Then compare to the app software driven model of today where the service is already aware of the individual—it knows where he/she is and manages and controls the whole process, including payment, via an auditable traceable program. But there are losers with the change as an entire model called the taxi service is fundamentally impacted forever—many taxi companies will go out of business and a whole category of career—the taxi driver—will never be the same. The new technology-driven model depends on the “gig economy”—more efficient and nimbler and flexible from an economic perspective—and redistributes responsibility of costs from company to labor for example. A new entrepreneurial position does emerge of course—the Urber driver. Now, as a national lobby taxi, companies and drivers, in most markets, didn’t have the collective clout to halt this fundamental transformation. But in the sphere of healthcare, systemic interests are sophisticated, well-capitalized and wield considerable clout at state capitols across America. At least in South Carolina, two incredibly important organizations have come together with a stated goal of driving innovation in a highly regulated and administered sector. Where will they start?


UofSC and Prisma Health are embarking down an interesting path that could truly benefit patients in South Carolina and beyond. The nation and individual states face various health challenges. The cost of delivery, access, effectivity and efficiency of systems, not to mention the need for individual transformation in how they can prevent health trouble in the first place, are all critically important not to mention the truly transformational forces unleashed in the medical technology transformation—from powerful precision-based gene and cell therapies to new device and diagnostic opportunities heretofore not possible. New breakthroughs, in some cases, can lead to actual genetic cures for the disease itself. At least in the State of South Carolina, the state’s most prestigious academic medical center and one of the largest health providers have come together to direct their joint expertise to address some of the Palmetto State’s most significant health challenges.  

Call to Action: Interested in tracking this partnership? Sign up for the daily newsletter. Also let us know what about this partnership you find interesting and promising. Interested in exploring how to do business there? Contact Bill Kirkland


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