SGR Client Profile: Renee Finley and Guidewell Innovation

Synchronized Deep Diving

Renee Finley is a spunky spark of a leader. She has to be. As head of GuideWell Innovation, she fans the fires of innovation in an industry once slow to change its ways.

GuideWell Innovation is part of the GuideWell Mutual Holding Company (GMHC) enterprise. Several years ago, Florida Blue reorganized and, under GMHC, moved its diverse group of companies and maintained in Florida Blue a focus on health care insurance. GuideWell Innovation, a subsidiary of GMHC, focuses on driving innovation in seven core areas: Well-being and Human Performance; Next Generation Consumer Engagement; Digital Health & Remote Management; Computational Health; Care Delivery; Healthcare Financing; and Health Policy.

Shaking Up Health Care

Renee brings her GuideWell Innovation team to work with the GMHC enterprise of companies to identify and improve upon issues anchored around institutional health care, involving provider practices, hospital systems and insurance coverage.

But Renee also has a shake-it-up role. Part of her mission is to scout out innovation on the fringe and foster it. Unbound by the constraints on change that are typical of large institutions, she looks for entrepreneurs who are moving quickly to respond to critical issues in the marketplace, working on outside-the-box solutions and accelerating change in the health industry. GuideWell Innovation invests in these entrepreneurs and brings their knowledge to bear to improve institutional operations.

Entrepreneurs and innovators are making huge advances in artificial intelligence, for example. GuideWell Innovation is bringing those advances back to helping Florida Blue customer representatives parse among various benefit options and more efficiently help consumers choose the best health insurance. The company has also been researching and evaluating emerging trends, such as in precision medicine (the use of DNA to create targeted medical treatments) and bringing that information back to the GuideWell enterprise companies.

GuideWell Innovation is also partnering with GE, Johnson & Johnson, Tavistock and Cisco to support The Intelligent Home, a project of the Lake Nona Institute. This is a prototype home in which new technologies, such as measuring human movement, can be tested and demonstrated, correlating them to specific human activities in a home and identifying variations that can warrant intervention or encouragement with respect to the individual’s health.

The Lake Nona Institute also is home to The Life Project, a 10- to 15-year study, led by Johnson & Johnson and supported by GuideWell Innovation, assessing the impact of community health and community programs on consumers and their own active engagement on issues of allergies, sleep and depression.

Guidewell Innovation Center

Virtual collaboration is one thing, but GuideWell Innovation believes that bringing innovators and institutions together in one physical location to focus on ways of improving human health will bear more fruit. Indeed, while GuideWell Innovation is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, it built a  separate center further south in Florida, in Lake Nona, to encourage this collaboration and provide a space in which it could flourish.

GuideWell Innovation picked Lake Nona because the community was developed by Tavistock in a thoughtful way centered on healthy lifestyles and healthy living and has an eco-system that was perfect for fostering innovation. The Life Project and The Intelligent Home are just two examples. By coupling the various nearby elements of research institutions, hospital systems that can pilot new programs, commercial partners that can take a capability to market and the entrepreneurial accelerator run by GuideWell Innovation, the area provides an environment for extraordinary innovative synergy.

Lake Nona did not have a convening venue – a physical place where all of the various groups in the area and those from outside could meet and collaborate. The GuideWell Innovation Center was built to provide this venue, and GuideWell Innovation made sure to incorporate healthy living and architectural innovation in its design. The center even hosts three “living walls” of plants. There are incubator spaces, co-work spaces, wet labs for bench science and spaces throughout the facility that are specially designed for meaningful conversation replete with supporting technology and collaboration resources.

There are lots of curved walls, open areas and hallways that come together to lead you on an innovation journey. As you walk through the physical layout, you follow the process for nurturing new solutions – locations reflect where ideas are formed, fine-tuned and fostered, realized, and then launched into commercialized solutions. Indeed, the entire plan of the facility is to accelerate the collision of people, ideas and resources and bring the ideas to fruition.

CoRETM immersion events

GuideWell Innovation is jumpstarting conversations on certain specific topics and pushing for solutions. Through its Collaborative Resource Ecosystem, or “CoRE™,” Program, GuideWell Innovation tackles topics and brings specific players to the table to address them – those with the right technological and infrastructure resources to bring the solution to market. The resources may range from industrial engineering support and video production capabilities to design methodologies, 3-D printers and physical plotters.

Last August, CoRE™ hosted the first of its annual immersion events – events that bring selected thought leaders to “dive deep” together on one critical, complex problem facing health  care, with the aim of brainstorming and even beginning to implement solutions. The 2016 event, “Greater Than Cancer: The Other Side,” focused on the challenges for cancer patients after their initial diagnosis. This year’s forthcoming program, “Emerging Minds, Illuminating the Path to Mental Wellness,” focuses on behavioral health.

After such an immersion program, which typically lasts about three days, GuideWell Innovation studies the results of the collaboration and creates a platform issuing a call for solutions and encouraging open innovation on a national scale. It is an online tool with an application process through which new and overlooked ideas can be submitted to help address a problem. The ideas are evaluated by a committee and there is an award for the winner. GuideWell Innovation and its supporting partners, such as Johnson & Johnson and the American Cancer Society, may advance one or more of those solutions and bring them to market.

The platform for the cancer challenge launched on February 15, 2017 (see and over 600 participants engaged in the ideation process. Over 43 ideas were submitted on the topic of helping cancer patients navigate their treatment and recovery process. Mobile Chemotherapy Check-up was the new idea award winner, which will normalize the lives of 650,000 cancer patients who receive chemo each year.

Transformation is often resisted and collaboration is difficult. Innovation can be hard to recognize and its acceptance begrudging. For GuideWell Innovation’s success, Renee and her team must navigate the complex worlds of health care, health insurance and human wellness, identify key problems, gather informed and committed partners, nurture productive collaboration, recognize solutions, synthesize results, and shepherd innovations towards fruition.

It is a vast challenge, and GuideWell Innovation has dived right in.

Kate Rowe is a partner in SGR’s Intellectual Property Practice and is located in the Firm’s Jacksonville office.

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