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Protocols and procedures that could be more efficient; physical spaces that could be adapted to better handle patients; computer systems and communication channels to foster closer ties between healthcare professionals and patients; hospitals are full of potential improvements. Now, a team from the d·HEALTH Barcelona postgraduate program made up of students with prior training in engineering, science, design and/or business will do an immersion at the Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus to identify unmet clinical needs, concentrating on the Cardiology Department. The fellows, in collaboration with their tutors at the hospital, will choose one of the needs to develop into a business project and compile a report for the hospital with the areas for improvement they detected during their immersion.

d·HEALTH Barcelona is one of only four European programs inspired by the Stanford University biodesign methodology. Fellows spend two months at local hospitals to identify real unmet clinical needs in situ that could be turned into new products or services. Throughout the program, they experience a full innovation cycle, from identifying the business idea to designing and prototyping a viable solution and searching for funding. At the same time, they take on valuable knowledge in medicine, business development, design thinking and creative leadership skills from over 70 international professors from Stanford, Kaos Pilot and companies in Silicon Valley, among others.

Each year, d·HEALTH Barcelona has an impact on 1,100 people in the Catalan healthcare ecosystem, including healthcare and hospital personnel, patients, mentors, venture capitalists, research and technology centers and other key stakeholders. The previous editions of the program, promoted by Biocat through its talent-development division, Moebio, have worked with Hospital Clinic, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu and Institut Guttmann, which will now be joined by the Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus.

The clinical immersion with d·HEALTH fellows is a highly productive experience, not only for the students but for the hospitals, too. It helps them identify areas of their daily activities that have the potential for innovation processes and improvement, with a direct impact on patients’ lives,” explains Moebio Director Raquel Riera. “Now we’re extending this impact to the whole Catalan healthcare ecosystem by opening the doors of d·HEALTH Barcelona to other hospital centers, the first of which will be the Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus.

For the manager of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, Dr. Vicenç Martínez Ibáñez, “Participating in this program is an ongoing commitment to innovation at the service of our patients. A project the largest hospital in Catalonia had to be part of.” For his part, Dr. David García-Dorado, head of the Vall d’Hebron Cardiology Unit, says that “identifying unmet medical needs is a new motivation to continue improving quality of care. Ours is a highly specialized unit, with the most advanced procedures and cutting-edge technology.”

In the Cardiology Department, the wide variety of diseases patients come in with makes it necessary for the professionals to have many multidisciplinary units. These units focusing on the future challenges of cardiology have made Vall d’Hebron one of the leading hospitals for heart conditions. A good example of this are the units for Marfan syndrome, transcatheter valve replacement, and treating pregnant women with heart disease or endocarditis.


One thousand improvements each year

In each edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona, the fellows identify more than 1,000 needs on average, of which 65% are potential business opportunities and 35% are changes for the hospitals themselves to improve. The fellows choose a need to come up with a business plan and compile a report for the hospital with the improvements they could implement internally.


Growing number of entrepreneurs in the ecosystem

Of the d·HEALTH Barcelona graduates, 97% start up their own entrepreneurial project or find work in the sector as soon as the program is finished. In fact, over the past four years, 40 new entrepreneurs from the program have accelerated nine projects in the medical technology arena. The rest have found job opportunities at companies like Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, Mayo Clinic, Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) Barcelona, Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), Barcelona Supercomputing Center, DKV Seguros, Neos Surgery and Capital Cell, among others.

The most noteworthy success story from d·HEALTH is usMIMA. Based on a need this group detected at Institut Guttmann, the company has launched to market a non-invasive medical device to fight chronic constipation (MOWOOT), for which it has received numerous awards worldwide.

The fifth edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona is kicking off in January 2018 and still accepting applications. The program is geared towards young people with degrees in business, design, engineering or the life sciences who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector. Admissions requirements are available on the website (

d·HEALTH Barcelona is an initiative of Biocat, the organization that coordinates and promotes the healthcare and life sciences sector in Catalonia. The program receives support from Banc Sabadell Foundation and collaboration from Mobile World Capital Barcelona and Danish school KaosPilot. Furthermore, d·HEALTH Barcelona is a member of the Innovation Fellowships program under the European EIT Health initiative, which promotes the fellows’ international mobility through exchanges with other programs and their membership in the extensive EIT Alumni network once they finish the program.


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