Sometimes big ideas come from helping the tiniest of people.
In the 1970s, what is now Sanford Health needed a way to transport premature babies from Native American reservations hundreds of miles away to its hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Health systems were starting to use helicopters as air ambulances. But there weren’t a lot of options on the market for airplanes, which are faster, cheaper to operate and capable of flying longer distances.
Hospital managers provided a King Air turboprop aircraft to a couple of creative airplane mechanics at the local airport who retrofitted it into the organization’s first fixed-wing airplane.
Those aircraft innovators ultimately went to work for the organization and continue to fine-tune ideas and work closely with manufacturers to reduce weight, increase space and improve safety. And Sanford Health is now the largest rural nonprofit health care organization in the U.S., serving an area larger than Texas with 44 medical centers and nearly 500 clinics.
Expert commercialization team
Sanford Health has formalized its innovation and commercialization process. More than 50 physicians, researchers and staffers now work to test and develop more than 150 new devices, therapies, software, tools and other methods.