Russell Play Park Lemonade Stand Challenge Marquee June 2024

RRH is Pilot Partner for Community Innovation Program

Russell Regional Hospital
Russell Regional Hospital

Alongside six Kansas organizations seeking innovations to improve population health and enable community growth, NXTUS, Inc. has launched the 2023 NXTSTAGE Community Health and Vibrancy Pilot Competition presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.

This unique program is in its third year of matching innovators from around the region and the world with potential customers in Kansas who are hoping to access valueadded technology solutions to improve the health of Kansans and remove barriers to community growth. The 2023 competition builds on momentum from 27 pilot projects awarded to leading startups in the past two years.

BCBSKS has been the competition's presenting sponsor since 2021, helping cover program costs so that community health and economic development entities from around the state can find and implement promising technologies.

"Sponsoring the NXTSTAGE competition is a unique opportunity for us to support health and wellness and our community partners in new and exciting ways," said Virginia Barnes, Director of BCBSKS Blue Health Initiatives. "We live and work in these communities and see first-hand the challenges that they face. We look forward to seeing the new partnerships that will form to help improve the quality of life for all Kansans."

The impact of this unique program, in its third year, continues to grow. For example, a 2021 winner, Advocatia, offers a powerful technology platform that functions as an onramp to state and federal assistance programs. After a successful initial pilot in Allen County, NXTSTAGE partner Thrive Allen County secured a grant to expand the project, beginning in 2022. Now, people in underserved communities in 105 Kansas counties can easily assess their eligibility for assistance and enroll in programs like Medicaid and SNAP to get the healthcare, food and housing resources they and their families need.

"Connecting Kansas' forward-thinking organizations with innovations that are helping communities elsewhere get stronger and healthier offers a triple win for Kansas: we grow young companies, we build up the state's innovation culture and we address high-priority challenges to improve the health of Kansans and strengthen our communities," said Mary Beth Jarvis, NXTUS President and CEO.

This BCBSKS grant and additional support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation are fueling NXTSTAGE efforts to help startups thrive in Kansas, boosting the pace of innovation in Kansas communities and enabling improved population health and inclusive prosperity for Kansans.

The 2023 program launches with six pilot partners that will evaluate the offerings of startups from around the world to find innovative technology solutions they believe can add value in their communities: Hodgeman County Economic Development, LiveWell Northwest Kansas, Russell Regional Hospital, Scott County Development Committee, The University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita Medical Practice Association and Thrive Allen County.

The 2022 competition attracted 119 competitors from 28 states and seven countries and had very diverse applicants. 94 percent had minority or female founders.

The 2022 finalists included three startups from Kansas and nine others from eight states, and 100 percent had ethnic minority or females as founders. They appeared at an innovation showcase in Wichita in June and won a total of 21 pilot projects to implement their technology tools aimed at key challenges such as access to mental health care and addiction treatment, improving senior care and expanding entrepreneurship support and charitable giving in small communities.

One of the program winners in both 2021 and 2022 was Phoenix-based Televeda, which offers a technology platform designed to help seniors aging in place and all community members improve their physical and mental health and keep them connected in their communities. The NXTSTAGE program helped expand Televeda's reach to Kansas through a pilot program that has expanded from one to three Kansas counties.

Shruti Gurudanti, Televeda Co-Founder, said, "This program is a phenomenal opportunity because it gives startups a chance to meet and talk to local leaders, learn their most pressing problems and then implement a solution to positively impact the most number of people. It's what every startup wants!"

Applications for the 2023 NXTSTAGE Community Health and Vibrancy Competition, presented by BCBSKS, are now being accepted on the f6s startup platform.

Janae Talbott, Director of RRH Public Relations, shared, "Russell Regional Hospital is excited to be a participant in this cutting edge program that connects us to partners, startups and like-minded agencies that desire the opportunity to work towards solutions that improve the health of our community. Sustainability and growth are top of mind when considering the current economy we are experiencing. Through connecting with innovation based startups that are relevant to health care, Russell Regional Hospital looks to results that improve processes and services, while positioning us for a healthy future. A value added factor is collaborating with Kansas partners that are actively working towards building an ecosystem that is friendly and desirable to startups to thrive in Kansas. We look forward to working with the additional five communities that are participating, learning the latest in technology and processes that improve health and reduce the barriers of community growth, and partnering with NXTSTAGE and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas in this one-of-a-kind community health and vibrancy program."

(Information courtesy NXTSTAGE and RRH.)