Reducing Hospital Readmissions

The Challenge

Post-surgery infections are dangerous and expensive.

Kimberly Clark Professional was highly regarded for infection prevention -- but stuck in commodity segments with stiff price competition. They were looking to expand into value-added solutions that could increase their differentiation. They partnered with our venture studio to create a new concept that would use mobile feedback and sensors to support clinical hygiene compliance. At a crucial juncture, we discovered we could enroll patients and caregivers to be more prepared for their hospital discharge and the first few days at home -- creating a smooth post-discharge experience and thereby reducing readmissions.

Our team provided:

  • 2-week framing sprint to define target use case and go-to-market scenarios
  • 100-day co-creation phase to define and validate the solution
  • Provisional patent application
  • 180-day clinical trial to configure an MVP, validate the benefits, and assure patient safety
Project Overview


Kimberly Clark Professional

Project Type

Corporate Venture Building



Project Attributes

Digital Product/Service

Key Milestones

  • User research
  • Co-creation
  • Provisional Patent filing
  • Clinical trial support
  • Business model development

Linked consumer insights with B2B worker insights

Tight alignment to measurable business outcomes via readmission penalties

Got demand validation before investing in tech development

Created client's first true med tech solution

The Impact

A breakthrough solution that gets Kimberly Clark "out of the supply room".

By looking at the entirety of the patient journey, our venture team found an opportunity to enroll the unpaid family caregiver. They are a free resource that is highly motivated to keep their loved one from re-entering the hospital. As a result, Kimberly Clark was able to create a solution that links consumer behavior to clinical outcomes. The venture links this innovation with clinical monitoring using IoT sensors to improve healthcare worker hygiene compliance. In a clinical trial, these two elements combined to achieve over 60% reduction in hospital readmissions after invasive surgery.

"Your insight that we could activate the family caregiver was a game-changer -- it completely shifted our thinking. They are a free resource just sitting there ... and they trust our (consumer) brand. This type of partnership (between our consumer and B2B sides) is something we talk about but rarely get to realize."

SVP of Marketing, Kimberly Clark Professional
How we did it

We formed a venture to develop and test ContinuCare, a B2B2C behavioral health solution that reduced post-surgery readmissions by over 50%.

Needs finding led us to an unexpected ally

We focused on highly invasive surgery, choosing coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG) as our initial focus. The CABG procedure has a high rate of hospital readmissions, most of which are attributable to preventable infections. Our user research comprised ethnography and diary studies, where we heard about their pain, naturally. As we mapped the journey, we noted that hospitals only have visibility into three of the 12 touch points of the patient journey. We also noticed an underutilized asset on their journey: the family member providing post-surgical care. This caregiver was also having a stressful experience. As we mapped the caregiver's parallel journey, it gave us an idea about how to enroll them in a solution and potentially improve both experiences — along with health outcomes.

We envisioned a breakthrough concept

The venture team envisioned a novel end-to-end concept that would educate and empower the caregiver. Within that experience, we would also provide behavioral nudges to the healthcare providers using wearable sensors. This unique B2B2C approach would extend the hospital's reach from the current 3 touch points  to 8 touch points. The expanded scope of influence — enabled by our new ally, the unpaid family caregiver — could potentially have a huge positive impact on health outcomes.

File a provisional patent

Due to the competitive nature of med tech, we chose to file a provisional patent application. Certainly our solution reflected many elements that were novel and non-obvious. ContinuCare combined a clever mix of B2C elements and B2B elements, including behavioral health nudges using IoT sensors. By filing a provisional patent, the venture had a year to decide if it wanted to file a full patent application. It also provided us with the leverage to tell prospective partners that our solution is "patent pending." This helped other  entities take us seriously, and brought better partners to the table.  Ultimately, Kimberly Clark filed for and was granted U.S. patent protection for the solution.

Validated with top-tier health systems

Rather than building a functional prototype, the venture team made a simple animation to present the solution to patients, cardiologists, and hospital administrators. They validated (and added) the features and capabilities they would need to make ContinuCare fit into their routines and work flows. This round of validation provided high confidence that we could attract test customers and patients. More important, we believed ContinuCare would significantly improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

Conducted a clinical trial with 40 patients

Since ContinuCare included changing healthcare worker behaviors related to clinical care, it was essential to conduct clinical trials. The venture studio set up the trial, which Kimberly Clark then executed within its corporate organization. PX attracted partners and customers, and designed a functional digital prototype of the solution. Kimberly Clark's team then enrolled patients, creating a 20-person test group, as well as a propensity-matched 20-person control group. They executed the test over about 7 months. The result: Over 60% reduction in readmissions after CABG surgery.

Developed & validated the business model

Finally, the venture team developed the business model and GTM plan for ContinuCare. As is typical for healthcare solutions, the business model included explicit roles for (1) Hospitals, (2) Clinicians,  (3) Patients, and (4) Payors. For each constituent, we identified the assumptions and created an in-market validation plan.