The Week in Disruption goes beyond the headlines to uncover the significance of emerging trends in healthcare and beyond.

Partnering with a platform

Independent hospitals face myriad challenges in the current healthcare climate, from declining admissions to payment uncertainty to rising costs for IT and back-office capabilities. Hospital executives often conclude that going it alone is no longer viable—and that joining a larger system is inevitable.

A new partnership between UnitedHealth’s Optum division and northern California-based John Muir Health is intent on finding a new path forward for smaller hospitals: remaining independent while gaining access to the back-office capabilities of a much larger enterprise. From Optum’s vantage point, these types of arrangements can extend and deepen the company’s position as a national healthcare platform.

Optum will administer John Muir’s billing and revenue departments, directly employing more than 500 of the hospital’s current staff. The partnership is intended to allow Optum to establish a presence for its platform in hospitals without operating them directly while helping John Muir achieve “systemness” while remaining independent.

“We don’t really want to sell to a larger system or get acquired,” Chris Pass, John Muir’s Chief Financial Officer, told CNBC. “We know we need to get ourselves to a lower cost both for employers and employees. We think this is one of the best options we have to do that.”

Home-based healthcare takes off

Healthcare companies and retailers are rapidly churning out products that allow consumers to participate in their care or administer common tests from home. LabCorp is joining the fray, with online sales blood tests for colorectal cancer, diabetes, and lipid panels.

The prices range from $19 for urine analysis to $199 for a “men’s health” package; LabCorp includes a review by an independent physician as part of the cost. The test kits will also be available at Walgreens, which already houses LabCorp test sites at 41 stores and plans to ramp up to 600 locations by 2022.

Walgreens competitor CVS, meanwhile, is initiating clinical trials for a new home dialysis device, spurred by Trump administration plans to nudge Medicare patients from dialysis centers to home-based settings.

The story behind your salad

Sweetgreen, the salad chain that largely caters to office workers in a handful of downtown business districts, would seem an unlikely candidate for transformation. After all, the company has only been around since 2007, the year its founders graduated from Georgetown.

But with an eye toward retaining younger, sourcing-savvy customers, the chain is launching a “Sweetgreen 3.0” location with tasting counters where visitors can sample products and talk to “concierges” about how the ingredients are sourced. And in an effort to combat “order fatigue,” the company is tweaking its customer recommendations to offer up new meals that still adhere to their nutritional habits based on their order history.

 “We are doing something most big restaurant companies never do,” Sweetgreen co-founder Jonathan Neman told the Wall Street Journal. “What we’ve learned watching companies like Blockbuster is that if you don’t disrupt yourself, someone will do it to you.”

Innovation at a glance