Clinician-driven innovation on the rise

Hospitals are increasingly looking to doctors and nurses for innovative solutions to care delivery problems.

It makes sense that the people most intimately involved in providing care to patients would also be a valuable resource in designing care. A New York Times article charts the growth of human-oriented “design thinking” in a healthcare world where care delivery and workflow design have traditionally been the domain of administrators.

Looping doctors and nurses into the process can provide feedback that improves care delivery in critical ways. The insights can be as simple as issuing orange vests to trauma team leaders to more easily identify them during a chaotic procedure, or a pain scoring system simplified for easier use in pediatric wards, both innovations mentioned in the Times article.

Interdisciplinary collaborations have also proven fruitful, according to the article. For example, Bon Ku, M.D., director of the Jefferson Health Design Lab at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, matched medical students with architecture students to develop a tool that tracks clinical staff and patients as they move around the emergency room.

An interdisciplinary collaboration at the University of Michigan seeks to tap into patients’ experiences for innovative programs, such as a mobile glucose monitoring system for diabetic patients, according to the article.

The University of Washington’s engineering program has also been reaching out to clinicians seeking to collaborate on innovative medical device designs. The Seattle Times reports one student project involved the development of  a cheaper, refillable version of the EpiPen in response to price jumps for the device that occurred last year. Other innovations in the program’s pipeline include athletic mouthguards that fit around braces and an exoskeleton for pediatric patients with gait problems.

Diverse groups supporting innovation and collaboration have also sprouted up recently. The New York Times notes a rise in online communities focused on healthcare innovation. Meanwhile, more formal structures borrowed from the business world have taken shape, such as Boston Children’s Hospital’s healthcare accelerator, which engage clinicians in the design and implementation process for new programs.