The theater was packed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s 2nd annual Clinical Innovation Day this week as hospital employees, innovators, and entrepreneurs met for a full day of panels surrounding the theme “Collisions of Collaboration.”
The event, sponsored by the Brigham Innovation Hub and the Brigham Research Institute, featured an “idea lab” where eight doctors gave three-minute pitches of an idea for a health IT product or care redesign that would impact patient care. These finalists had been narrowed down from dozens of submissions, and pitched on everything from novel language translation devices to improved tracking of physician to-do and “scut” lists. These clinician and researchers were questioned and judged by hospital administrators and the keynote speaker, product design guru David Rose. Three winners were chosen: Alexandra Golby, Jane Brock, and Stephanie Shine.
Dr. Alexandra Golby is a surgeon who has come up with a way to create a cheaper neuro-navigation (or “GPS for the brain”) device using the functionality of a tablet and a 3-D sensor, which together would cost about $1,000—a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars typically needed to purchase a neuro-navigation device.
“My goal is to bring this to the 90 percent of patients worldwide who do not have access to this technology so we can improve their outcomes,” she said.
Dr. Jane Brock is a pathology researcher who envisions investing in a microscopic imaging device that could rapidly detect cancer in fresh biopsy samples, rather than requiring the current system that takes 24-hours of costly sample preparation and reading. She believes the costlier input of buying the device will be offset by the money saved by the microscope’s efficiency.
Stephanie Shine is a nurse who wants to give patients the option to remotely participate in a newborn child’s care when the child is placed in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), using the technology of Google Glass.
Shine’s idea was inspired by a personal story. Last year, she herself was a new mother separated for 18 hours from her baby, who at less than two pounds was in the NICU. Her stress was slightly relieved when her relatives brought Glass with them and let her see her baby even as she sat in another part of the hospital.
Under the umbrella of “cool things that will change healthcare,” the conference brought in representatives from startups PillPack, EarlySense, Patients Like Me, and MC10.
PillPack uses novel packaging and technology to improve medication adherence. It runs out of a pharmacy based in New Hampshire, but ships (for free) pills in packet rolls based on the time and day you take the medicine, with 24/7 access to pharmacists via phone or email and a personal website to access more information about your prescriptions.
“This in-store retail experience was really broken,” said PillPack CEO and founder TJ Parker, citing patient hesitancy to ask the pharmacist questions in a semi-public setting and the hassles involved with prescription refills and pill identification once they were in pillboxes. “We spend at least $100 billion annually on medication non-adherence. If you take something complicated and confusing and make it really simple and easy, it will enable people to take their medications.”
EarlySense uses a sensor, placed under the mattress, to monitor metrics heart rate, respiratory rate, and sleep quality. The device is designed for caretakers and predictive patient analytics as a continuous and contact-free monitoring aid.
Patients Like Me is an online network for patients with chronic conditions to share experiences and form a community. It also pulls the data from the posts and profiles to inform research studies, advancing the progress of treatments. Two brothers whose third brother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease founded the company when trying to find others who they could learn from about the disease.
The last “cool thing that will change healthcare” was MC10, a company that showed the audience how silicon could make wearable technology actually conform to the body. Unlike a Fitbit or iPhone, MC10’s products are designed to stretch, bend, and twist, bringing into possibility a future where we will barely notice the presence of the products we are using. The company has worked with Reebok to create a head-impact sports injury indicator called Reebok Checklight.
The day also included a series of panelists discussing how to catalyze change in an academic medical center, with the theme of what it means to “fail forward.” Dr. Rob Boxer, director of the BWH General Medicine service, spoke on how it took five tries to successfully redesign into pod-based interdisciplinary teams. Dr. Jeff Greenberg, associate medical director of the BWH Physicians’ Organization, discussed how his team was able to create a better electronic referral system. Dr. Charles Morris, associate director of BWH primary care, spoke about creating a novel registry tool to manage the diabetic patient population, and unearthing key trends and pitfalls in diabetes care that he was able to work to correct.
“You find this star map, an underbelly of things you weren’t aware were going on until you shone a light,” he said.
Dr. Josh Kosowksy, vice chair for clinical affairs in the department of emergency medicine joined project manager for the BWH Physicians’ Organization Casey Steiger to discuss innovative ways of improving physician wellness and connectedness.
Dr. Sachin Jain, chief medical information and innovation officer at Merck & Co, moderated a panel featuring executives from Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Phillips Healthcare, and Xerox, focusing on how big industry brands are innovating in healthcare.
“If you were to think about an event like this five or ten years ago, most of us would never believe it would actually happen,” he said. “All of a sudden, you have an incredible convergence across different industries.”
Walmart discussed its push to go beyond the minute-clinic model present at many pharmacies in the U.S. and actually offer primary care in-store. At a price tag of $40 a visit (down to $4 if the patient is an associate of Walmart or on their health plan), Walmart aims to give rural and underserved patients access to regular and affordable care.
Denise Fletcher, chief innovation officer and vice president at the Healthcare and Pharma division of Xerox, mentioned how most people don’t think of Xerox applications in healthcare, but the company is developing cameras that range in application from contactless monitoring to breast cancer detection.
Keynote speaker and MIT Media Lab instructor David Rose, the CEO of Ditto Labs, focused on the applications of embedding internet information in everyday objects, which then become “enchanted.” He founded the company Vitality, which reinvented medication packaging by introducing internet-connected pill bottle caps called GlowCap that provide reminders to patients to take their medications. He emphasized key concepts in product design for medicine, such as “un-avoidableness” of the information, “glanceable” access, and escalating reminders or notifications.
“If Frodo had an app for where the Orcs were, he probably wouldn’t go to it unless he thought he needed to,” he said, drawing on the metaphor of the Lord of the Rings protagonist’s glowing, Orc-detecting sword.
He made the room laugh by presenting a consumer “enchanted object” design that has gone from concept to market—the HapiFork, a fork that shakes if you eat too fast.
“Racing against your best self is a good technique,” he advised the audience. “Iterate, and iterate, and iterate—and try not to fall in love with the thing you’ve made.”
The day also included a “state of the hub” update on successful in-house innovations, progress from last month’s Shark Tank winner Twine Health, and a call for increased collaboration and innovation. The Brigham Innovation Hub’s next events include a weekend hackathon and a conference on women in medicine and science, both in September 2014.
(Photos by Vidya Viswanathan)
Vidya is the founder of Doctors Who Create (doctorswhocreate.com), which brings together people who want to change the culture of medicine to reward and encourage creativity. She is a first-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and is passionate about using the power of innovation and storytelling to improve clinical care.
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