Here’s a statement that most people believe to be universally true: Healthcare innovation is expensive. It’s time to pull back the curtain on that assertion.
The truth is that the expense of healthcare innovation is dependent upon three variables:
Sure, there are plenty of examples that showcase how these three variables can combine for an exponential impact at an exponential cost (see this article). Examples like these make it easy for people to come to the conclusion that healthcare innovation must be expensive. However, that assumption is not always the case. Healthcare innovation can be expensive, but oftentimes, with the right people, proper infrastructure and accessible technology, healthcare professionals can achieve broad impact at minimal cost.
To be clear, not all teams, organizations and technologies meet these criteria. The costs of software solutions and hardware are high. Many organizations do not have the infrastructure in place to keep costs down. And then there’s the team — the dependent variable on whether an innovation will find success and at what cost.
So, let’s examine a case that explains the worth of a team’s desire for impact and showcases just how far you can stretch $240.20.
You read that right, two-hundred and forty dollars and twenty cents.
Karen Prenger and Sheila Chucta are clinical nurse specialists at the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital in The Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center. In fall 2017, they found themselves inserted into the middle of the nationwide opioid epidemic, caring for patients with infections related to intravenous drug abuse. The clinical nurse specialists wanted to provide their team of healthcare professionals with tools to limit the possibility of patient overdoses in hospital settings.
Karen and Sheila knew how they wanted to solve the identified problem, but when they contacted suppliers for a tool that would meet their needs, the nurses found that the product didn’t exist. So, they did what nurses have been doing for centuries: They found another tool and modified it.
This is called innovation.
After showcasing the modified tool to their peers for feedback, it was quickly revealed that the altered tool was not good enough. If Karen and Sheila were going to solve this problem, they’d have to make the tool themselves.
So they did.
Leveraging the resources available at their organization, Karen and Sheila reached out to the Innovation Studio at the OSU College of Nursing. The Innovation Studio is a unique, moveable makerspace that travels to different locations across campus to help foster interprofessional collaboration. Besides housing an array of prototyping tools, the Innovation Studio provides daily technical support and funding to help interprofessional teams turn ideas into actions. Using a drawing on a napkin (how cliché), Karen pitched her idea to the Innovation Studio and received funding to help her team get started.
Over the next eight months, Karen met regularly with the Innovation Studio team to refine her idea. She developed a rig to make her product and learned how to run a laser cutter to manufacture different prototypes. When they finally settled on the best design, Karen and Sheila had spent a total of $240.20 in materials. They shared the elegant device with Gary Sharpe, CEO of Health Care Logistics, an international healthcare distribution company. After seeing the simplicity of the product and its potential, Health Care Logistics signed a licensing deal with OSU to manufacture and distribute the product. The ink on the contract dried fewer than 300 days after the nurses first pitched their idea to the Innovation Studio.
As inventors of the technology, Karen and Sheila will split 50 percent of the first $100,000 in royalty payments generated from the sale of their product. After that, they will receive 34 percent of any remaining royalty payments to the university from Health Care Logistics. More important, their technology has the opportunity to be distributed worldwide, saving lives and empowering clinicians.
With the right people, proper infrastructure and an elegant technology, impactful healthcare innovation can be done at a nominal cost.
About the Author
Tim Raderstorf is the Chief Innovation Officer at The Ohio State University College of Nursing. As the first nurse to hold this academic title in the United States, he takes great pride in educating the nation on the role of the nurse as an innovator and entrepreneur. In 2017, he founded The Innovation Studio, a makerspace/incubator that provides interprofessional healthcare teams with the tools and mentorship needed to turn ideas into actions. Outside of Ohio State, Tim is the founder of Quality Health Communications and co-author of Evidence-Based Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Nursing and Healthcare: A Practical Guide for Success.
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