COVID-19 Pandemic Brings Fast-Track Innovation to Forefront

By Joe Randolph, President & CEO, The Innovation Institute

Overnight, our national organization, The Innovation Institute and our family of companies have shifted and adapted to the new environment with COVID-19.  The Innovation Institute was launched in January 2013 with the strategic intent of focusing on innovation and growth. Today we are owned by five non-profit health systems from across the country.  Now is our time to rise to the occasion to find solutions that help protect the lives of caregivers and patients. 

We’ve seen strategic innovation catapult to the forefront, no longer in the shadows, and we’ve doubled down to expedite projects that can directly impact and improve the health crisis we are in today. We’ve quickly established a keen focus on the challenges we are facing with the knowledge that it will take some time before things are back to normal. We also recognize that what we call “normal” may look different in the future.

New Products

We have hit the ground running with two products that will reach market soon:

  • Baywin Closed Circuit Valve

The Baywin closed circuit valve is a closed-circuit ventilator valve for use with mechanically ventilated patients.  The current valves used today require that the circuit be opened for common procedures and transport, which can expose caregivers and nearby patients to the COVID 19 virus and other pathogens.  The Baywin closed circuit valve that we developed in collaboration with a respiratory therapist and clinician is designed to provide greater protection by maintaining a closed circuit to limit release of infectious particles, thereby better protecting caregivers at a time when PPE’s are in short supply or compromised from reuse.  The Baywin valve is also designed to reduce risk of VAP for patients on ventilators, which currently affects about 25-30% of ventilated patients and can cost a hospital significant dollars.

We have strong patent protection on the valve in the US and abroad. We will be filling orders from five health systems this month.  We are currently looking for partners to help scale this product worldwide.

  • Clothing Sterilization Device: 

Many caregivers are concerned about bringing the virus or other microbes home on their clothing or shoes and potentially infecting family members or loved ones.  Innovation Lab is working on a prototype device that will have the ability to sterilize clothing by killing viruses or other dangerous pathogens on the spot.  This product is still in the early stages of development, but could provide much-needed piece of mind to caregivers and their families at home.

Product Sourcing for Health Systems

Product Sourcing for Health Systems

We are so proud of how our portfolio of companies are stepping up where they can as our member owner health systems address this high-alert pandemic with courage and professionalism.  Many of our portfolio companies and Innovation Lab have been helping with sourcing of critically needed patient protection equipment (PPE’s) such as face masks, face shields, beds, and ventilators.  One of our portfolio companies Tech Knowledge Associates (TKA- a clinical engineering company) is actually making masks using 3D printing to supply caregivers.  Everyone is trying to contribute however they can.

Telehealth Solutions

Many health systems have looked to telehealth as a way to meet patient needs during this pandemic.  The Federal Government has eased restrictions on physicians practicing across State lines making telehealth more practical. One of our affiliated health systems Avera, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has been leading the way in telehealth even before the COVID-19 crisis as way to reach rural communities that often don’t have access to providers.  Telehealth now makes sense to everyone across the country, and not just in rural areas. Meanwhile, health systems across the country are now treating thousands of patients per day using telehealth.

Mining Ideas from the Frontline Workers

Bon Secours Mercy Health in Cincinnati is taking advantage of our scalable software platform to have employees bring forth solutions specific to the COVID-19 crisis.  Those on the frontlines are the ones with ideas to solve the problems.  Often times, a burning platform will ignite ingenuity and innovation.  We are certain that this effort will result in many new products, processes, and solutions that can be brought to market and shared with others.

Solutions for Burnout and Stress

Another work stream in the Innovation Lab is focused on caregiver burnout and stress.  Two of our portfolio companies (Futuresense and InHealth Strategies) have joined forces to work on this critical issue. This crisis has given us the opportunity to create new processes and innovations that will better prepare us going forward. Clinicians are speaking out and we are learning more about what works and what does not. Some clinicians have even stepped in to design makeshift solutions.  One key area of interest is how to help clinicians manage moral distress. As they cope with the shock and stress of losing a patient, they must console the patient’s family. Then they need to take care of themselves and comfort their families at home. This can take a significant toll, and we want to help them during such a difficult time. When we protect our clinicians both physically and mentally, we give them the confidence they need to carry out patient care.

Concluding Remarks

In the near future, we will find that our patients will also demand health care improvements to make their experiences better. Innovation will be at the forefront as we accelerate our efforts to meet their needs for the next crisis, and there will surely be another as we’ve seen throughout history.

As we’ve always done, we will continue to work with those who have ideas that can help make medical care more efficient, friendly and affordable, while we do more, with less, for more people.

If you have an idea, please visit our website to share it with us today! We’ll do our best to expedite those focused on fighting this coronavirus.