Duo collaborates on patient communication app with help from new Aikens Innovation Academy
Being a patient in the hospital is already difficult. Imagine trying to communicate with clinical staff when there is a language barrier or you’re on a ventilator. An already challenging scenario can become even more traumatic.
Just ask Mark Burson, a recent patient in the Frankel Cardiovascular Center (FCVC) Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) who experienced frustration with not being able to communicate effectively to the care team during his stay.
“He said there were days when he got poked for blood and he wanted to tell the care team, ‘enough is enough,’” said Lori Lacyznski, clinical nursing director for the Cardiovascular Center and Mark’s nurse.
To assist in combatting this communication problem, Burson and Laczynski came together to explore a specialized computer touch pad app that can be used by patients when they aren’t able to communicate well in the clinical setting. And to help further develop the concept, they’re both participating in the new Aikens Innovation Academy, an innovation partnership between the FCVC and the U-M Medical School’s Fast Forward Medical Innovation (FFMI) program, for FCVC faculty, staff and trainees. It is specifically designed to create, nurture and support a bustling culture of innovation and entrepreneurship through education and mentorship.
“One of the unique aspects of the Aikens Innovation Academy is the notion that anybody at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center might see an idea for improvement or better patient care and learn how to make it a reality,” said Kim Eagle, M.D., FACC, director of the Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center and Albion Walter Hewlett Professor of Internal Medicine. “It is an effort to harness the innovative and entrepreneurial capabilities and ideas of our entire workforce and the patients and families we serve.”
The exclusive 11-week program offers an in-depth education on innovation, including communicating value to stakeholders and how to pitch your idea for resources; an opportunity to develop innovative biomedical technologies; guidance on implementing strategy and business case; and mentorship from seasoned innovators.
Before joining the Aikens Innovation Academy this spring, Burson and Laczynski participated in a patient-centered Design Thinking Workshop offered by FFMI. The workshop was led by Joyce Lee, M.D., M.P.H., Robert P. Kelch Research Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, and an FFMI faculty champion. Brainstorming with Shelly Green, a nurse tech in the CVICU, they identified that communicating Mark’s needs to his care team and loved ones was an issue. One of the ideas that they came up with in the workshop was the communication app.
“The Design Thinking Workshop brought patients and family members together with care providers, including physicians and nurses, to explore a problem and solution with the patient’s perspective at the center,” said Meghan Cuddihy, FFMI Commercialization Education project manager. “Lori and Mark were so excited about their solution that they are continuing to evolve their idea together in the Aikens Innovation Academy course. It is rare to see solutions developed with multiple perspectives from such an early stage.”
The new communication app would show a menu of different screens a user can tap to communicate their needs. This could include a diagram of the body with different areas of concern (e.g. head, lungs, legs, etc.); a picture of the patient room with the bed, monitor equipment, bathroom, thermostat control on the wall, light and more features; or a personal needs screen that provides a way to contact relatives including place of work, access status, etc.
“It would drill down to what [the patients] want,” Burson said.
For example, if a patient wanted to see their spouse, they could touch the “Visitors” picture and the options might include “Call My Family” or “Where is My Wife/Husband?” Or, if the patient is hot or cold, they could touch the “Thermostat” picture and the options would include “It’s Too Hot In Here” or “I’m Cold,” etc.
Additionally, Burson noted that the app could be something that the patient’s family could access to see what the patient is requesting, and they could even use it to communicate with the care team while they’re away.
Having the Aikens Innovation Academy to guide the team on a successful path to commercialization helps give the team and their idea that extra boost.
“The nurses and caregivers have the technical knowledge of the job requirements for their position and I am able to offer insight into the patient perspective of the care received through firsthand experience,” Burson said. “I believe that’s a perfect match for what this program is trying to accomplish.”
This combination of proven clinical expertise and experienced patient perspective helps provide a well-rounded app that can have a significant impact in effective communication between patients and clinical staff.
“The Aikens Innovation Academy teaches enrollees about key innovation principles and helps them map out a path to execution,” said Eagle. “It provides a formal structure so that individuals and teams interested in innovation and entrepreneurship can participate in workshops and team-based learning to move ideas from concept to reality.”
After completing the course, innovators can continue this path and also take advantage of other resources like the FFMI fastPACE course for further mentorship on value proposition and communicating with stakeholders, and the FCVC Innovation Challenge for a chance at funding.
“If we could create a communication tool for patients and families that would ultimately improve their experience, that would be satisfying for [me and Mark],” Laczynski said. “And the Aikens Innovation Academy course is giving us that opportunity.”
For more information about the Aikens Innovation Academy, click here.