Children’s Innovation Day

At the heart of innovation are ideas. Ideas for something new and different. While there’s no shortage of ideas in the medical world, innovation doesn’t come so easily.

Children’s Hospital Boston’s first ever Innovation Day showcased the hospitals’ work to accelerate innovation by supporting innovators’ novel ideas. The featured innovators, which included chief officers, physicians and nurses at Children’s, shared their personal and professional motivation behind their ideas, the challenges they’ve faced along the way and hoped for outcomes. While the speakers’ ideas varied in complexity and development, they embodied Children’s commitment to advancing healthcare innovation.

‘Change is essential, and we need to invest,’ Dr. Pedro Del Nido, Chief of Cardiac Surgery and a longtime leader in innovation at CHB, said in his opening remarks. A featured speaker and moderator of the ‘Healthcare Device Innovation’ session, Del Nido attributed Children’s interest in supporting innovation to the inventors of new and novel ideas.

‘There are many challenges along the way but it’s rewarding to know that you’re doing something that no one else knows how or can do,’ Del Nido said.

To aid ‘inventors’ in the development of their ideas, Children’s assists with funding, testing and getting approval from regulators.  Two of the speakers—Dr. Hiep Nguyen, a man of many titles including pediatric urologist, surgeon and director of the Robotic Surgery Research and Training Center, and Dr. John Kheir, chief fellow in Critical Care Medicine, shared the inspiration behind their projects, and Children’s help in the overall development.

Nguyen, who is recognized as a serial innovator at Children’s, gave a talk on ‘Human Inspired Technology: an Implantable Kidney Dialysis Unit.’ From the spark of an idea and initial sketch on a tablecloth, Nguyen worked with Children’s to develop an implantable dialysis unit that offered the benefits of hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, while also avoiding the disadvantages of scarring and infection. Inspired by a friend and colleague undergoing dialysis, Nguyen is passionate in developing a technology that will improve the effectiveness of dialysis, and in turn, quality of life for patients.

‘You may have a lot of ideas but few things that you’re passionate about,’ Nguyen said. ‘Passion is the driving force. You have to go after the ones that mean the most to you.’

Like Nguyen, Kheir also shared the motivation behind his development in his talk, ‘When a Patient Needs Air: Injectable Microbubbles that Release Oxygen into the Blood.’ Focused on improving outcomes of patients who undergo cardiac arrest, Kheir developed a technology that packages oxygen in microbubbles for direct delivery via injection to blood and tissue. The technology can be used to treat patients who have undergone cardiac arrest by delivering oxygen to the heart issue quickly and directly. Developed to improve outcomes and ultimately save lives, Kheir is hopeful this technology will be deployed in every ambulance, operating room and emergency room. Children’s, he said, is helping make this a reality.

‘The most important thing is to believe in your idea,’ Kheir said. ‘The degree to which you believe is transmitted to others.’

With the help of Children’s, Kheir feels confident that his technology and other ideas can make a real impact on healthcare. Thanks to Children’s, the featured speakers at Children’s Innovation Day, all have ideas in development. Change has only just begun.


‘Innovate or Fail’

The role of innovation was the theme at the Harvard Business School’s 9th Annual Healthcare Conference. In the introductory keynote and subsequent panel discussions, the need for innovation in today’s healthcare industry was made clear.

Among the practitioners, healthcare organizations and consumers present, innovation was agreed to be the ultimate challenge at hand, and essential to the success of healthcare reform. Speakers offered different perspectives on the purpose of innovation and their approach to finding ways to innovate to avoid becoming artifacts of the old healthcare system.

Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plan (AHIP) delivered the opening keynote, ‘Health Care Innovation in the Context of Rising Health Care Costs.’ As the voice of health insurance plans, Ignagni has a wealth of knowledge and passion for health policy.  In regard to innovation, Ignangi sees innovation as the tool for creating value. Through new payment models and the adoption of new technologies for care delivery, Ignagni sees an opportunity for collaboration and innovation. Innovation, she said, benefits both the public and private sector by enabling more efficient and effective care, which at the end of the day, creates value.

Katie Szyman, Senior Vice President and President of Medtronic’s Diabetes business, oversees research, development, sales and marketing for Medtronic’s insulin infusion pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems. In the ‘Devices/Diagnostics: Enabling New Treatment Paradigms’ panel discussion, Szyman was one of three panelists that addressed how new markets and applications for devices and diagnostics are helping patients assess their health and take preventative action early to help improve health outcomes and control healthcare costs.

According to Katie, value is linked to the support of innovation. Through the use of new technologies, value is attributed from increased patient satisfaction and improved health outcomes. When asked about the FDA’s influence on the use of new and innovative devices, Katie acknowledged that FDA regulations have indeed slowed down development and caused shrinkage in investments in new technologies, resulting in the rise in medical tourism and or ‘inverse innovation.’ Despite the negative outlook, Katie foresees more collaboration between the CMS and FDA that she hopes will improve the review process and support of new medical products.

Innovation was also addressed at the ‘Healthcare IT: A Blueprint for the Data Revolution,’ a panel focused on the revolution in the quality and accessibility of data, and its potential to transform healthcare. When properly deployed, IT was said to be the true leader in innovation, spawning new business models and industries. Robert Cosinuke, Chief Marketing Officer of Athena Health; Graham Gardner, CEO and Co-Founder of Kyruus; and Steven Wardell, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development of Activate Networks  shared their insights on new IT developments that are improving collaboration and communications between patients and providers. The shared opinion among the panelists was that the key to value creation is through the support of health IT technologies.

Other discussions at the conference featured payors/providers, biotech/pharma, entrepreneurship/venture capital, and private-public partnerships. With leaders from some of today’s largest and most innovative healthcare organizations, the conversations were informative and tied to health reform. The pressure to innovate or fail was felt. This year, next year, and in the years to come, the focus on innovation to create value will persist.