Atlantic Health finds innovative solutions among its staff

Atlantic Health System has recently joined other health systems focused on internal innovation.

Similar to millennials-by-millennials programs, the hospitals are increasingly working on technology to make tasks and the operation of the hospitals more efficient by looking to the source — health professionals — for inspiration.

It’s a significant investment for some, but worth it, officials have said, rather than waiting on the market to take care of the problems or inefficiencies.

Atlantic Health’s incubator — dubbed AHa! for Atlantic Health Advancements — already has produced its first invention, a box that looks like a pill dispenser to help reduce insulin waste in the pharmacy.

“It’s the day-to-day patient interactions that allow physicians to identify challenges that lead to innovative solutions,” said Dr. Harvey Gerhard, member of the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

“AHa! will provide physicians and health care providers with the resources to develop ideas into solutions that can influence and change patient care delivery. AHa! offers a start-to-finish innovation process that could ultimately end with a commercialized product that changes the way medicine is practiced.”

The ISSI Box, created by two pharmacists, a pharmacy tech and a nurse at Overlook Medical Center, clearly labels four types of insulin, which helps for smoother transitions between shifts that will avoid wasting open vials.

Three months of use already have showed a cost savings of more than $25,000 at one hospital, which could mean six-digit savings annually.

“Atlantic Health System is keenly aware of the rapidly changing health care landscape, and need to act quickly to find and implement solutions that, quite simply, will make it easier to deliver better patient care,” Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer Joe Wilkins said.

“The people who understand this best are those who are on the front lines of care each day and night —our physicians, nurses and employees — and the ISSI Box is a perfect example of that. AHa! is a formalized way to collect their ideas, test them and further hone them into tangible solutions to improve practice and outcomes.”

But Atlantic Health has taken a different approach to the internal incubator and innovation center than others.

This year alone, Hackensack Meridian Health launched a “Shark Tank”-like process, as well as partnered with New Jersey Innovation Institute on an incubator. This focuses on investing in the best ideas, or developing ones that aren’t quite ready yet and make them investment-ready.

Inspira Health Network also has launched its own internal innovation center. It hasn’t specified a competitive process, but it does focus on partnerships that can help develop the ideas its health professionals have.

Atlantic Health’s AHa! combines both strategies. A diverse panel of experts from the system, universities, government labs and private enterprises will evaluate each idea to determine further development opportunities.

In all cases, the proceeds of these inventions are what the hospitals have found as a new non-medical revenue stream.

Atlantic Health will share a portion of the net proceeds from intellectual property that is commercialized, sold, assigned or licensed to third parties with the individuals who created the product.

The ISSI box, which has formally launched, will be featured at a December conference in Orlando, Florida.

“Atlantic Health System has always encouraged and enthusiastically supported its physicians to share their ideas about how to improve care delivery,” Dr. Eric Whitman, medical director of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, said.

“Through AHa!, ideas are not only encouraged, but critically assessed, developed and financially supported — ultimately fostering a culture of creativity and improved patient care. I have been fortunate enough to have my ideas become a reality through Atlantic Health System and AHa!.”

Wilkins said spreading the knowledge is key.

“We will soon be able to share the best practices and technology developed by Atlantic Health System employees and physicians with other health care facilities to help them improve patient care and affordability,” he said.