Columbus, OH,
19:42 PM

Alright team, we’re hosting a “Shark Tank!”

Thinking like an innovator doesn’t come naturally to every associate, especially when there is work to be done, patients to be cared for and little time to ponder the “what if” scenarios that can lead to innovative breakthroughs.

But what if associates were afforded a window of time to think about innovating on behalf of OhioHealth? What if they could present their ideas and findings to leaders in a manner similar to the television show “Shark Tank?”

Ashley Cavalieri, manager for OhioHealth learning, wanted to find out.

“I remember thinking how great it would be to give my team a couple of months to design a product or a concept and have them present ideas to a few OhioHealth sharks for a prize,” says Ashley.

With support from leadership, Ashley presented the innovation opportunity to her OhioHealth Learning associates and randomly divided them into three teams.

“I didn’t give them any guidelines on how this should work or what problem they might attempt to solve,” says Ashley. “The only criteria was the ideas should benefit our department or the organization in some way.”

Ashley’s goal wasn’t to extract some grand innovation from her team, but rather show that she was listening and give them an opportunity to fulfill their desire to innovate and develop new solutions.

“It’s one thing to tell them they have the time,” says Ashley. “It’s another to make sure I actually gave them time to work on their ideas.”

For seven weeks, the teams devoted a few hours each week to pursuing and honing their ideas.

“We were given a $200 budget and some time to see what we could do,” says Katie Minser, learning specialist. “It was refreshing to have this opportunity — to create things that we only talk about having or that don’t exist yet.”

Katie’s team pitched a tracking system and database for their simulation devices that would work much like a library’s checkout system — identifying who has requested learning tools, where they are located and detailed maintenance records. Their innovation would solve a workplace efficiency problem.

“We’d no longer have to play Nancy Drew and hunt down our equipment across the system,” says Katie. “The database would give us valuable time back that is currently lost.”

Jonathan Muddle, lead simulation technology specialist, and his team also tapped a productivity challenge with their energy project pitch.

“Our concept is a training program that teaches how to manage your energy,” says Jonathan. “By leveraging data, the energy project takes your best work day and replicates that experience for you to leverage every day.”

The motivation is this: by taking care of yourself, you can take better care of patients and your colleagues. Although energy systems already exist, Jonathan and his team see opportunities to build upon existing concepts for use at OhioHealth.

The third team that included Christtina Davis, LSOT, IHC, lead simulationist, tackled the need to procure lifelike skin to assist learners in practicing suturing techniques.

“Simulated skin is expensive, not realistic and cannot be reused,” says Christtina. Her team purchased and tested a product they thought might work. In addition to its cost savings, they shared how it withstands multiple uses and is more lifelike than the current product.

“We can put makeup on it, simulate bruises and even fuse it to actors or mannequins to enhance real-life medical experiences,” says Christtina.

After presenting to the sharks — who evaluated pitches on innovative thinking, achievable and sustainable ideas, and team enthusiasm for their innovation — all three concepts are successfully moving toward implementation.

“While all the groups presented impressive work, Christtina’s group exceeded our expectations,” says Doug Knutson, MD, system vice president of academic affairs at OhioHealth, who served as a shark on the panel with three other OhioHealth leaders. “It was about the most realistic thing I’ve ever seen.”

The simulated skin won the Shark Tank innovation event and the prize awarded to Christtina’s team was financial support and time to attend a professional conference for their development.

“It was awesome to see their enthusiasm for our ideas,” says Christtina.

Ashley no longer has to ask what if? She learned that by simply affording her team the time, they were able to solve real problems and will get to bring new innovations to their work.

Dr. Knutson believes Ashley proved an important premise that OhioHealth leadership is embracing and encouraging.

“She took it upon herself to think creatively and innovatively,” says Dr. Knutson. “All of us can find ways to do something differently or better. This is further proof that every OhioHealth associate can innovate.”