Research In Action

Research In Action

How CHOP is Taking Innovation to the Next Level in Pediatric Digital Health
December 20, 2018

Digital health care—at the intersection of technology, health and innovation—is experiencing dramatic growth as health care providers increasingly rely on new ways to use technology to benefit patients. However, realizing these benefits for healthcare providers and patients involves more than new technology; it requires an integrated innovation ecosystem that can support smart development and integration of promising solutions – from “bench to bedside.” We need to innovate on how we innovate.

My colleague, Daria Ferro, MD and I recently conducted a presentation entitled, “From Problem to Impact: Toward an Innovation Ecosystem,” as part of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)’s Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics (DBHI) Healthcare Informatics Series about how to bring new ideas to fruition at CHOP.

Dr. Ferro’s work focuses on the pragmatic application of research and improvement theories and principles to deliver value to patients, families, and providers. Innovating in digital healthcare in general is demanding enough because the industry is highly regulated and has many stakeholders. Digital health, including mobile apps, health information technology, wearable devices, and telemedicine, must be continually updated and maintained to keep pace with evolving technology and the needs of patients and providers.

Developing digital solutions aimed at children, teens and their families adds a layer of concerns to keep in mind, however. “Pediatric digital healthcare has some unique challenges,” says Dr. Ferro.

“Let’s say you want to communicate directly to the child, you have to consider the developmental age of the child. You also want to communicate with the parents” she explains. “It’s challenging because you have different users and different information to be presented, although it’s ultimately about one patient.”

In creating an innovation ecosystem at CHOP, we are seeking to streamline the process of developing an idea from discovery to impact on patients. We want individuals with ideas to have access to who we call “innovation champions” who can guide the development process through the twists and turns that the innovation journey can often take.  

“The goal of innovation is to understand a problem or need and how to act on it. It’s never found in just one person. The path is full of failures, pivots and hard work,” says Dr. Ferro. “It’s always a lot harder than it looks.”

Be Willing to Pivot

Here’s an example of how DBHI developers addressed a pressing Emergency Department (ED) issue and pivoted after obtaining feedback from ED providers. Approximately 8,000 children a year visit CHOP’s ED due to asthma difficulties, and one in three of those children are admitted. ED providers rely on electronic health records (EHR) to understand a patient’s asthma history, but the records can be time-consuming to access in order to get the full picture.

To make EHR access more efficient and user-friendly, and thereby streamline the diagnosis and treatment of asthma patients, DBHI developers designed a new visualization app. “As it was being developed, we talked to the end users and realized the design wasn’t working for ED staff, and we needed a different design,” Dr. Ferro notes.

The new design allows providers to retrieve information faster because fewer screens need to be accessed. In fact, the app has been such a hit, says Dr. Ferro,  that ED providers began using it in ways we hadn’t anticipated. Instead of using the app only among themselves, ED staff are showing it to patients’ families to help them better understand the situation.

Innovation is one of the pillars of CHOP’s long-term strategy. To achieve impact from our innovation, we need to navigate the space that exists between recognizing that an opportunity exists and the ability to deliver it at scale. Bringing our innovative solutions to our patients and providers cannot be done alone—networks, partnerships, and individual connections are vital to making innovation happen.