Page first published: 10/10/19
Page last updated: 07/01/21
Frontline and support staff tend to be underrepresented as innovators within a healthcare organization, with most outreach efforts targeting physicians and researchers. In fact, a review of our MedStar Health invention portfolio revealed a lack of invention disclosures from nursing and other frontline support staff.
MedStar Inventor Services, which assists MedStar Health associates in evaluating and potentially commercializing their ideas, shadowed nurses working and found that they are constantly innovating on the fly. Many times, these just-in-time innovations are considered to be “workarounds” which are generally discouraged due to concerns about safety and standard practice. However, many of these ideas are value-added solutions.
MedStar Inventor Services developed a program to recognize the innovation potential of frontline staff, consistent with safety and standard practices. The MInnovations program was created to:
capture the small everyday innovations of MedStar Health associates that help them do their jobs better and more efficiently
harness the intellectual capital and celebrate the innovative spirit of MedStar Health associates
scale the use of an innovative idea from one to many
increase the number of inventions within the MedStar Health system that may have commercial potential
A MInnovation is an innovative, practical solution created by a MedStar Health associate, which is already in use, can be easily used by other MedStar Health associates, and conforms to current safety guidelines and clinical practices. For example, members of the MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center Behavioral Health team discovered that paintball arm guards offered improved protection and better mobility while working with agitated patients than armguards designed for healthcare settings. This discovery was later designated as a MInnovation and shared with other teams.
When nurses and other frontline staff identify that a solution they have created meets the MInnovations criteria, they can submit their solution to the program. Each submission is evaluated by an assessment team of frontline nurses, nurse educators, quality and safety personnel, and MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare staff. MInnovations are assessed for safety and conformity to standard practices, and related feedback or adjustments are communicated with the associate who submitted. Approved MInnovations are then disseminated through the MInnovations online marketplace for other associates to learn about or adopt if appropriate to their work.
The MInnovations program was started at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, an American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet-recognized hospital. So far, more than 25 MInnovations have been formally submitted and assessed, with 22 granted approval and more in the pipeline.
Multiple MInnovations have been assessed for their commercial potential. One is the subject of a patent application and won the Cool Idea Award, sponsored by the now concluded Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Innovations Alliance (of which MedStar Health was a member) and Protolabs (a medium scale manufacturing company). Click here to read Protolabs’ press release. The MInnovations program was also included in MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center’s Magnet recertification application as part of the organization’s road map to nursing excellence. MedStar Inventor Services plans to expand the program at additional MedStar Health facilities.
Anecdotally, the MInnovations program has successfully contributed to MedStar Health’s efforts to retain nurses and boost satisfaction, especially for those with two to four years experience. Participating nurses have expressed pride in being recognized as an innovator and in improving patient care within their team and beyond.
July 2021 Update
The MInnovations program has been paused during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for the high-quality, innovative care our MedStar Health nurses and other frontline staff deliver to the patients we serve—especially as they have continually and remarkably risen to the historic new challenges the crisis has presented.
HealthcareNOW Radio, “The Incrementalist: Marck-Arthur Clerveau on Innovation and Entrepreneurship”
MedStar Institute for Innovation News Feed, “MedStar Health Receives Cool Idea Award From Protolabs for NICU Feeding Device Invented by MedStar Franklin Square Nurse with MedStar Inventor Services”
Vizient, “Nurses Leading Innovation”
Note: Advance to 23:23 in this webinar, hosted by a nursing performance improvement company, to hear MedStar Inventor Services Director Steve Kinsey join other leaders in discussing the MInnovations program.