Innovation should come from within, according to Atlantic Health System.
The Morristown-based care provider introduced the first product from its Atlantic Health Advancements (AHa!) program, an internal idea incubator that encourages its 16,000 employees to develop new ideas and products that improve and lower the cost of healthcare.
Aha!’s initial product, fittingly launched at the start of November, which is Diabetes Awareness Month, is the Insulin Safety Secure Initiative (ISSI) Box. This is a storage system for excess insulin and helps separate the various types of insulin to avoid confusion and waste. The new product, similar in appearance to a pill box, was developed by a pharmacist and a nurse at Atlantic Health’s Overlook Medical Center in Union County.
The idea for the ISSI Box came about because the inventors realized that they were accidentally wasting insulin for diabetes patients because there wasn’t a clear process for labeling and storing excess insulin between shifts, resulting in the need to continually open new insulin vials.
A three-month study that was supported and funded by Atlantic Health, found that the new product could save the hospital $100,000 per year. The box will be launched and available through Health Care Logistics, Inc. in the coming months, and featured at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Clinical Meeting and Exhibition in Orlando next month.
The ISSI Box is just the beginning, said Joe Wilkins, Atlantic Health’s chief transformation officer.
“We have over 16,000 employees and 3,700 physicians that want to be more engaged and creative and be a party to finding solutions,” he told NJBIZ. “So with the AHa! Program, we help facilitate that. The ideas are coming from the physicians who see patients every day, and nurses that care for patients every day.”
Dr. Eric Whitman, medical director of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, told NJBIZ in an email that the next products that will come out of the AHa! Program is an intraoperative nerve mapping device for multiple types surgical procedures and a new type of surgical retractor.
“I believe that AHa! will ultimately improve the efficiency of healthcare by encouraging and fostering the innovative creativity of our physicians and other medical staff,” Whitman said.
Atlantic said the program will give its employees access to best-in-class engineering and prototyping support, and will integrate four independent innovation management processes—recording and evolving ideas, training and supplying idea generators with the tools needed to convert ideas into products, use of innovation-on-demand methodologies, and education on needs and demand—into one streamlined system.
Atlantic Health has also created a panel of experts from Atlantic Health System, universities, government lab and private enterprises who will evaluate each product idea for further development.
Wilkins said that initially, Atlantic Health and the successful inventors will split any royalties resulting from the new products, while Atlantic Health will own the intellectual property rights. Atlantic Health will use its share to continue its mission of building healthy communities, he said.
“We have an intellectual property policy established today, so we now have the ability and infrastructure to protect the intellectual property rights of the inventor, as well as the organization that supports the inventor,” said Wilkins.
He said Atlantic Health will determine in the coming months how much capital it will invest in the program, and the split in royalties between the healthcare group and inventors will be more clearly determined as the program develops.
“There are going to be rewards and incentives for everyone that’s engaged in this work,” stated Wilkins, but it will take time to work through the details.
Employees from all of Atlantic Health’s 350 sites of care and six hospitals will able to participate in idea and product generation.
“The incubation lab is pretty much virtual,” said Wilkins. “We do have a ton of different facilities, so this all will happen within the day to day work of our team members. We have a website that we can capture all of the ideas and proceed with the innovation process. The excitement among our employees is well beyond our expectations.”
Atlantic Health System is one of the largest integrated healthcare providers in New Jersey. In August, its CEO, Brian Gragnolati was appointed to take over as chairman of the American Hospital Association in 2019.