When it comes to innovating, the whole family takes center stage in pediatrics

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Some innovators, Naomi Fried, PhD, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, says, can end up alone on an island and make something out of just sand and water. But a lot of other innovators could benefit from getting help. In her role as lead of Boston Children’s Innovation Acceleration Program, Fried and her team help established and potential innovators alike connect with that help: navigating vendor/manufacturer contracts, accessing specialists like designers and coders, and raising funding. “You can’t have an innovative organization unless you have a plan and a structure for that.”

At Boston Children’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014, Fried shared some of the lessons she’s learned in the process of creating that structure at Boston Children’s, including:

  • Almost anyone can innovate, including clinical chiefs, doctors, nurses and non-medical staff. There is however, an innovation personality.
  • When it comes to how to innovate, innovators need to focus on creating something light and nimble to test out a concept. If the product doesn’t tackle the problem it’s designed for, you haven’t lost much.
  • Innovations don’t need to be large and disruptive. An electronic smartboard that gathers patient information in real time from multiple EMR systems may not revolutionize care, but it does save time, decrease errors and ultimately improve the patient experience.

Fried wasn’t alone as she explored these topics and the future of innovation in pediatric health across the country and around the world. She was joined by Pamela Simpkins, MBA, strategic leader of operations and decisions support at Janssen Research & Development; Henry Wei, MD, senior medical director of clinical innovation at Aetna; Bill Geary, general partner at Foundation Medical Partners and Dheeraj Batra, MBA, co-founder and vice-president of business development at Arogya Finance.

Among the many points explored, the panelists saw pediatrics as uniquely poised to lead health care innovation because of its whole-family care. From where Wei stands, the process of pediatric care holds many lessons for caring for people at the opposite end of the age spectrum: the elderly.

“In many ways, pediatrics has cracked the code on caregiver support,” he said. “The reverse of pediatric care is happening; a lot of adults are now taking care of their aging parents and in this area, adult hospitals have a lot to learn from pediatric settings.”

Simpkins thinks pediatrics’ focus on whole-family care has huge potential for a completely different aspect of health care: drug development. That’s something she’s in a unique position to understand; she leads strategy for one of the first departments at a pharmaceutical organization dedicated solely to pediatric drug development. Enrolling a child in a clinical study is always a family decision and process, she explains, so it’s surprising that parents and even children aren’t brought in early on the clinical trial design phase. “There are platforms for getting those guys involved that I think will make a really big difference in the future.”

For more about Boston Children’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014, watch this space, visit www.takingontomorrow.org or follow the hashtag #PedInno14 on Twitter.