At Children’s Mercy Hospital (CMH), Kansas City, innovation isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a lifesaver. Krista Nelson, Director of Innovation Development, reveals how they’re harnessing an innovative culture within pediatrics

AIM: What are your responsibilities as the Director of Innovation Development?

Krista Nelson: My main responsibility is to lead the development, growth and strategy of Children’s Mercyhospital’s Center for Pediatric Innovation and serve as the convener for innovation throughout the organization. My expertiselies in product and technology development. I was an innovation leader at Hallmark Cards before assuming this role four and a half years ago. When someone comes to me with a new idea, I guide them through the front end of innovation using human-centered design methodologies to then determine how the ideas align with our strategic goals as a hospital.

At CMH, we want to harness the innovative culture within pediatrics. For example, many tools, devices and therapeutics, are not always right- sized for children. So, there’s a lot
of creativity we already exercise to change the way things work. The goal is to take this creativity and determine the needs and desirability; partner with clinical, operational and research experts to validate feasibility; and finally determine the right value stream to get the solution on a path to viability in the market, all to reach more patients and families.

AIM: Without formal medical training, is it challenging to introduce innovation within a hospital?

KN: Regardless of the industry, innovation as a practice is very transferable. The benefits of innovating in a hospital are thatthe needs that are clinically, or patient and family-driven are readily accessible and there are existing processes to help with validating these needs. We are able toleverage complementary skillsets from researchers, human factors, clinicians, and patients and families to then validate our solutions in a similar manner. With innovation methodologies, we rely on our clinical and research partners to bring the medical expertise. We can ask key questions, bring in our product development and commercialization knowledge, to help determine thefull value chain that is needed to deliver new product and technology solutions.

AIM: What are some of the key considerations when you want to bring something new into the medical space?

KN: When a new product, service or technology is being developed, we want to identify early on how we get it into the clinical flow and how it’s differentiated over the existing options in the market. Ensuring something new can enhance the experience and be considered worth a change to existing product alternatives are keys to success.

The other high priority is clinically/ scientifically validating solutions through our IRB (Institutional Review Board) studies. We want to make sure we have the right protocols in place; we are ethically testing and iterating based on what is truly critical, and solving the problems identified with outcome measures.

AIM: In your opinion, do you see innovation and technology as separate or integrated entities?

KN: I think technology is an enabler for innovations to come to life. Our goal is always to discover the needs of patients, families, and healthcare professionals and provide the best outcomes. Once we validate the needs, we then determine what a solution needs to do, what it is, and what it is not. When a solution requires technology as the enabler, we work to build it as a platform to support not only one need, but the potential for multiple needs.

AIM: Which of the projects you’ve been involved in stands out?

KN: I think the ongoing development of MyCare Tracker will be the one. Over the past few years, I kept hearing needs around, ‘How do we better engage our patients, especially pre-teen and teen patients in managing their care plan, and ultimately getting patient- generated data to help us better plan for their ongoing care?’ Often, teens come in and physicians ask them ‘How are you feeling?’ Only to get the reply, ‘I’m fine’.

We are not always getting their full stories and actual trends of symptoms from such conversations. We need this data to determine if our care plan and medications are working as intended. Our needs discovery with teens and parents found we need to increase the communication between physicians, patients, and their families between and at appointments and motivate and empower teens to manage their health which will drive to better outcomes.

We know there are many health, medication and symptom trackers available in the app market but they didn’t meet these needs, especially for teens, so we decided to create our own. We began by listening to our parent-family advisory council, teen advisory board, and clinicians who helped us define key functions and problems to solve. We continue to meet with them to test and iterate our solution. We are currently preparing for two clinical studies with our target audience slated to start this fall.

AIM: With a prevailing air of increased skepticism, how do you make people trust innovations or a novel idea?

KN: What helps innovations be trusted and adopted is that they must inherently be rooted in a need and add differentiated value to the end user. For example, MyCare Tracker targets pre- teens and teens, so we prioritize understanding their needs, engaging them early in validating our assumptions and iterating the solution to ensure its viability.

We can also leverage technology and advancements from other industries, that our families are already familiar with and frankly expect, and integrate them into the medical space for easier adoption.