How Children's Hospital Los Angeles' Staff Is Creating Change Through Innovations

Omkar Kulkarni, Chief Innovation Officer, Children's Hospital Los Angeles
NOVEMBER 29, 2019
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Photo/Thumb have been modified. Courtesy of sdecoret - stock.adobe.com.

Editor’s note: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is a Strategic Alliance Partner of Inside Digital Health™.

Hospitals and the people who work in them are inherently innovative. At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we creatively solve problems using the limited resources we have. This is a trait we share with our fellow safety net hospitals and our special charge for caring for patients and families living with challenging individual circumstances.

Our families have a range of needs — clinical, social and emotional — and they all need to be simultaneously addressed in a short period of time. Our complex physical and virtual infrastructure has needs to ensure that we can be efficient and effective in our work, around the clock. Our colleagues have needs, for human caring is a tough yet rewarding profession — one that can lead to both happiness and fulfillment, exhaustion and burnout. We are surrounded by opportunities to make our environment better and we are hungry to creatively solve the problems before us.

What I have observed is that the greatest ideas come from every corner of our hospital ecosystem. Our nurses, pharmacists, therapists, technicians, physicians, administrators and support staff are inspired by our patients and eager to solve the problems they see every day. 

Our innovation landscape at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is complex. We have some of the best care providers and researchers on the planet. As an organization with an academic focus, our culture is synonymous with discovery and innovation. As a safety net hospital, we passionately work towards creating hope and building healthier futures for all of the children in our community. As a complex organization delivering pediatric healthcare in the second largest city in the country, we regularly see opportunities to improve the way we deliver care for our patients and families. Yet it’s a challenge to turn these opportunities into ideas, and to then enable our innovators to turn those ideas into reality.

In 2019, we embarked on a new pathway to create an infrastructure to make this process easier. We created a forum to allow our staff to voice their ideas and develop solutions bolstered by human-centered design principles to meet user and business needs. We called our competition the Better Faster Cheaper Innovation Challenge. We asked our staff to submit ideas that would make Children’s Hospital Los Angeles better (better quality, better experience), faster (quicker access, shorter wait times) and cheaper (more cost-effective solutions for patients, families and staff).

We were blown away by the response. We had more than 100 submissions from frontline staff, providers, administrators, support staff and leadership. The ideas ranged from incremental improvements within local units to transformative changes in the care delivery of the entire hospital. Many solutions were tech-enabled while others were purely process optimizations. Regardless of who submitted them or the proposed size and scope of the impact, every idea offered was innovative in nature.

Through a robust evaluation process, which included private and public presentations and screenings, we selected four ideas based on desirability, viability and feasibility. They included:
  • Determining how we can deliver medications to patients using autonomous robots
  • Creating a dynamic visualization tool for nurse staffing in the emergency department
  • Building micro-learning tools for clinicians to use on their mobile devices
  • Using virtual reality to create interactive simulation training to prepare staff for a potential active shooter
Although the impact of these innovative digital solutions will be significant over time, the true win is the process we established to enable and empower our teams to share their ideas in a constructive manner. In doing so, we have created the environment that makes it more likely for the next breakthrough innovations to be surfaced, built and implemented at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in the months, years and decades to come.

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