When Regional One Health launched the Center for Innovation in 2016, the focus was on applying disruptive thinking to health care to create a new care model. The Center for Innovation embraces unconventional ideas and provides space for Regional One Health and its partners to come up with ideas that could challenge how health care is delivered and improve the patient experience, both priorities of the health system.

Often the best people to come up with those ideas are the employees entrenched in that work, whether it’s Labor and Delivery, Trauma or Environmental Services. That’s why Regional One Health is holding its second annual employee idea competition, internally referred to as their “Shark Tank,” to spur a new season of idea generation.

Scott Vogel, Executive Director, Center for Innovation

“We want to help people understand it’s OK to challenge the status quo. Yes, you need to follow processes but there is a safe zone to submit new ideas,” said Scott Vogel, Center for Innovation executive director. “We want to engage and empower employees to feel like they are part of the process. If they feel they have ownership then the level of care really grows exponentially. I want them to use innovation as a place to not be perfect. We’re having this competition to figure out good ideas, but at the end of the day there still has to be research to understand how well we can execute on those ideas.”

Employees submitted nearly 50 ideas during last year’s inaugural competition. The winning idea sought a way to address patients taking HIV medications who deal with short-term memory loss as a side effect. Those patients sometimes forget when and what medications to take. The idea was a simple folding card with panels showing the medications that were listed under what times during the day they needed to be taken.

Innovation often is thought of as something that addresses a problem or need through technology. But in health care those innovative ideas also are simple solutions for what are complex problems in a clinical setting.

“Innovation doesn’t have to be the next Facebook,” Vogel said. “It can be a simple idea that makes a patient experience better.”

Last year’s competition finalists

Vogel plans to hold short seminars for staff in the coming weeks to discuss innovation basics while also making everyone feel comfortable with submitting ideas. He said he hopes Regional One Health staff will view the competition as an opportunity to take chances with new ideas that they don’t do in their everyday life-saving work.

“We want everyone to know they can come into a space and feel their idea is safe. We don’t want them to experiment on patients. But they’re the ones in the trenches and know what can make a difference,” Vogel said.

Part of the goal of the employee competition is to engage Regional One Health staff in a way that gives them ownership of the possibilities that exist with the Center for Innovation. A basic concept from one employee could lead to something that creates new efficiencies in health care when others contribute to that original idea.

The long-term goal beyond the competition is that this six-week period kicks off a grander year of innovation at Regional One Health, with the winning ideas being taken from concept to practical application. But that’s just the beginning of encouraging innovative thinking across the Regional One Health system.

Our second annual employee idea competition kicks off this week and runs through June 30. All Regional One Health employees are encouraged to submit ideas on the idea submission form at Innovation.RegionalOneHealth.org.