Hospital program encourages innovation from staff

The invention is simple but effective: a box with strategically placed slots so a nurse can access different insulin medications with a needle without ever opening it.

The inventors were right under the hospitals nose — two pharmacists, a pharmacy tech and a nurse — just trying to find a solution to a problem they faced every day, insulin vials constantly being re-ordered.

“I see it everywhere. Big, big problem,” said pharmacist Jeff Isibor. “[We were seeing] a lot of waste, a lot of requests for the same drug. You know you sent it two hours ago, and you’re sending it again.”

In 2013, the ISSI box idea was born after a team from the pharmacy was sent to look for high risk medication around the hospital in preparation for a joint commission survey. They searched for three days.

“Each day they kept coming back with more and more insulin. At the end of three days we had 186 vials of insulin that were just scattered. And the nurses admitted to it, that the insulin ended up in people’s pockets, it ends up on a cart, it just disappears and so they order another one,” said Heather Gucwa, pharmacy manager at Overlook Medical Center.

It wasn’t just a problem here – data from 2009 shows that $130 billion was wasted in the United States because of similar inefficiently delivered services.

Gucwa and Isibor say they wanted to be part of a solution to find a way to make it harder to misplace these small insulin bottles and in turn decrease waste.

“Someone said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could attach it to a block of wood like you do with a key when you go to the bathroom at a gas station?’ And that’s how it all came about,” Gucwa said.

The hospital found in a three month evaluation that the ISSI box generated a saving of $25,000.

It’s the first invention in an Atlantic Health System innovation initiative known as AHA, or Atlantic Health Advancements. Atlantic Health’s President and CEO Brian Gragnolati says think “Shark Tank” only with AHA staff can pitch their ideas online and get resources like engineering and financial analysis.

“It helps our staff develop those ideas. It helps us bring them to market to commercialize them, and then our staff gets to participate financially in some of the gains if these take hold,” Gragnolati said.

With a staff of over 16,000 employees in the organization and 3,700 physicians, you never know who may come up with the next big thing.

“It creates just a positive spirit in the organization that staff voices are really heard and they’re supported, and consequently we can provide better care,” said Gragnolati.

Nurse Liz Giordano and she told us she’s constantly brainstorming ideas with fellow nurses.

“We always say we will come up with something one day,” Giordano said.

Every time she uses the ISSI box, it can serve as motivation that an idea can turn into an invention.

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