Health Innovation Lab: Accelerating Innovation on Frontlines of COVID Pandemic

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As COVID-19 continues to grow in our communities, hospitals are facing a severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).  Nurses are on the front lines of caring for patients and cannot provide their best care without PPE.  Facing this severe shortage, many Duke health care practitioners have come up with ideas to help continue safe care to patients.  Enter the Health Innovation Lab.  The Lab has become an accelerator for people to conceptualize, prototype and test ideas and products.  It’s a safe space for inventors to create and recreate ideas.  In this time, that means that an idea can go from concept to production in a matter of days.

Dr. Ryan Shaw in Health Innovation LabRyan Shaw, PhD, RN, is the Lab’s Director and he recently joined Duke’s COVID-19 Engineering Response Team, created to review and test ideas.  Shaw knew the Lab was the perfect space for innovators to test their ideas.  He’s made the space available for all ideas designed to provide care during this pandemic.

“It is our civic duty to offer assistance to all of the healthcare professionals working on the frontlines,” says Shaw. “The Lab is an accelerator to ideas being produced by our colleagues across the University and Health System.”

General surgeon testing face shield in simulationOne of these ideas is a 3D Printed Face Shield designed by individuals with the Pratt School of Engineering. Answering the call to produce more than 9,000 face shields for Duke’s medical staff, Pratt engineers designed a prototype face shield, however once designed, they needed to test the product.

“The Health Innovation Lab is a perfect place for testing products for patient care,” says Shaw. “Currently, health care professionals are already maxed out on the frontlines and do not have time to step away to test these products. Product designers are able to tap into the experience of our faculty and graduate nursing students, who are licensed nurses, for feedback.”

DUSON's PhD and Nurse Anesthesia students, many of whom have been practicing nurses in Duke University Health System and who are trained in intensive care settings, volunteered for the face shield testing using various scenario simulations. The feedback from the participants allowed the Engineering team to continue with the process and meet a need on the front lines.

Bed tent prototype in testing simulation with graduate studentsThe Health Innovation Lab is also in the process of helping a physician with the School of Medicine in testing isolation bed tents that would assist health care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bed tent is still in the very early stages, but School of Graduate Nursing students and faculty are already assisting with feedback and testing.

Student using JaMMeR in simulationThe Lab isn’t new to this though. Since its founding in 2017, the Lab has been the hub for other innovative projects to improve patient care. TRINA, the telerobotic intelligent nursing assistant, is a remote-controlled robot that could be used to perform common nursing duties in hazardous clinical environments.

Forward-thinking collaborative innovation is the ultimate goal of the lab, and during a crisis such as COVID-19, it’s the perfect place for teams – nurses, engineers, and physicians to come together to test ideas and care models that will improve patient care as well as care for those working on the frontlines across the street from the School of Nursing.

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