UCLA Health has completed its first Innovation Challenge, and the results are in. After receiving 300 submissions across five categories, 37 peer-reviewed projects were selected for awards that ranged from grants and seed funding up to $150,000 to prizes such as gift cards and iPads. A total of more than $1.1 million was disbursed from health system funds and philanthropic contributions from UCLA donors committed to helping foster clinical innovation.
“My initial goal was to receive 60 submissions,” said Desert Horse-Grant, senior director for UCLA Health Research & Innovation and co-executive director of UCLA Biodesign. “Then we got to 60, and I said, OK, if we now can just get 100. Then we got to 100, and after that, they just kept rolling in. I was so very impressed by people’s enthusiasm, the number of teams collaborating and quality of their ideas.”
The UCLA Health Innovation Challenge was initiated to provide caregivers, staff, trainees, patients, volunteers and students the opportunity to help advance long-lasting health and wellness solutions. Applicants could submit proposals across five verticals: Medical Technology/Digital Health, IT Support for Care Efficiency, Patient Experience (CICARE), Performance Improvement and Greatest Idea. In addition to monetary awards and prizes, awardees could receive executive level expertise and IT resources to implement novel ideas, or to promote and scale projects with demonstrated success.
Horse-Grant said that the level of response from non-UCLA employees was particularly gratifying. “I think that really is a reflection of the culture of UCLA Health putting patients first. Opening this challenge up to input from our community really was a great way to incorporate their voices and priorities,” she said.
The submitted projects represented a diverse spectrum of issues and needs. For example, a project submitted by Dr. Jessica Lloyd, a pediatrician and hospitalist, and colleagues aimed to address the need to make information more easily accessible to non-English-speaking families by creating an equipment-assisted system for simultaneous medical interpretation during family-centered bedside rounds. "We want patients to have a human advocate and break down that language barrier to provide the best possible care,” said Dr. Lloyd. She and her team received a $68,000 award in the Patient Experience category. “It can be a very daunting experience for a family that speaks another language to understand what is happening at the bedside and what the members of the medical team are saying,” Horse-Grant said. “Having the ability to provide a pediatric patient an immediate interpretation can be very important and go a long way to make them more comfortable and deliver the highest quality of care. This was a project that addresses a real and very fundamental need.”
Linda Ho, senior director of digital marketing for UCLA Health, received a $15,000 award in the Greatest Idea category for her project to address a common post-hospitalization issue experienced by many patients. “Patients tend not to read the printed paper instructions given to them at discharge, and when they get home they are not sure what they are supposed to do,” she explained. Ho’s answer was to modernize the process by creating video discharge instructions that patients and their family can view from their phones. “If we create these instructions in video format, with our physicians or nurses, we may improve patient experience and adherence, improve overall patient outcomes and reduce readmissions or follow-up care due to infections or other medical issues,” she says.
Leading-edge research also was recognized. Dr. Heather Christofk, an associate professor of biological chemistry and molecular & medical pharmacology, received a $150,000 award for her project to explore ways to starve cancer to block the growth of tumors. “We should be tackling cancer from every angle to improve patient outcomes,” Dr. Christofk says. “Blocking access of cancer to a critical nutrient for cancer growth is a no-brainer obvious approach we should be taking. This approach can be added on to current standard of care for all cancers to make current treatments work better.”
The next milestone for awardees will be in December when they will provide updates on the progress of their projects.
Medical Technology/Digital Health
IT Support for Care Efficiency
Patient Experience (CICARE)