Innovation Accelerates Change in Healthcare at WakeMed – Occasion Highlighting Change in NC

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Small innovations can make a big difference.

Just ask the people who work in WakeMed’s neonatal intensive care unit. The hospital installed NICVIEW cameras so parents of newborns can monitor their children’s progress from their personal smartphone. This was a particularly valuable benefit over the past year when the COVID-19 protocols allow for few in-person hospital visits.

But there was a problem. The micro-USB power supplies plugged into the back of the cameras were unprotected and the cables often broke when the device was bumped or moved. As a result, the cables had to be replaced regularly, adding cost, camera downtime, additional work for staff, and potential inconvenience for parents. There are around 60 NICVIEW cameras in operation across the healthcare system, so it was not an isolated incident.

Jared Zimmel. – WakeMed photos

Join Jared Zimmel, a biomedical technology specialist on WakeMed’s clinical engineering team. The group is responsible for maintaining all hospital equipment to meet health standards and to function properly. He signed the order to find a solution to the micro USB problem. “It was an opportunity to diverge, be creative, and do something different than what I’m used to,” he said.

Zimmel used a commercial computer design application and the department’s 3D printer, purchased about a year ago, to make replacement clips for headgear used in COVID-19 areas to create a plastic frame to protect the USB adapter. It can be installed on the camera with existing hardware at a cost of just a few cents per unit.

The printer can take three images at a time over a period of approximately 13 hours. Another plastic part was developed using the same 3D technology to keep the camera’s battery in place more securely and to further reduce the strain on the micro-USB cable. “It took us about 13 or 14 tries to choose the frame design, but we didn’t have any failures with the new equipment,” he noted. Good news travels quickly. Zimmel was recently asked by WakeMed’s Mobile Critical Care team, which operates the hospital system’s transport vehicle fleet, to design color-coded drawer organizers for the various medications stored on the units. The plastic boxes replace foam inserts and are much easier to clean, which helps remove infection control concerns.

3D printers, devices

Devices created by Zimmel.

“These are just a few examples of the clinical innovations, big and small, that happen daily in our hospital systems and healthcare organizations,” said Greta Brunet, who co-founded the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Clinician Innovation Initiative with colleague Corie Curtis. Brunet, a former medical assistant, is the Senior Director of Investments on the Emerging Company Development team and Curtis is the Executive Director of NCBiotech’s Greater Charlotte Office. “We want to encourage and support this kind of creative thinking in order to help patients and doctors alike in North Carolina.”

NCBiotech and UNC FastTraCS are partnering with WakeMed and 10 other health systems across the state to do just that – turn good ideas into useful clinical innovations. A two-day virtual conference, Accelerating Health Care Innovation in North Carolina: Charting the Course, will connect attendees with the people, insights, and strategies they need to guide the creative process from idea to execution. It will take place on September 23rd and 24th from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The $ 25 admission fee includes access to post-conference session recordings as well as free entry to a separate Health Innovation Summit sponsored by RevTech Labs, based in Charlotte, from September 20-22. This event is also virtual. (C) NC Biotech Center

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