Student innovators bring classroom project to life at SickKids

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto will implement a class project, The SickKids Innovation Challenge, by Western Health Studies students Bridget Shaver, Ashleigh Davis, Joseph Tropiano and Dilshaan Panjwani to solve current challenges faced by the hospital.

Earlier this year, Western Health Studies students Ashleigh Davis, Bridget Shaver, Dilshaan Panjwani and Joseph Tropiano joined together to work on an assignment for Ivey Business School professor Anne Snowdon’s Health Innovation and Leadership class.

According to Snowdon, who chairs the Ivey International Centre for Health Innovation, the purpose of the assignment was for students to gain an understanding of the challenges health organizations face and approaches to developing and implementing tangible solutions. The group partnered with the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto to develop a proposal that answered: How can SickKids Hospital engage the public to help solve the various challenges a hospital faces on a day-to-day basis?

Their innovative solution, The SickKids Innovation Challenge, was well-received by the organization, resulting in summer internship offers for the entire group to implement their project.

The SickKids Innovation Challenge is a case competition, hosted by the hospital, which aims to solve current challenges faced by the hospital. Organizations from different sectors are invited to send a team of their employees to participate in the competition.

Upon arrival, the respective teams are presented with a case study that outlines a current challenge – for example, reducing patient falls or making wait times more enjoyable – to which the teams must develop innovative, actionable solutions in a limited timeframe.

At the end of the day, the teams present their solutions to a panel of judges who select a winning idea.

The case competition is set up similarly to a workshop.

“The day is designed to facilitate teamwork, and the development of communication and problem-solving skills,” Shaver said. “It is a unique and meaningful organizational development opportunity that will benefit companies while improving the outcomes and experiences of patients and their families at SickKids Hospital.”

The concept behind the challenge stemmed from their task of identifying a way SickKids could better engage external customers and partners in open innovation, ideation and co-creation.

“SickKids currently engages its own staff to generate ideas,” Tropiano said. “However, they also want to connect with the public. This is called ‘open innovation’ … instead of providing a cash incentive for individuals, we are providing a learning incentive for companies. We are engaging the public in their capacity as employees.”

Not only is the challenge a professional-development tool, it is a charitable activity and the company of the winning team will be profiled through a public display of corporate social responsibility at SickKids Hospital and in the media.

Davis explained the “companies are investing their time and ideas in a meaningful way, as they are giving back to SickKids Hospital.”

The team’s research demonstrated organizations have budgets for professional development and revealed outstanding interest from several large companies to participate in a case competition such as The SickKids Innovation Challenge.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity for this team to implement their project at SickKids Hospital,” Snowdon said. “Students bring a unique perspective to health-care systems, and this project is an opportunity to bring innovative ideas and creativity to the challenges of health-care delivery.”

This story originally appeared in the May 22, 2014 edition of Western News.

In her class, Snowdon brings together students from Ivey and the Faculty of Health Sciences’ School of Health Studies to leverage different knowledge and skillsets.

“The class is structured in a way that aims to bridge the gap between theory and application, so that the students can apply the knowledge they gain throughout the course to the real challenges they see in their projects,” she said. “The chance to work with actual organizations on an actual problem they are facing makes the learning experience very real and engaging for the students.”