University Hospitals Ventures’ “Call for Ideas” Winners Aim to Boost Quality of Nutrition Care

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UH Clinical Update | August 2022

A team of UH registered dietitians is working with support from the Feuer Innovation Accelerator Fund and UH Ventures to develop software that improves the accuracy of data collected from patients undergoing tube-feeding (enteral nutrition) or being fed through an IV (parenteral nutrition) – an innovation that also promises to ease clinical workloads and lessen staffing challenges.

Why it Matters: Registered dietitians currently use data in the electronic medical record to manually calculate nutrition intake of patients. They do this to validate whether the patient is receiving adequate nutrition, and it enables them to recommend any necessary changes in care. The flow rates and total volume of enteral or parenteral nutrition are manually charted in the electronic medical record by nurses, who record data displayed on the nutrition pump throughout their shift. Since the process is manual, data is not always charted in the same method by each clinician and patient care typically occurs over multiple nursing shifts. As with any manual data entry operation, this is time-consuming and introduces the possibility of error.

 “We utilize data in the electronic medical record to calculate the total amount of calories the patient received – protein, the macro- and micronutrients such as carbohydrates, and also vitamins and minerals,” says Aaron Fletcher, registered dietitian and co-submitter of the winning idea. “We’re 100% reliant on this manual input of the infusion data in the electronic medical record.”

“When the provider asks the dietitian how many calories or nutrients the patient received in the past 24 hours, we have to use that infusion rate to calculate it out,” adds registered dietitian Irissa Bachman, the other member of the award-winning team.

A Better Way: Aaron and Irissa are working with UH Ventures to develop a software interface that will allow the data from the infusion pump to be automatically uploaded to the electronic medical record, eliminating the need for time-consuming charting and reducing the opportunity for errors. The software will also display values for individual nutrients, doing away with the need for hand-calculating. The team prototyped a mechanical solution first after becoming winners of the Feuer Innovation Accelerator, but now realized a software solution will be even more impactful.

While still in its early stages, this innovation has already attracted “strong attention” from a co-development partner outside UH and would be unique in the marketplace. “There's nothing we’ve found on the market that wraps all of this in one package,” says Allison Hart, Lead Innovation Strategist with UH Ventures and program manager of the Feuer Innovation Accelerator. “The passion of our inventors and the beauty of the idea make this innovation really promising.”

The Feuer Accelerator Process: After they won the Feuer Innovation Accelerator award, Aaron and Irissa embarked in January on a coaching program with the UH Ventures team. Through this program, they began to develop their initial idea, validate if there is a market for the solution, and determine how their award funds could make the most impact. They have had coaching sessions every other week with UH Ventures leaders, including two executives in residence from the entrepreneurial Northeast Ohio community who have extensive product development experience. After Aaron and Irissa determined that a tech solution would be most impactful to improve the nutrition-delivery experience, the UH Ventures team facilitated a connection with an external partner to explore co-development. Along the way, the impressive progress made by this team has been shared with the Feuer family and Dr. Megerian, the executive sponsor of the Feuer Innovation Accelerator.

What’s next: Aaron and Irissa are using their $25,000 award from the Feuer Innovation Accelerator Fund to envision and develop the user experience for the software development. If any tool is not user-friendly, it obviously will not be used and can’t help solve the problem it was designed to address. Specifically, the team is working on the initial iteration of the end-user interface that clinicians will use to view all nutrition-related information.

Both Aaron and Irissa are enthusiastic about the project and their work with UH Ventures.

“This is easily the most exciting opportunity that we we've ever had,” Aaron says. “It's been absolutely fantastic. The UH Ventures team is just extraordinary.”

“The fact that Mr. and Mrs. Feuer allowed this to happen with the accelerated program -- we feel so incredibly blessed to be able to be doing what we’re doing,” says Irissa.

How to Apply: UH Ventures is accepting applications for innovative ideas until Sept. 30, and the next cohort of winners will be chosen this fall. Both clinical and non-clinical UH caregivers from any entity in the UH system are encouraged to submit ideas.

To submit an idea, please visit the UH Ventures website.

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