Parkview Health holds the belief that every person it employs, from the doctors to the nurses and even the kitchen and cleaning staff, have a great idea brewing in their brains.
At the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, it wants to pull those ideas out of employees’ brains and help them make those ideas a reality through its innovation program.
Launched five years ago by Dr. Michael Mirro, who serves as chief academic and research officer, the program has encouraged medical and health science professionals to try their hand at entrepreneurism with the guidance and safety net provided by Parkview.
The program has also connected with the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center as a partner, which has given Parkview employees the chance to receive formal coaching in every aspect of capitalizing on an idea from conception to creation and beyond.
“We try to get them to bring out ideas related to improving the class of care,” Mirro said. “But we ultimately do have coworkers that bring ideas with intellectual property attached. We try to protect them and build some prototypes.”
The primary intention of the program is to take a hard look at how patients are cared for, and identify parts that could be tweaked or improved upon. Naturally, Mirro noted, there were no better people to do that than the men and women who spend hours every day witnessing health care in action. He added that the daily creativity needed to diagnosis and treat illnesses transitions well into the world of enterprising thinking.
“All of entrepreneurship is somebody trying to solve problem,” Mirro said. “In health care, we have a lot of problems, so individuals that work with patients and see what they are struggling with, they’re the best to say ‘There’s a better way to do this.’”
Two health care professionals that had this very thought and stepped up to do something about it are Ashli Pershing and Pam Strowl. Pershing, now a birth planner and lactation consultant at Parkview Wabash, and Strowl, an RN in Parkview Huntington’s birthing center, teamed up to create a product called the “T-Pad.”
The gist of the product is that it is a cooling pad to help soothe a mother’s pain shortly after giving birth.
“Just being at the bedsides daily, we see how things can be done better,” Pershing said. “We just looked around at things nurses do at the bedside all the time and asked ‘Why don’t we have a product that serves this purpose?’”
Both Pershing and Sprowl had submitted separate proposals for similar products and started working together at the suggestion of the innovation program. Neither had prior business experiences, but after working out the logistics, the pair had the chance to pitch their product to a panel of people a la “Shark Tank,” and ended up winning the competition.
Since then, the two have worked closely with Parkview to make a product that can someday be produced and widely distributed to bring comfort to mothers all over the place. It is not clear if Pershing and Sprowl will receive any monetary compensation if this product goes to market, but neither of them seem to be quite concerned about that right now.
“Entrepreneur is a funny word for both of us,” Sprowl said. “Neither of us have attached that name to us before. And it was pretty exciting to put inventor beside our name for the product.”