Northwell Rewards Innovative Employee Projects With Funding

The team behind the “EMRBot from left: Patricia Farrell, RN, Dr. Zubair Hasan, Matthew Keller, Dr. Michael Oppenheim and Dr. Vishwanath Anantraman. (Photos courtesy of Northwell Health)

Northwell Health is tapping into the marketplace of ideas by funding employee projects that have the potential to transform the future of health care. A blood test, which may lead to the early diagnosis of endometriosis and a chatbot that helps staff “talk” with medical records were the big winners of Northwell’s third Innovation Challenge, a system-wide call to all employees.

Seven teams were chosen from among 121 submissions throughout the health system—the largest in New York State—to pitch their projects at Northwell’s Made for Big Ideas showcase on May 8. The winner and first runner-up each earned $500,000 awards to bring their concepts to market. Two additional teams received $100,000 and the remaining three finalists will work with internal resources at Northwell over the next year to advance their ideas and potentially qualify as a finalist for next year’s competition.

“Early Diagnosis of Endometriosis Based on Analysis of Menstrual Effluent,” led by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research team of Peter Gregersen, MD, and Christine Metz, PhD, won over judges as the first non-invasive method for diagnosing endometriosis. It is based on the analysis of menstrual effluent, which will permit earlier, more-effective treatment before the disease progresses to cause chronic pain and infertility.

“The current diagnostic method for endometriosis relies on invasive abdominal surgery. This invasive test, which patients try to avoid, along with the non-specific symptoms of endometriosis contribute to the seven-to-eight-year delay in diagnosis,” said Metz, a professor at the Feinstein Institute. “We’re working to develop a rapid test for endometriosis based on menstrual blood, which can be easily collected and tested; this will facilitate earlier treatments for endometriosis. Because endometriosis is a chronic, complex and painful condition, which can lead to infertility, earlier diagnosis and treatment is crucial to patients.”

Jennifer Schulz, of Huntington, had multiple surgeries over three years and lost an ovary before she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful and complex condition which can lead to infertility. By taking part in a study by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research to identify first signs of the disorder, she hopes to help other women get an earlier diagnosis. Her story is representative of why constant innovation matters.

From left: Feinstein Institute for Medical Research’s Peter Gregersen, MD; study participant Jennifer Schulz and Christine Metz, PhD, discussed the project to bring an early diagnosis of endometriosis to market at a press event on Tuesday.

The employee idea earning second place, “EMRBot,” allows physicians and nurses to interact with electronic medical records (EMR) using voice, natural language text messages and a rich, adaptive and intelligent user interface using chatbots. The effort was spearheaded by Vishwanath Anantraman, MD, Northwell’s chief innovation architect, and Michael Oppenheim, MD, the health system’s chief medical information officer.

“EMRBot will completely revolutionize how clinicians interact with patient data and will restore the human `face-to-face’ interaction that electronic health records have slowly eroded,” said Anantraman.

Their idea taps into the Internet of Things to ultimately allow for a more seamless patient experience. Northwell Health’s information technology department will begin an internal trial by the end of summer and could move quickly to adaption from there.
“Northwell Health is unbelievably innovative with an unparalleled, forward-thinking culture that touches all areas of our organization,” said Michael J. Dowling, Northwell’s president and CEO. “Other organizations fashion themselves as innovative, but we are unique in providing employees the channels to bring their ideas to life.”

The winning teams were selected by the following panel of judges: Ken Abrams, MD, managing director at Deloitte; Joe Greskoviak, chief operating officer of Press Ganey; Dian Griesel, president of DGI; and Thomas Thornton, senior vice president of Northwell Ventures.

—Submitted by Northwell Health

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