By: Rui Su
Clinical Research and Development Pharmacy Intern
Third-year PharmD Student
What happens when you bring clinicians, designers, project managers, and programmers together in a room for 8 hours? That’s what we sought to find out with the introduction of our very first Thinkathon at Think Research.
Inspired by the concept of hackathons, where people come together to code solutions over a weekend, we wanted to replicate the same concept but with the goal of generating ideas and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration across Think Research. The unique composition within our company allowed this to happen with ease, as we are home to people of diverse disciplines and skillsets. In alignment with our company culture of collaboration, we wanted to create an opportunity for people to foster new ideas and learn new skills outside of the typical work setting. We also wanted to use design-thinking principles to create healthcare solutions that are reflective and centered on their users’ needs. Most importantly, we wanted to inspire innovation within the company to come up with creative, out-of-the-box solutions to a pressing issue impacting all of our clients and our healthcare system: transitions of care.
As previously mentioned in the first part of this series Transitions of Care: Our Biggest Problem in Healthcare, transitions of care significantly impacts the safety and effectiveness of patient care. At the Thinkathon, we specifically wanted to develop solutions that can improve quality of care, patient safety, and patient experience of care during these transitions.
Participants generously volunteered their time on a Saturday to come in for a full day of activities. After mingling and engaging in an interactive presentation, the Thinkathon began. They were encouraged to work in interdisciplinary teams of 3-4 people and were given the choice to pick 1 out of 3 challenges:
- How might we improve the patient admission/discharge process to and from the emergency department or hospital
- How might we ensure patient information is communicated between acute care and post-acute care providers?
- How might we empower patients to manage their condition(s) after discharge?
Teams broke out immediately and the brainstorming began. We saw some thoughtful and creative mind-mapping. Each team had a unique approach depending on the composition of their team. For example, one team was composed of a senior nurse, a client project manager, a talent and operations manager, and a product management intern. We also provided background literature on the problem, design-thinking tools, and tips for how to deliver the best pitch. Teams were encouraged to conduct interviews with potential users. We even witnessed a team phoning in to consult our in-house pharmacist, Mark. Throughout the day, mentors from clinical research and development, information technology, and product management facilitated discussions within teams and used their expertise to help teams gain greater insight on their solutions.
At the end of the day, all of these incredible ideas were presented to the crowd and a panel of judges. Each pitch had a distinctive style, and we witnessed a range of different ideas, encompassing highly technological solutions, person-focused app designs, and potential for integration within our existing company products. With prizes and celebrations, a day filled with learning and innovation came to a close.
We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our attendees – all of whom found the opportunity valuable and would recommend Thinkathon to their colleagues who could not attend. They described the experience as “inspiring”, “valuable”, and “fun”.
Reflecting on the lessons learned from our inaugural Thinkathon, we came up with three key takeaways:
- Solving problems together builds teams
The experience of collaborating with colleagues for 8 consecutive hours on a specific problem was intense and rewarding. People developed deeper relationships within the company and a better understanding of one another’s skillsets and expertise.
- Iterative feedback results in better ideas
Feedback from the mentors was crucial in helping teams build better versions of their ideas. By helping to prove or disprove assumptions and shedding light on aspects that the team may not have considered, more thorough solutions were created.
- Diversity is the backbone of creativity
By combining individual strengths and expertise, teams were able to think outside-of-the-box and create super innovative solutions to difficult challenges.
We look forward to hosting more Thinkathons at Think Research to inspire innovation across the company, and we encourage you to do the same at your organization!