June 2, 2020

Episode 17: The common hospital workaround that inspired two nurse entrepreneurs

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Podcast

Description

On this episode of The Handoff, Dan speaks with Joey Ferry and Taofiki Gafar-Schaner, the nurse entrepreneurs behind SafeSeizure pads-- self-inflating, single patient use seizure pads that are tailored to fit hospital beds and cribs. They talk to Dan about how their experience as bedside nurses using a combination of bed linens, tape and mesh underwear to create a safety pad for seizure patients inspired their invention. They point to this as just one of the many workarounds that the nursing profession is full of and explain how those are the areas that are ripe for innovation in the field. 


Joey and Taofiki also share the advice that they’ve given to other aspiring nurse entrepreneurs, as well as their thoughts on how hospital leaders can encourage innovation from within their own facilities. 


You can find out more about SafeSeizures and Joey and Taofiki’s story at www.safeseizure.com and www.frontierhealthresources.com.

Podcast

Transcript

Dan:
Welcome to the show guys.

Taofiki:
Hey, hey.

Joey:
Hey, thanks for having us Dan.

Dan:
Yeah, of course. So I love what you guys are doing. You're amazing innovators, your nurses on the front lines and have a side business, which probably is your main focus business now, Frontier Health. Tell us how the two of you met, and how you guys started the Frontier Health journey?

Joey:
As far as me. So this is Joey. My sort of innovation journey, I've always been a self proclaimed entrepreneur. I went to nursing school thinking it was a plan B, and plan A eventually I'd start my own business or invent something, whatever. And so one night I was at work, and I'm in what we call float pool. So I float to a different unit every night, and I happened to be floating to the unit next door to Taofiki's unit. And he happened to be floating there as well. I'd never met this kid. We instantly started talking about smartwatches. He was wearing a smartwatch. I think I might've asked him, "Hey, which one is that I'm thinking about getting one. What do you think?" That led us down this whole long shift of just talking about tech what's out there-

Taofiki:
If you want to have a 10 hour conversation with me, ask me about any of my tech gear.

Joey:
So he's literally like an unboxing video, but in front of you. Half the things he's saying, I'm just nodding like I understand as far as the tech goes. But no, we end up talking all night and really hit it off, at some point during the conversation on our shift, we started talking about how far back hospitals are. When you think about even basic technology like Bluetooth or Wifi or whatever it may be. Hospitals we get so excited when our glucometer, when you set it on the dock and it automatically loads into Epic, which is ridiculous that we're so excited about that. Because as soon as you step outside the hospital, you seem to jump into the future 10 years. And so based on that frustration alone, I think we really hit it off. We got talking and after the shift Taofiki grabbed me outside in the parking lot and he had something going on. So Taofiki why don't you tell them a little bit about that process?

Taofiki:
Like Joey said, we met at work and about six months prior to this I started at John Muir. And so I had been working on something to fix seizure pads. I'd been trying to figure out what we can do to fix it because it been bothering me. And so I'd worked on an idea and I was like 95% done. I had it all packaged. I had a label and everything. And I said, "This guy that I had been blabbering with for the last eight hours or whatever, I didn't get much work done. I might as well show him this idea that I've been working on." And so we go to a coffee shop. I'm like, "Hey, this is what we need to do to fix seizure pads." And he kind of goes, there's kind of a moment here. He goes, "Well, that's really nice, but we can do it better."

Taofiki:
So what I had created was it was pretty much straps that would hold linen to the bedrail or pillows to the bedrail, whatever you want to think about it. Because that's what we were doing already. That's what most hospitals are doing is when they don't have seizure pads, they use linen and other things. So I was like, well, tape, isn't a good idea. And mesh panties aren't a good idea. What if we just created better straps? And so Joey being his ability to take my idea from A to Z in a few minutes, he goes like, "Well, that's good, but it's only a half ass step." And that's where we spent the rest of the day after work, coming up with the idea of that is today pretty much prototyping what we would want out a seizure pad. And so I would say it was probably an 18 hours of awesomeness after work, and getting into what we see today. It was good synergy, just really good synergy and timing.

Dan:
So why did you choose seizure pads because there's a ton of stuff that's broken in healthcare, a lot of equipment that you use probably more often than seizure pads. So why did you focus in on that specific problem?

Taofiki:
Like I said, I started working six months, only been at John Muir for six months, my previous hospital and was using the same products to keep patients safe. And now I'm on a neurology unit and I'm like, "Ooh, they're going to have it right. This is the official thing." And I start my job at this neurology cardiology unit. And it's the same thing we were using in my old hospital, old community hospital-

Joey:
Which was?

Taofiki:
Which was linen, tape and mesh panties that keep the patients safe.

Dan:
So you went full MacGyver mode there. That's like full-

Taofiki:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Wonderful, MacGyver. And I applaud the nurses like Joey and I, we always bat on the nurses that have worked hard to get our career, and our profession to where it's at by doing what they can with what they had. But at some point you have to go towards an official solution to certain things. Like you're saying, there's a lot of things out there that need be fixed. And This one because I went from I would say, and I'm not bashing my old hospital, but I went from a community hospital to a nice hospital. I went from Motel 6 to The Ritz, and I'm still getting the same type of service. And I was just fed up with it. I was like, "Somebody has to do something about this." And we did it.

Joey:
Yeah. And I think for me when Toafiki brought this to my attention, as soon as he pulled out what he had been working on for six months, as soon as he pulled it out and showed me. It wasn't like this, "Oh my gosh, I cannot believe you solve the problem." But it was, I laughed because it's like, of course it resonated with me because this is something we all do. And when someone brings it to you, the way that he did and puts it in your face and is offering a solution, it almost accelerates your mind to this level like, "Oh, maybe we can do something about this." We complain about a lot of things as nurses, frontline, but oftentimes we're just either too tired. Or by the time we even think about creating a solution we're on to the next shift. A lot of times we don't want to spend that extra energy and effort to come up with an actual solution.

Joey:
It's just a lot easier to complain about it. So this was something that I saw, and him he had gone past complaining about it. It was like, "All right, here's the complaint, but here's what I've done to fix it." And like you said, Dan, there's a million things that we want to fix that we actually have listed a ton of other things that we would love to address. But this was just one of those things that it resonated so clearly. And he'd already taken the emotional steps further than anything else. And I was able to hop in right there. And so it was just a nice transition for us to move forward with this particular thing.

Dan:
That's a great story. And you know, even the seizure pad thing is a change to a healthcare system. We know healthcare. And we just talked about just now with how hard it is to change healthcare practitioners, behavior. So as you're shopping this around, showing it to people, doing demos, giving out free products and those types of things to get the ball rolling. What resistance are you seeing to this disruption at the bedside?

Taofiki:
Go ahead, Joey.

Joey:
It's funny. And maybe this is part of one of the problems that we're solving. It really depends on who you're talking to. So if we showed, and we did initially when we first came up with that 18 hour later prototype. When we showed it to fellow nurses and family, because a lot of Taofiki and I's close friends and family are also in the healthcare industry. When we shut it to them there was very little resistance. It was like, "Oh my goodness, this is going to work." I don't think it wasn't until we started getting into higher level positions within the healthcare system, talking about purchasing. It's usually the dollar that affects someone's drive for change. Oftentimes at least in our experience with this. But if it were an educator, if it were infection control, or some other nurse driven role within the interdisciplinary team, oftentimes there wasn't much resistance. It was now, "Okay, we like it. How can we get this passed all of the other red tape in order to see if this is something we can move forward with."

Dan:
What are you hearing from the frontline nurses that see this product? Are they resistant to it? "Because they're like, no, no, look, I don't need that. I can duct tape stuff to the bed rail." Or they like, "Oh my God, where you've been all my life."

Taofiki:
I think the nurses that are resistant to it are the outliers. We've had a few go, "What's wrong with linen?" And we both had to do a double take. Like, "Is this person, are you being sarcastic?" But most of the nurses are like, "Where has this been? I've been a nurse since the '80s. I've been a nurse since, before you were born yet, man. And we've been using those big large cumbersome pads, and these linen and tape. And I thought the new mesh panties idea was revolutionary, but you guys have solved all of that." It's really humbling and really nice to have somebody who's so seasoned and worked at more hospitals than I can count to go like, "I've never seen this before." And the fact that two guys, two tired guys, came up with a solution for it after work, and it works and you get it into people's hands they have that aha moment. Like this is it. It's just very amazing.

Joey:
And I think those outliers because they truly are, when we survey people of this particular product, they genuinely do like it. And the few that don't, or the few that have something to say about it, we don't just shut them out because there are so few of them. We immediately, our ears perk up. "What don't you like about it?" And actually in the beginning stages, we made some additional changes based on those, even though majority of the people were like, "Oh, this is great. We need it. Let's do it." The very few that were like, "Well, actually, if it did this, if it was a little bigger here, if you..."

Joey:
We took that and went right back to the drawing board and fixed it, so that now even less nurses have something negative to say. I think in every profession, there's always going to be somebody who has something to say, regardless. We're taking you from linen and tape to a full product you can just slap on easily put it on there. And there's still going to be something to complain about. I think that's natural. But I think for us, the important part was to not just discredit those and actually see, "Okay, what are they really saying here?" And is it legitimate? And can we incorporate it into moving forward.

Dan:
Yeah. And there's evidence around that. So there's a whole theory of how innovation happens called the diffusion of innovation theory. And there's basically an S-curve of adoption of innovation. And at the end of that S-curve is 16% called laggards. And so in any population experiencing change, 16% of people are going to say, are not going to change, or they're going to be resistant to it. And what happens is we usually focus on that 16% and try and convince them, instead of worrying about the 84% that are going to actually adopt change. So it sounds like you're having a similar experience as you're out there.

Taofiki:
Right. And it's tough when that 16% that you speak of when they're sitting in a position that really separates whether or not the same thing to move forward. And we have, we felt some of that as well, where literally the nurse leader, or the purchasing department, or whoever it may be is saying no with very little justification. They're the ones with, "I don't like it because..." And so that's a challenging time. And a lot of times it requires a lot more effort and energy to either show them directly, or get their team to rally behind them and say, "Well, yeah, we understand that, but here's all the good things that it'll do." And so we've seen that in different roles, not just bedside nurses, but also in nurse managers and purchasing, and all the way through up the whole line.

Dan:
Yeah. That's good experience. And it sounds like you don't let that stop you, you continue to get the momentum from the people that want to adopt, but you also have to address some of the issues there. So that's really good. So you also mentioned that you have a list of ideas, or things that you'd want to address in the future. Without going into specifics that would give away any of your trade secrets. What are some of the big opportunities that you see that could be disruptive in a good way to the front lines of nursing or healthcare?

Taofiki:
I think just the baseline before we even talk about certain ideas is Joey and I have a saying, if work arounds are a cue for improvement, they're a cue for innovation. And nursing is full of work arounds. We do it every day. Every nurse does it every day. And some of them, for some nurses it's their little trade secrets, like you were mentioning it's like, "This is what I do." And they teach it to the students that they have and to the people they orient because that's the way they've always done it, and it helps them out. But I think when you're taking one thing and another and solving a solution, two things that usually don't go together just is linen and tape in creating a solution. That's a moment that like, "Well, what if we made this official? What if I spent another 18 hours working on an official solution."

Taofiki:
And so that's just a little nugget that I want to pass on to the other nurses listening. Is that are already working on stuff, whether you know it or not, you just need to make it look prettier and add a full sized solution to it. For us, I would say the most pertinent thing we're currently working on is solving the issue with lack of visitors at the hospital. And so this is a hot button thing that Joey and I have been working on. Probably two weeks now. That's been our main grind I would say, is trying to figure out how to solve that gap. This is might not up being a Frontier Health Resources solution, but trying to solve the gap between patients that are isolated in the hospital, and their families that want to see them.

Taofiki:
And so bringing them together is our big project at the moment. And we're using every part of our network. Like the top, top, top part of our network to solve this problem for our hospital, and many hospitals in the area. And that's one thing that we're working on is trying to... These COVID patients are isolated ready, and they're in social isolation because their families cannot see them. And as of now, there are no visitors in most hospitals around the nation. And so not just the COVID patients but the 93 year old patient who came in with mental status, and the kids want to check up on them and they can't see them. And of course, as we all know, having unfamiliar faces around you makes hospital delirium spike up and all that stuff. So trying to solve that problem and bridge the gap is one thing.

Joey:
And I think our list of ideas or products, or processes, or different systems of doing something, it's a long list. And what's interesting though is Taofiki and I had these really grandiose ideas. We're going to solve a hospital acquired infection by this new crazy software technology, something or other. But then when we started this journey on our seizure pads, and how simple of a product it's not just low tech, it's no tech. And seeing the response that we've gotten, all of the support we've gotten for what we've done. It really helps fuel us to start to look at healthcare. We know that people are working on super high tech softwares, or apps, or ways of decreasing faults using high low frequency mounted devices. There's really high level tech out there. And it's nurses a lot of times that are working on these. And we look at that, and we start drooling because that's where our passion really is.

Joey:
But we also know that these low tech products, or devices are also just as needed right now for frontline staff, and for nurse workflow and patient experience that we've been spending some time looking at really simplistic ideas as well. So like Taofiki said with this whole COVID-19 thing, we've gotten a little sidetrack from our own priority list and we've been doing other projects. The one that he mentioned about helping bridge that gap of communication, as well as how can we get more PPE into the hands of our staff? How can we either utilize fabrication labs in areas around us, or getting creative and sourcing different supply channels. Those sorts of things that have really taken us away from our own priority list, which is perfectly fine. And this is why nurses are so good at innovating, we're adaptable, we're able to move, we're able to flex and we can take those skills and direct them towards whatever needs to be prioritized at that moment.

Dan:
Yeah, that's a good point. It's not always the high tech gadget, or phone app, or whatever sound to measure falls. Or blinking lights on everything, or cameras in every room even just simple solutions that elevate the duct tape, and paper clip, and piece of gum that stuck something together into a formal product is also an innovation, and really disruptive. It allows for a better workflows and safer practice, and all that kind of stuff. And another example is a simple innovation is our mutual friend, Brian from CathWear. That's compression pants with a leg bag holder in them. It's not revolutionary from a technology standpoint, but it was never done before. It's made a huge impact, and his business is flying off the charts.

Joey:
Absolutely. And me, and Taofiki we talk about this all the time is the other beauty of these low tech devices, or items that people, nurses just like Brian, just like us, just like others around the world that are making is that it's a little bit easier for a bedside nurse. When we go and we inservice, and we show our paths and they say a lot of times they catch onto us and are they're like, "Wait you two created this. Wow. That's amazing. Great." A lot of times that's a little bit easier to latch onto and to inspire then, "Oh, this is some epic software was designed by a nurse." Or some high level hardware, software... It's beyond us sometimes to even comprehend, or even it's almost discouraging or it can be when you look at something so high tech, you're thinking, "I'm just a bedside nurse. How can I invent that?"

Joey:
But when you see people have been super simple products, it gives a little bit of motivation and it hopefully, and we hope that it inspires other nurses to say, "You know what? I once had an idea it's really simple, but..." And then there you go. And then it's a little bit easier. I think for that population of nurse innovators to move forward with their ideas.

Taofiki:
To piggyback on that is one time Joey and I, we spoke at a conference and at the end of the conference, we met this nurse and she was like, "Yeah, I actually have a patent on thing." And we're like, "That's amazing. Our patent is still pending. How did you get a patent on the thing?" And she's like, "Yeah. And my hospital has been using it." And we're like, "Wait a minute, you have a patent and your hospital's been using it. Why don't I know your name yet?" She's like, "Well, I don't do anything with it. I just let my hospital use it for free because they helped me print it and this and that." And we're like, "One, you let your hospital use it for free. What? That's insane."

Taofiki:
But it's a verbal agreement that we won't take ownership of your product, but we'll let you have it, but you have to sell it to us for free. I totally understand that. But she wasn't moving forward with the idea to other hospitals. It was a, I don't remember the exact product. Do you remember Joey?

Joey:
It was some sort of simple clip for I think blood tubing, something that helped hold the blood tubing, so it didn't get tangled or something along those lines.

Taofiki:
Exactly. So she'd been working, she'd totally patented it. And she had a person who could 3D print them. It was a clip that worked for blood tubing. She was encouraged by meeting us and hearing us speak about why innovation matters at the bedside. And she's like, "You know what? I'm going to actually pursue and move forward." I was like, "You don't have to do what we do, and be the accountants and be the delivery boys. And be the every part of your company. You already have something that's proven concepts that your hospital uses, sell it to somebody and take that pressure off of yourself and let the world use your product."

Taofiki:
That's another thing Joey and I say, if you keep your idea to yourself, you don't help nursing and you don't help patients. And that's not because people are being selfish, but you have to believe in yourself that you have enough value to add something. And whether it's something that you thought of years ago that you don't even use anymore because the idea is you feel like it's outdated. But I think there's a lot of value in finding strength in yourself, and knowing that people want to hear what you have to offer.

Dan:
That's a good point. And I think there's a general lack of education and awareness from in nursing school and in nursing in general, about how to think about an idea, get it to a product stage. What are the ramifications of inventing something within a health system versus not. There's a lot of things there that are taught in other disciplines like engineering, and business and others. Where in healthcare we focus so much on the care delivery. But now, innovation is a core competency. Business is part of healthcare. And so how do we get our nurses up into that business knowledge level, I think is going to be key.

Dan:
One of the things that we'd like to do here is give tips and tricks to the healthcare leaders out there that might be listening. And so you've had a lot of interaction with healthcare leaders trying to sell your product, and get it out there into the world. What advice would you give to healthcare leaders as they're thinking and dealing with nurse entrepreneurs, or even have them on their staff, how do they deal with them?

Joey:
Actually, this is something when Taofiki and I first started that we got asked immediately from our healthcare system is, "Wow, you guys did all of this. That's impressive. How can we get other people within our system to do what you guys are doing? And think the way that you're thinking, and how can we embrace innovation?" And in my opinion, it is a matter of your upper level management and directors. They need to set aside time to, one, listen to you and hear what you're doing and what you're up to. Because way too often, frontline healthcare staff, they either don't feel like they have the support of their upper management directors, C-suite level people, or they don't even know who they are. And so that in combination with someone, the IP who owns it, who does what, that's a scary thing for a nurse.

Joey:
And in the very beginning stage of innovation there can't be any resistance. You have to feel comfortable in sharing your idea and moving forward with it. So that's first and foremost, in my opinion. Secondly, is just embracing innovation and thought. So I'm one of those people ever since I was kid, I would have just insane amount of ideas. It's actually sometimes feels like a curse. I cannot shut my brain down. And I think of the most random ideas or concepts. And for a long time, I wouldn't share them. But then I learned, I'm starting to forget these things, or it does me no good if I don't share it. So I started sharing every single idea I have. I'll either share with my wife, or I'll share it with Taofiki or whoever else is around me. But the thing is, what I've learned is that yes, 99 of my 100 ideas are probably insane.

Joey:
Don't make any sense to anybody. And oftentimes people laugh at them, but it's that one out of a hundred when you see people's eyebrows lift up and they say, "Wow, you know what, that's something." And so that's, for me, you got to be able to embrace people, regardless, whether they're on their 50th or 100th idea, you can't turn people away. You have to just motivate them, regardless of how silly it sounds. If someone's bringing an idea to you, and regardless of your level where you are in a hospital system, if you're my director, you're my manager, or you're the CNO. I need you to at least listen, shake your head and nod. And if you have anything to contribute, sure. But what you don't want to do is discourage anyone from taking those tiny ideas and moving forward. Because it might not be the 30th, the 50th idea. It might be the hundredth or the 1000 idea, but that might be the one that really changes everything.

Taofiki:
Even if you're not on the innovation journey, supporting those that are is valuable for healthcare in general. It is what I think we want to share because, yes, you can say like, "Oh, you know what? I think you should work through the kinks of that idea and come back to me." That's a lot better than, "No, I don't think that's going to work. Come back to me when you have a full concept. When you have it fully done and we can discuss it." That's just much more encouraging than discouraging. And I think for leadership, it's important to, like Joey said, listen, and also give encouragement, "That come back to me when you have XYZ idea." And work with them on it, not like literally be part of the company, but listen to them throughout the stages.

Taofiki:
Well, meet every six months. And I think that lets them know that you value their opinion and you value their time. And I think for a lot of leadership, there's always disconnect between your frontline staff and yourself and yourself. And I think having these maybe every Friday morning is between 9:00 and 11:00 are my open office. And people can come talk to me about any idea they have, or concerns that they might have. And I do this every three months or every four months, and then you can see the stages of their ideas, and they feel like you're truly listening to them. I think that's the kind of nugget that helps leadership and frontline staff come together.

Dan:
Yeah. That's some really good points, some tangible takeaways to set up open office hours, to have ideas pitched and to coach people through them. I think the other piece is that you don't have to be an innovator to lead innovation. And so I think a lot of people think they have to be the inventor or have some creativity. But as a leader, you really need to create this space for people have safety in pitching those ideas, and trying them out and failing and getting coached. And so you bring up some really good points there. So we like to end every episode with what we call The Handoff, which is that pertinent information that you want to convey to the audience about your product, and also the disruptions that they will be seeing in clinical practice. So what is that one thing that you'd like to hand off to our listeners,

Taofiki:
That one idea that I would give nurses who are working on that idea, whether it just be to improve their unit, or whether it be to improve healthcare is you have value. What your opinions are and what your ideas are those have value and you matter. And so don't discourage yourself. Don't believe that you are not smart enough to figure out how to code something, or smart enough to figure out how to get a manufacturer, but you have value. And that value should let you know that you have enough importance to move forward with that idea, and not give up on it.

Joey:
Yeah. And I think I have two things actually. So the first one for me, and I've always believed in this, and I've already touched on it is you have to share your idea. And like Taofiki says you have value. So this idea stemming from somewhere, whether it's the absolute solution, we'll see, but you have to share your idea. Because writing it on a post it note and putting it in your pocket, and thinking that you will come back to it at another point, oftentimes doesn't happen. And we just get busy or we forget. And no matter how great the idea is, and no matter how great the idea is, if you don't write it down or put it somewhere, share it with somebody, you will forget it. And I know that sounds silly, but you will, regardless of how great the idea is.

Joey:
And so for me, it's one sharing your idea. Protecting yourself, if it is something that you can protect with IP doing that, obviously, but share your idea. And then two, is to just take something from step A to step B, regardless of how long it takes, as long as you're in the process and working towards that. By the time you get to step B, you're going to say, "Oh, well, step C is right there. Let's see if I can get this from B to C." And just keep working toward it. And don't necessarily feel like you have to do it all at once or have to know every answer. Because when you are in the process of innovation, oftentimes you're seeking out others that do have these answers and it keeps you motivated. As long as you keep moving forward, you stay motivated. And hopefully by the end of it, you'll get to something that you can be proud of and share with others.

Dan:
Those are great pieces of advice, and super inspiring to those nurses out there. We need you to innovate because healthcare is like you said, 10 to 20 to 30 years behind, and we need people to improve it every day. And that's going to happen from ideas from the people doing the work at the point of service. So thank you both for being on the show, where can we find you? Where can we find more information about frontier health? What channels are you on?

Taofiki:
We are on frontierhealthresources.com kind of a long name, or you can go to safeseizure.com. That'll take you to the website. So you find out more about the products, you know my name is Taofiki. You can find me on Instagram T-A-O-F-I-K-I. But also on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Dan:
Well, guys, it's so great to see you and chat with you about disruptions in health care about your product, about the great work that you're doing. The inspiration you are to all of the frontline and nurses everywhere who are thinking about being innovators, and trying to invent their way out of the crazy mess that how our healthcare system is. And stay safe as you continue to take care of the crazy crisis that's going on. And just really appreciate you being on.

Taofiki:
Thank you so much for having us.

Joey:
Thank you, Dan.

Dan:
Thank you so much for tuning into The Handoff. If you like what you heard today, please consider writing us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. This is Dr. Nurse Dan. See you next time.

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