The Spark Innovation Programe

National Doctors Training and Planning has commenced The Spark Innovation Program, designed to empower junior doctors to innovate and make positive changes within the public health system.
In a traditionally bureaucratic environment where innovation is not encouraged, the Spark program not only enables innovation but actively encourages it. Through this empowerment of initiative, creativity and expertise, retention of staff is also addressed and morale increased.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Irish health service is a traditional hierarchical organisation. With an overdeveloped bureaucracy and a silo mentality, it is easy to understand why innovation has not been adopted as a central strategic tenet, particularly because in healthcare, where patients are the clients, the risk appetite for change is particularly low.

Worse, not only is innovation and change not encouraged it is actively frowned upon. This stagnant culture has an impact not just on patient care but also on retention and recruitment of staff and in particular junior doctors. Irish healthcare is currently suffering from a workforce crisis, hemorrhaging junior doctors at a much higher rate than our National Doctors Training and Planning Agency can train them.

The Spark Innovation Program, through its initiatives that engage, enable and empower innovation from even the most junior doctor on a team, also raise morale to aid retention of staff.

The Spark Program has 6 initiatives:
Spark Curiosity, Spark Seed Funding, Spark Ignite, Spark Generation, Spark Connects and BrightSpark.

• Spark Curiosity: This suite of initiatives is designed to start the conversation with regard to innovation and systemic openness to change, cultivating a culture where doctors are encouraged to explore new technologies, processes and practices, and consider how they could be adapted for use in Ireland.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPR)/NDTP "Pop up" Innovation Pod is a space that tours hospitals and engages staff and patients alike to own and drive an articulated Innovation Thinking approach, through workshops on Design Thinking, Business Model Canvas, Customer Journey Mapping etc as applied to healthcare.
The Spark Summit on Innovation and Technology in Healthcare is a one day event in partnership with Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, showcasing new and exciting technology in healthcare such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Surgical Simulation, Blockchain, Deep-learning and Chat Bots to name a few. The 2018 summit was sold out and attended by 500 doctors, academics, policy makers and MedTech Innovators.
The HSE EXPO, planned for March 2019, invites all stakeholders in health to showcase what innovation their sector is involved with. This will be targeted at all allied healthcare professionals and will have both plenary expert speakers and open paper sessions. This again creates a culture where innovation is to be celebrated and encouraged.
• Spark Seed Funding puts out two calls per year for innovative ideas and projects from junior doctors and provides funding of up to €3,000 to those who successfully pitch their ideas for process improvements, platforms or device design. Participants are mentored and given transferrable skills via workshops and by the National Innovation Fellow, who also liaises with hospital management to support the iterative process of a project within the system. For those projects out of scope of the funding available we link with an appropriate academic or industrial partner.
• Spark Ignite calls for medical device ideas that have demonstrated potential for scalability, and is open to all staff in hospital and community health organisations. We are trialling in one hospital group in 2018 with the aim of expanding nationwide in 2019. One-page ideas are submitted to a panel who vote on the best ten ideas. These project owners are then invited to participate in a mini-accelerator program to further develop their idea over six weeks, culminating in a pitch night where the winning pitch is awarded a bursary for further development.
• Spark Generation: The aim of this initiative to address some of the shortfall in skills and knowledge evident in our health service, with a focus on junior doctors. As part of this program we are developing a Health Informatics and Innovation diploma for junior doctors and also a Health Informatics Fellowship in Radiology that will upskill our future doctors to meet the technical needs of the future.
• Spark Connects develops the Innovation in Healthcare network by providing links and brokering relationships between like-minded individuals. By developing links with industry, academia and other stakeholders in healthcare, clinicians will have a network of resources to develop their own innovation projects and ultimately improve patient care.
• Bright Spark: Annually, all initiatives and projects within the SPARK umbrella are invited to compete for a Bright Spark award. Winning projects are celebrated and published. The individuals involved receive national recognition for their efforts, to reinforce the message that innovation is to be encouraged and celebrated. By recognising projects in this way, not only does the individual gain but so does their organisation and profession, which are recognised as milieu that foster a positive culture of excellence and innovation, and thus are great places to work.

Innovation Description

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