Innovation Team’s Response to COVID-19

Life looks drastically different than it did at the start of the year, as 2020 has tested all of us in new ways. At Seattle Children’s, we continue to push, continue to bring our tenacity and resiliency to the forefront, and continue to overcome. We’ve dealt with no shortage of challenges, but we’ve also found opportunities to make change. Collaboration among Seattle Children’s leadership, those on the front lines and the Innovation team has enabled our organization to provide quick, nimble and effective support to the extraordinary new demands on our workforce.   

Reinforcing the Supply Chain  

Now more than ever, our supply chain needs to be better, faster, and stronger. And the team did just that, getting creative and considering all partners who might be able to help. This included spouses of Continuous Improvement and Innovation department team members as well as community partnerships for 3D printing efforts that led to thousands of dollars of savings in labor and materials. 

Protecting Frontline Faculty and Staff  

Vinay Thakorlal and Puru Padmanabhan, both members of the Innovation team, worked with Seattle Children’s Transportation department to install new back plastic sheet panels on all Seattle Children’s shuttles in order to protect the drivers and help adhere to our social distancing efforts. Collectively, they also found a way to redirect air vents for added driver safety and tested the solution by spraying water into the vents. This cost-effect solution is built from parts that anyone can find in a hardware store vs. requiring special equipment. All shuttles currently in rotation had this stopgap installed, and we’ve since collaborated with a vendor for a more permanent solution.   

An Added Challenge of the Pandemic  

Wearing face masks for hours a day, for days on end, can lead to an array of discomfort. A simple idea to reduce the pressure on the face led to a clear and actionable solution. The Innovation team was asked “can we make masks more comfortable and still effective?” With doctors, nurses and others fighting COVID-19 needing constant protection, the sooner we could find a resolution, the better.

The solution: mask extenders, when worn across the back of the head, connect to facemask loops and distribute pressure away from the ears and face. The team iterated on the design and landed on a final product within a week. Working through multiple rounds of feedback with nurses to find the right solution, end-users could give effective feedback from the beginning. Recognizing that many of the end users are women, the team designed an extender that accommodated a range of hairstyles (such as with hair pulled back). Rapid prototyping produced a better final product in a shorter amount of time.  

Interest in making masks more comfortable extends beyond Seattle Children’s, and we are sharing our design widely, so others don’t have to undergo the same design and prototyping process. If you’d like to learn more about the mask extender design, feel free to email us for information.