Innovating to solve pressing health problems

By Betsy Friauf

Pharmacy
 
Innovation in health care delivery is crucial. For proof, look no further than CVS’ plan to buy Aetna or Amazon’s signal that it may begin distributing prescription drugs.

For students in the UNT System College of Pharmacy who are looking to become the providers of the future, a crucial element is sharpening their innovation skills.

They aced a recent milestone, a class project called PHAR 7335 Innovation Challenge. Students participated in design thinking exercises to stretch their ability to assess patients’ needs, then brainstorm and transform outside-the-box “wild ideas” into practical innovations.

Next, they put design thinking to practical use. They worked in teams to propose real-world solutions to some of the most pressing issues of the day – issues that require interprofessional work among pharmacists and experts in public health and public policy.

To make it more interesting, prizes were awarded after a panel of judges made the difficult decision on which proposals are most likely to succeed.

The first-place winner was a literal high flyer: drones to provide same-day, secure transport of medical supplies and drugs to Critical Access Hospitals. These rural hospitals receive subsidies to stay open because they’re crucial to health care in underserved areas.

Team members for the MediDrones project were Brandon Buss, Lara Lai, Gerry Meach, Vincent Nguyen, Dhara Patel, Yaritza Rueda.

The two Honorable Mention winners took on the issue of food deserts:

  • PharmFresh Initiative – Use input from all sectors of the community to create a long-term method of providing fresh produce, plus healthy ready-to-eat food options via food trucks. Team members were Ije Chukwu, Jonathan Huo, Alan Mai, Tram Pham, Nicole Shaw, Dang Vu, Christy Xavier.  See the PharmFresh Initiative presentation.
  • Community Markets – Where people pay what they can to get the healthy foods they need. Team members were Princess Ananti, Marc Esquivel, Ashton Terry, Henry Nguyen, Jason Herrington, Joseph Collins.  See the Community Market presentation.

Winners receive a consultation with the Tech Fort Worth Think Lab, certificate of achievement, more than $100 in technology-focused products from the UNTHSC College of Pharmacy, and $25 gift cards.

The project was directed by Annesha White, PharmD, PhD, Associate Professor and Assistant Dean. She said: “The Innovation Challenge drives team science by encouraging projects focused on optimizing value in healthcare to advance the quality of healthcare, reduce costs, and help improve patient outcomes. The students learned skills for idea generation and problem solving. The motivation among the pharmacy students and creative brilliance reflects a promising future for health care.”

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