High School Interns Learn About Life In the Lab

Transitioning out of high school can be one of the happiest, albeit stressful, times in your life. One of the major stress factors comes from career anxiety. After all, what is out there? Where do all those people go when they leave for work? How do you discover your calling? The list of questions is endless.

OSF HealthCare is trying to do its part in easing that stress. Last year, OSF partnered with the Greater Peoria Works program to offer health care internships for Peoria high school students. The internships can last for the entire school year.

While internships in health care can be a challenge to organize due to various regulations, OSF was able to start the first interns at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center Sterile Processing Department.

“Internships provide general job training and help students explore hidden careers,” said Julie Mueller, director of recruitment at OSF HealthCare. “When people think of careers in health care, they tend to focus on nurses and doctors. But there are also many clinical careers like sterile processing, surgical techs, respiratory therapy, lab positions, etc., that are also important.”

The Intern Experience

Amanda and Rochelle, both seniors at Richwoods High School, were curious about pursuing a career in healthcare and were looking for a way to experience potential careers first-hand. So they jumped at the opportunity.

The interns monitored and delivered sterile carts for various departments. They learned about job interviews, teamwork, how a hospital works and steps to take for a career in health care.

“These two students did a remarkable job and were an incredible help,” Mueller said. “We didn’t know what to expect when we started the process, but they worked out better than we could have hoped.”

“This opportunity has definitely strengthened my interest in pursuing a healthcare career, but it’s also shown me that there are more careers out there than I thought,” said Amanda, who plans on attending ICC in the fall with assistance from a Peoria Promise grant.

“I’m so excited, and this opportunity has made me more certain this is what I want to do,” said Rochelle, who was recently accepted to the pre-med program at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Future of the Internship Program

The initial program accomplished its goals. The students discovered the many career opportunities available in health care, and both students are planning on a career in health care.

“We’re excited about the success this program has had in such a short time. We plan to grow this program with other departments in the future,” Mueller said. “There are many opportunities for us to help students understand their career options.

“Partnering with the Greater Peoria Works program is a wonderful way for us to invest in the future of Peoria. And with financial help from programs like Peoria Promise, these students have a great chance to get a good start in their careers.”


OSF OnCall Brings Nighttime Relief to Rockford Resident

Kim Kaufman, of Rockford, was going on day three with severe congestion and drainage. She tried different homeopathic options and over-the-counter medicines to help with the symptoms, but nothing seemed to provide any relief.

Kim, a mediation specialist, suspected she had a sinus infection. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, she woke up at 2 a.m. feeling miserable and said “enough is enough.”

“At that point, I knew I was just going to get worse and wanted to do something about it right then and there,” Kim said.

She started searching on the internet for the nearest 24-hour urgent care. That’s when she discovered OSF OnCall – an around-the-clock online urgent care clinic.

Not Just For OSF Patients

Kim was a patient with OSF HealthCare over 10 years ago, but isn’t currently. But with OSF OnCall, you don’t have to be an OSF patient to use the service.

She clicked the link, entered brief details about her condition and health history and within five minutes a provider called her back. The provider asked if Kim wanted to do a video conference for the appointment, and she opted to do FaceTime.

After asking questions and reviewing her symptoms, the provider concluded that she did indeed have a sinus infection. She called a prescription in to Kim’s pharmacy for an antibiotic that she was able to pick up the next morning.

Comprehensive Care From Home

“I was amazed at how thorough the provider was with asking questions and providing suggestions for over-the-counter medications that would help with symptom relief while the antibiotic was kicking in,” she said. “Turns out, I was taking the wrong over-the-counter medications for my congestion.”

Kim also appreciated the follow-up email that was sent to her with everything the provider and she discussed during the appointment. “I was a little foggy when talking to the provider, so the follow-up email was so helpful to refer back to.”

“I keep telling all my friends about it,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you want to get care from the comfort of your own home when you are feeling miserable? It was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone.”

Implementing New Health Care Solutions Faster

As many leaders in the health care industry know, finding health care solutions to meet our strategic needs is not a problem. There are hundreds, if not thousands of entrepreneurs and startup companies with ideas to revolutionize care. The challenge is quickly adopting these solutions after they’ve been selected.

new health care solutionsMost traditional health care systems operate on a 12-month fiscal calendar, meaning most budgets are submitted at least six months before the current one is over. So, if organizations find innovative products they want to purchase and implement in the middle of the year, they will likely have to wait for more than one year to move forward.

The way OSF HealthCare has addressed this issue is by giving our Innovation Partnerships program its own annual operating budget. This allows us to apply those resources towards consulting, purchasing services and software licensing fees as we are made aware of new opportunities. We have also budgeted IT hours for Electronic Medical Record integration when necessary.

Along the way, we must have constant communication and collaboration with the OSF divisions that are executing new products. This ensures we have the time, money and resources to continue introducing innovative ideas into our system.

Ensuring the Successful Launch of Health Care Solutions

As I mentioned before, there are so many great products and services being offered to improve health care and reduce costs. However, we’ve refined our approach to selecting innovative products that help OSF utilize simulation to design novel solutions in health care, remove barriers to care for disadvantaged individuals, transform how care is delivered to seniors and expand access to care in ways we haven’t tried before. Technology and software are also chosen based on whether they apply to initiatives outlined in the OSF strategy.

Along those lines, the Innovation Partnership team has found that we won’t be successful implementing innovative ideas if we don’t have executive sponsors in charge of seeing these projects through for the entire organization. Our team identifies and promotes products and services to leaders overseeing different initiatives within OSF. We then manage the assessment, contracting, project planning, piloting and measurement of the project. The executive sponsor removes barriers to implementation and uses the data produced in pilots to successfully spread solutions across the Ministry.

Collaboration is Key

Outside of having executive sponsors to help implement innovative technology and services, it’s also important to have a team of collaborators to help choose what products will work best within the Ministry. My team and I are co-located with staff members working in performance improvement, healthcare analytics, project management, internal innovation and simulation as part of the overall OSF Innovation strategy. They are the perfect sounding board on the various products we see and help us accelerate the work we do with startup companies and entrepreneurs.

Thanks to our continually evolving Innovation Partnership process, we’ve been able to greatly reduce the time it takes to bring a new solution to scale. We now can identify ideas, vet them with subject matter experts, initiate the legal and IT review process and begin implementation/pilot planning within six weeks.

It goes to show that the newest technological advances are not the most important part of fixing the health care industry. Ensuring you have the infrastructure to assess and implement these products and services is the most crucial element of innovation.

OSF HealthCare Nourishing Innovative Ideas

I am a practicing physical therapist within OSF HealthCare. It was about five years ago, I came up with an innovative idea to improve outcomes for patients with lower back pain. Physical therapists spend much of their time performing manual therapy techniques to the spine to facilitate pain reduction, improve range of motion and promote healing, all of which creates better outcomes for the patient. However, due to increased restrictions by insurance companies, physical therapists receive fewer visits to treat each patient. Fewer visits reduce the exposure patients have to manual therapy techniques which may influence how long it takes for patients to recover. It may also influence the overall reoccurrence rate of low back pain.

innovation solution to reduce back pain. I, along with fellow physical therapist Jana Bresch, developed a solution to this ongoing problem. The Invertabelt is a self-application tool that allows patients to perform similar manual therapy techniques they would receive in a clinical setting, but now in the comfort of their own homes. This helps patients increase the exposure time to clinical manual therapy techniques, thus promoting quicker reduction and/or elimination of back pain. We were so confident in our product, we developed a business called The Oakford Group, LLC and applied for and received two patents. The questions was, how do we sell this thing and who do we sell it to?

Enter OSF HealthCare. The hospital system’s innovation partnerships and ventures teams also thought we had a great idea and financially backed us to participate in Brave Launch, a business accelerator led by the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University and sponsored by OSF. The program pushes select teams out into the real world to gain insight and develop their business models through customer discovery.

Customer Discovery

When launching new products or ideas, many new businesses have not taken the time to identify a set of customers. This matters because you could have a product that goes to market only to find it doesn’t meet the needs of any customers. Brave Launch gives you the tools and mentorship you need to talk to potential clients, get their feedback and determine whether you need to entirely redevelop your idea or make small tweaks before real production begins.

The seven-week program gave us the confidence to continue with our business model and helped us create different versions of our marketing strategy. It also introduced us to potential funding options and prepared our business for how to accept different types of financing. Brave Launch culminates in a so-called “pitch day” which is much like an episode of Shark Tank. We had the opportunity to present our innovative products to organized investor organizations and answer pertinent questions about our business models.

To our surprise, we actually won the competition for Best Business Model.  The Oakford Group is now at the point where at least two of the venture groups we presented to are continuing to evaluate The Invertabelt with potential for financial backing.

OSF Creating an Innovative Culture

As we wait for different investor groups to do their due diligence on our company and product, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. It wouldn’t have been possible without the continued efforts of OSF HealthCare to support Mission Partners like me with innovative ideas. OSF was one of the major sponsors for the Brave Launch project. The organization also funded my company’s entry fee to participate.

It’s my hope that my story will encourage others within OSF HealthCare to share their concepts for improving health care. It’s the people on the front lines of care delivery who understand everyday hindrances to care and possibly have many ideas to make care more effective and cost efficient. They just need to know that OSF is a resource and advocate for those wanting to make those ideas a reality.

OSF OnCall – Private, Convenient, Fast.

Vicki Weatherington, of Peoria, is a big fan of OSF OnCall. She and her family use the service quite often for the convenience. Vicki, an OSF ConstantCare nurse, has been in nursing for over 26 years and knows when she sees quality medical care.

“Being a nurse, family and friends call you when they are sick asking what to do for this sickness or that sickness,” Vicki said. “Often times, I just refer them to OSF OnCall because I know they will receive the care they need.”

Care from the comfort of home

The most recent time she used OSF OnCall was in December 2016. Vicki came down with an upper-respiratory illness, including a cough, aches and pains.

She visited the OSF OnCall website, requested an appointment via FaceTime and a provider called her back within 15 minutes to begin their appointment together.

“I was feeling really miserable. It was bitter cold that day and didn’t want to have to get ready and drive to the nearest urgent care or wait to be seen by a doctor,” Vicki said.

What Vicki likes the most about OSF OnCall is the fact that the provider will tell you right away if they can treat your condition or not. If they can’t treat you, you won’t be charged.

“After the provider assessed me and asked a number of questions, she advised me to see an in-office provider. So, I was not charged.”

Vicki’s son also uses the OSF OnCall service while away at college.

“It’s scary not being there when your child is sick,” she said. “I’m used to being able to help him when he needs medical care. When he uses OSF OnCall, I know he can be seen quickly and be treated by quality doctors or nurse practitioners. And that makes me feel better.”