OPENPediatrics: A blueprint for big innovation

by Lisa Fratt on September 10, 2014

My father had a favorite bit of advice as we embarked on our adult lives: “Go big or go home.” Going big is exactly what OPENPediatrics is doing, empowering physicians and nurses to care for children across the globe.

The Web-based digital learning platform was conceived 10 years ago by Jeffrey Burns, MD, MPH, chief of critical care at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Traci Wolbrink, MD, MPH, an associate in critical care. It concluded a year-long beta test in April 2014, and version 1 has now been launched.

Developed to impart critical care skills, OPENPediatrics uses lectures, simulators and protocols to deliver training. In the process, it has helped save lives.

Screen grab from a video by Robert Pascucci, MD, Boston Children's Hospital

Take, for example, a physician in Israel trying to resuscitate a newborn. He struggled to intubate the baby and succeeded after recalling an OPENPediatrics video and animation that illustrated the proper steps.

“Our goal was to have 1,000 users in 20 countries,” says Wolbrink. That goal was quickly met: The platform has 3,020 users in 105 countries, and 300 to 400 new users join monthly, creating a connected global community of learners.

One physician user used to worry that he couldn’t deliver the best care to his patients because he practiced alone in a remote setting. Now that OPENPediatrics has connected him with other providers, he says, he sleeps more easily at night.

How to go big

Wolbrink credits the success of OPENPediatrics to several factors. These include:

  • a rigorous iterative development process with new releases on a bi-weekly basis during beta testing
  • an unwavering commitment to user needs and experience
  • a strong and nimble approach to partnerships

“We did a lot of ongoing formative evaluation and user surveys during the development process,” recalls Wolbrink. That process uncovered a few surprises.

Many nurses, for example, rely on hospital computers instead of private computers. But hospital firewalls typically didn’t permit download of the Adobe Air application needed to access OPENPediatrics. So nurses weren’t joining the community. “That’s one reason we went to the Web-based version,” says Wolbrink.

The OPENPediatrics team has taken other steps to draw more nurses into the community, including launching a Nursing World Shared Practice Forum modeled on its physician forum. During these monthly video conferences, an expert reviews a common practice issue, such as family bereavement or tight glycemic control, and users log in to discuss how they approach the issue.

“It’s the only forum where you can be in one place and really learn what your colleagues around the world are doing and what challenges they are facing,” says Wolbrink. “It helps build understanding of why people may or may not be doing certain things or following guidelines.”

Users also requested more social learning, so developers added a small-groups functionality that allows clinicians to create public or private groups where they can host conferences, video chat or share resources. “We’re going to see a lot more interactivity, social learning and collaboration on the site,” predicts Wolbrink.

IBM, Boston Children’s and the World Federation of Pediatric & Intensive Critical Care Societies are the primary partners in the development of the OPENPediatrics. IBM provides in-kind support, leveraging technologies that otherwise might not be affordable to build and host the platform.

Burns, Wolbrink and their team have engaged additional partners to plug gaps as they work to build an optimal solution for critical care providers around the globe. Genuine Interactive, for example, has helped to create interactive elements like a virtual ventilation simulator (above). OpenClove provides video conferencing software. Finally, OPENPediatrics has partnered with international societies to deliver their training materials on the platform.

Wolbrink says this is just the beginning. “We’re actively seeking partners to provide the best technologies to integrate into the platform,” she says. That’s seems to be what going big is all about.

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