When nursing students are exposed to the innovation process and the methodologies to create human-centered solutions to health and healthcare problems, they flourish. The guest article below written by one of my nursing students, Anthony Scarpone-Lambert, is a prime example of this. Anthony is a newly minted nurse who took full advantage of every innovation and entrepreneurship opportunity provided at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Nursing, and the innovation and entrepreneurship community-at-large.
Anthony has long had an innovative mindset and has participated in and placed in a plethora of innovation challenges and awards (see LinkedIn Honors and Awards). As a student in the Innovation in Health: Foundations of Design Thinking class at Penn Nursing, students from across the University learn how to use design thinking to create solutions to health and healthcare problems. Anthony took the innovation he created in that course and used it as a launchpad to compete in the Penn Nursing Innovation Accelerator Program, placing second. Over his 4-years at Penn, he won the 2019 Social Impact award, the Hillman Summer Innovation Grant, the Wharton India Fellow, and the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund, to name just a few. Most recently, Anthony was the first Penn Nursing student to ever apply for – and win – the University of Pennsylvania’s Presidents Innovation Prize! His team won first place at the Nurse Hackathon in 2019 sponsored by the Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Enterprises, and Leaders (SONSIEL) and Johnson & Johnson. The idea for his new company, Lumify Care, spun out of that hackathon.
Anthony’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovative mindset are evident in all of the work he does. Still, the education provided him in the classroom and outside is what will provide the foundation for the work he does moving forward. The more we can integrate innovation & entrepreneurship education and opportunities into the curriculums we teach, the more our nursing students will feel empowered and supported to lead in health and healthcare innovation.
Below Anthony highlights his experiences in the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and provides his keys to success when starting a new company.
Nursing innovation is a term that has been tossed around quite a bit in the past two years. While nurses produce innovative ideas every day for healthcare, few of us move forward in bringing our ideas to fruition. In this blog, I’ll be sharing my top 10 tips for turning your innovative idea into a viable business venture.
Although innovation has existed in the nursing profession since its origin, in the past two years, there has been an uproar of attention surrounding innovation in nursing (Dil, Uzun, & Aykanat, 2012). As a Penn Nursing student throughout this time, I was quickly inspired to put my frontline perspective to work and begin developing meaningful solutions to the many challenges I encountered while caring for patients in my clinical rotations.
Hospitals are disruptive, such as the bright white lights that wake up patients on an average of 9 times per night (Lumify Care Pilot, 2020).
Nurses are constantly creating DIY solutions to the many pain points experienced on the frontline; however, few of these ideas ever receive the attention they deserve, as many health care organizations lack the foundation or resources to empower and support nurse-led innovation (Albert, 2018). Imagine if every nursing DIY solution was brought forward and turned into a scalable business that could be distributed to healthcare workers globally. I think our healthcare system would be better off because of it.
Brainstorm session in the early days of Lumify Care.
The problem that always struck me the greatest was how clinical environments are not conducive to comfortable patient-centered experiences. I frequently asked my patients what their biggest frustrations were while hospitalized and a common answer became clear: “I can’t sleep and I am not comfortable.”
Inspired to solve this problem, I teamed up with fellow nurse innovator and Johnson & Johnson Nursing Innovation Fellow, Jennifferre Mancillas, to begin our journey to improve patient experience from the frontline. After interviewing over 250 nurses across the country, our team found that 87% of nurses struggle to see while providing patient care at night, leading them to turn on the overhead intrusive room lighting that wakes up patients on average 9 times per night shift (Lumify Care Pilot, 2020).
This got us thinking: how can we better provide tools and resources to the frontline of healthcare to optimize patient experiences?
Over the past year, my team and I have been building Lumify Care to do exactly this. Lumify Care is a nurse-led startup improving patient experience by developing innovative tools and resources needed to support frontline healthcare workers. After months of creating and testing prototypes of our first product, uNight Light, our uNightShift community, and Sleep-First education, we launched our first series of solutions in January, 2021 and have quickly generated over 7,000 users in all 50 U.S. states at over 100 hospital organizations. You can read more about our story in the New York Times here.
Nurses wearing Lumify’s uNight Light device.
So, what does it really take to bring your innovative idea to market? It’s a loaded question; however, here are my top 10 pieces of advice for turning your nurse-led innovation into a viable business venture:
- Humans = Everything: You can’t do this alone! Throughout my innovation journey, I’ve been supported by nurses and people across the country at various organizations and in various professions. I met my Co-Founder at a nurse hackathon sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and SONSIEL. We’ve worked with interdisciplinary teammates from business and engineering sectors to build our business.
- The idea doesn’t matter as much as the implementation: Although you may think your idea is going to be key to your success, it’s really only 1% of the puzzle. What matters more is how you implement your idea. Start asking yourself these questions:
- Who will pay for this product/service?
- How will this product/service work in the clinical setting?
- What are the main competitors for this product/service?
- What is my strategy for getting users to adopt my solution quickly?
3. Utilize your resources: There are so many entrepreneurial resources out there in the world! It is imperative that you utilize all the resources accessible to you. Here are some of my favorites:
- Y-Combinator Startup School: https://www.startupschool.org/
- NurseHack4Health: https://nursehack4health.org/
- SONSIEL: https://sonsiel.org/
- Startup Accelerators: http://seedrankings.com/
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries: http://theleanstartup.com/
- A16z: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9cn0TuPq4dnbTY-CBsm8XA
- Small Business Association: https://www.sba.gov/
4. Stay gritty: Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster. One hour, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, and the next, you’ll feel like your business is a failure. Grit is essential. You have to stay focused on your mission and maintain a growth mindset.
- Watch this TedTalk about The Power of Grit
5. Find a trusted mentor: Mentors who have been through the path of bringing an innovation to market are helpful when you hit roadblocks. I recommend using LinkedIn to network with folks who have been through it before, attending innovation meet-ups in your city, and leveraging your healthcare organization.
6. Build a community: Having a supportive community around you is essential for two reasons. First, entrepreneurship can be scary and isolating. Second, your first users are the hardest to find, but if you build a meaningful community, you will have your first champions.
7. Done is better than perfect: Too often, we are trying to get our solution to be “just right.” However, your solution doesn’t need to be perfect to get started. It’s important you get your solution out there into the world and get feedback. You are always going to have room to grow and improve your solution, and that’s what makes innovation so fun!
8. Validate the market: It is essential you prove that people want what you are building. The best way to truly validate your market is to showcase that your customers will pay for what you are building. Again, getting your solution out there into the world, collecting feedback, and getting early customers is key.
9. Focus on the end user: I think design thinking is the best framework for this. You want to make sure you are designing a solution that actually makes sense for the end user you’re solving for! As nurses, we are great at this because we actually understand what goes on at the frontline.
- Check out this awesome resource: https://designthinkingforhealth.org/
10. Believe in yourself: YOU can do this! Did you know that leaders surveyed from both clinical and business sectors agreed that nurses have the greatest opportunity to utilize innovation to transform and improve care for patients by 2025 (BDO & Penn Nursing, 2019). Here are some awesome nurse-founded companies for inspiration:
Starting your own business can feel super scary and overwhelming. However, if you break it down, take it step by step, utilize your resources, and stay passionate, you can do it! As nurses, we have the power to create a better healthcare for tomorrow. It’s time we utilize our innovative minds and start bringing our ideas to life.
For more information about Lumify Care, please go to www.lumifycare.com.
About the Author: Anthony Scarpone-Lambert, BSN is the Co-Founder and CEO of Lumify Care, a nurse-led startup improving patient experience by developing innovative tools and resources needed to support frontline healthcare workers. Lumify’s flagship product is the uNight Light, a wearable LED light allowing frontline healthcare workers to illuminate their workspace while decreasing patient sleep disturbances by 70%. Lumify recently launched in January of 2021, however, it has already been featured in the New York Times and scaled to over 7,000 nurses in all 50 U.S. states.
Additionally, Anthony is a recent graduate and Hillman Scholar in Nursing Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. He is the first Penn Nursing student to win the Penn President’s Innovation Prize, the Venture Lab Startup Challenge, and is a 4x winner of the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund. After graduation, Anthony will be in California working on Lumify Care full-time.