Why intrapreneurs have the best ideas

Sometimes the simplest solution turns out to be the best. This is certainly true about one of our Virgin Care colleagues’ inventions to help improve the accuracy of eye measurements, which he developed as part of our internal innovations course.

Nick Barclay is a Retinal Screener in our Surrey NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme. He took part in our Service Improvement Facilitator course, through which we give colleagues training in how to develop their innovation ideas and make them a reality.

During the course Nick began developing the Eye Grading Tool. He worked alongside the Innovations team at Virgin Care, who are responsible for researching and developing new technology and initiatives to improve the care we give to patients. They heard Nick’s idea and saw that it had great potential and so, with Virgin Care’s backing, the tool was developed.

To measure problem areas at the back of the eye, retinal screeners tend to use either computer software or standard rulers laid over the top of a computer monitor. Both methods make it difficult to provide exact measurements and varying results need to be reviewed by more graders before any decision can be made. This slow process can create a delay in being referred on for treatment.

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Nick recognised this problem from his role as a Retinal Screener. His tool is a semi-circular piece of transparent plastic, printed using a 3D printer, with measuring marks and can be used with any monitor or software by overlaying it onto the screen. The simple tool allows graders to easily record precise measurements of retinal images and, as a result, can help to improve the accuracy of referrals being made to Ophthalmology and reduce the need for subsequent checks by other graders. 

Following the grading tool’s trial 75 per cent of Nick’s colleagues said that they found the tool ‘very useful’ while 100 per cent of his colleagues said they were likely to use the tool daily. They also said they were impressed how we supported colleagues our Surrey service, having seen that a fellow clinician had been given the opportunity to share his idea, instigate change and improve the service for patients and colleagues.

Read more: How I became an intrapreneur

Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Tool

Nick has demonstrated the tool at industry shows, including at the World Sight Day event run by the renowned Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Nick and the team are now looking into production runs for the tool to offer it to more services and have had requests from graders around the world for more information and for a tool for their own services. 

As Nick’s story proves, we are always looking to colleagues as well as the wider healthcare innovation industry for ways to improve service for patients, because our colleagues are the people working every day with the technologies and techniques and have a unique perspective on what can be done differently. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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