Sheena House submitted an idea into the VA Innovations competition for environmental control units for spinal cord patients. Working with her were Cathlene Wall, Biomedical Equipment Support Specialists and Prabhakaran Nambiar, M.D., Chief, Spinal Cord Injury Unit. The idea was approved and a grant was received was for $728,150 for the purchase of the environmental control units and individual patient televisions for all of the 60 patient beds in Spinal Cord. The process was several steps. The first step was to receive enough votes to be in the top 100 ideas to move to the next stage in the competition. This idea was 38 out of over 4,000 ideas when the voting was completed. After this, the team created a presentation that was sent to the Innovations competition in which they narrowed down the 100 even further. The team was invited to Nashville to present the idea to the committee, and funding was received shortly thereafter.
This equipment will provide our spinal cord injured patients with the capability to control their surroundings, including nurse call, bed control, making phone calls, television controls, etc. It will also allow them to have access to playing games, internet access, as well as other entertainment options, thereby improving their quality of stay during their time in the hospital. In addition, it will free up valuable nursing time as patients will have more independence and control of their surroundings. The patient can control this equipment through the sip n puff straw, voice activation, or eye gaze. This equipment is one of a kind and has not been implemented in a hospital setting before. We expect this project to greatly improve patient satisfaction as well as increase nursing productivity, thereby saving the medical center money.