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COVID-19 Testimonial Series | HUG Innovation Center

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Digital solutions, fundamental and clinical research, and organisational process redesign to support the fight against COVID and enhance the physicians-patients relationship


The following article is part of BioAlps’ testimonial series and was written by Mrs Helena Bornet dit Vorgeat Concerto and Vision 20/20 Projects Lead at HUG Innovation Center. Our series aims to provide a platform for the different life sciences actors from western Switzerland, who are active in finding and developing solutions to fight against the new coronavirus, to share their experience. 


HUG Innovation Center’s activities during the COVID-19 crisis

In the words of our general director, to manage the COVID-19 crisis, HUG adapted their organisational process at high speed in order to deal with the pandemic, “we acted as fast as possible and as professionally as necessary”.

HUG transformed their infrastructures to redesign admission strategies and to separate flows, such as the arrival of patients at the emergency room. The mobilisation of employees was exemplary and the crisis has stimulated innovation and favoured the digitisation of certain activities reinforced for instance by wide adoption of telecommuting.

Following the innovative dynamics of HUG, throughout the entire hospital new solutions were developed, catalysed and accelerated in order to answer the specific needs generated by the pandemic.

COVID-19 sped up significantly the spreading of some of our recent digital-care services.

In order to deal with the physical distancing and the limited access to the premises of the hospital, HUG developed several solutions for both the physicians-patients relationship and that with families, such as the rapid deployment of teleconsultations (HUG@home which immediately after its introduction was renamed doctors@home as HUG opened the service to all doctors in the Geneva canton). In collaboration with many players, including the Geneva General Directorate of Health (DGS) HUG offered a coherent care path for COVID-19 patients or suspects through telemedicine services offered to the population (Covicall – Covicheck – PROHUG and Covicare). In addition, several mobile apps were launched whether to centralise general information on the local pandemic situation (Coronapp-HUG) or to always keep in hand the latest clinical-behavioural-hygienical process (Head-to-Toe). Or similarly to make appointments for consultations or to get tested. A large-scale deployment of iPads equipped with a dedicated visio-conference app’ by HUG’s innovation center (Harmonie) was organised to reconnect patients with their families during those particularly difficult times.

Professionals and individuals, all passionate about 3D printing technology, have gathered around the HUG 3D printing center to form a real solidarity network to quickly provide key pieces to facilitate the wearing of masks.


Impact of COVID-19 on the HUG and the Innovation Center’s events

The amount of physical meetings as well as events was drastically reduced to be replaced by online meeting sessions or online events, for which HUG had to innovate in order to keep them efficient, dynamic and entertaining. Among those, two 100% online hackathon answering specific COVID-related challenges were supported by Open Geneva, catalysed by HUG’s innovation center.


Impact of COVID-19 on the HUG and the Innovation Center’s internal processes

HUG developed personalised dashboards in order to disseminate essentials numbers and key information in real time. All departments and supports services worked hand in hand to collaborate efficiently and to create the best suited solutions necessary.

Moreover, many researchers of the Hospital and medical Faculty dedicated their resources and efforts to develop new fundamental and clinical studies on Covid. The number of protocols submitted to launch new clinical studies was doubled during the crisis. A dedicated group of experts was created to coordinate the research projects and ensure a timely response.

During the crisis HUG’s innovation center conducted an investigation to map, understand and document organisational changes and new services in order to confirm and perpetuate them. As we all know, necessity is mother of creativity and innovation, and it appears detrimental not to benefit from all the inventions demonstrated during the crisis and to lose track of the incredible advances that have taken place. HUG have every intention of sustaining many of these positive changes and continuing on the wave of incredible dynamism that the staff has shown. A great amount of the digital e-health services that have been deployed will continue as they are appreciated by both patients and collaborators.

Rethinking and adapting the ways of communicating, the frequency, efficiency, and the amount of hierarchal layers necessary to take decision allowed HUG to react in a particularly timely manner.

An impressive behavioural change was observed, where tension and rivalry disappeared and solidarity and excellent collaboration rose.


HUG, the Innovation Center and the Geneva community

The population and local companies also showed tremendous solidarity and gratitude to our staff, and we received huge amounts of gifts and chocolate. “Delight trolleys” (Les chariots du Bonheur) were organised by the innovation center team to distribute these gifts fairly to every ward and all professionals (nurses, physicians, technicians, janitors…) of the hospital, and at the same time seize the opportunity to exchanges with each of them to collect feedbacks on the changes happening at every level of the hospital.

COVID-19 changed perspective on everyday problems and enabled people to reconnect with core-values of nursing. The efficiency of teams, who share a strong sense of common purpose, evidences that uniting collaborators in any department, including the Innovation Center, behind a shared vision will unleash the full potential of individual and collective work.