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Mitigating Needle Stick Injury for Improved Clinicians and Patients Experience
Episode

Hilario Castillo, Founder, Innovative Neurons LLC

Mitigating Needle Stick Injury for Improved Clinicians and Patients Experience

Needle stick injury is one of the most common injuries that happen to healthcare workers. 

In this episode,  we are privileged to feature Hilario Castillo, Founder and CEO of Innovative Neurons. He is the inventor of the Fast Access Safety Technology (F.A.S.T,) Syringe, a revolutionary syringe that has unique time-saving and safety features. 

Hilario shares the genesis of his invention and company and some of the challenges he faced in putting the product on the market. He discusses F.A.S.T.’s special features and how it saves time and decreases risk to all healthcare workers. We also cover his thoughts and insights on nurse entrepreneurs, nurse-led innovations, and the importance of recognizing nurses’ solutions.  

This is an exciting conversation packed with amazing stories and insights, so please tune in! 

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Mitigating Needle Stick Injury for Improved Clinicians and Patients Experience

About Hilario Castillo

Hilario Castillo is an RN-Entrepreneur with a background in Healthcare. He utilized his acute care clinical expertise to launch Innovative Neurons LLC, a nurse-founded startup that aims to develop a series of innovative medical device technologies with the goal of reducing chronic health conditions, health care costs and developing safer technologies that will benefit clinicians and enhance the patient experience. 

Innovative Neurons first product is a nurse-invented breakthrough patented safety syringe that is unique time savings and safety features currently unavailable and other syringes in the market. This syringe will help decrease health care costs, needlestick injuries and help nurses save valuable time during routine injection procedures.

Prior to founding Innovative Neurons LLC, Hilario was a participant in several other health tech workshops and a recipient of a full year of access to resources, mentors, expertise, networks, with full access to related community events and visibility from NYC’s Next Top Makers program. 

Hilario Castillo, Founder, Innovative Neurons LLC: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Hilario Castillo, Founder, Innovative Neurons LLC: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Rebecca Love:
Hi, everyone, this is Rebecca Love, and you are listening to Outcomes Rocket Nursing. Today our guest is Hilario Castillo, an RN entrepreneur with a background in health care. He utilized his acute care clinical experience to launch Innovative Neurons LLC, a nurse-founded startup that aims to develop a series of innovative medical device technologies with the goal of reducing chronic health conditions, health care costs and developing safer technologies that will benefit clinicians and enhance the patient experience. Innovative Neurons first product is a nurse-invented breakthrough patented safety syringe that is unique time savings and safety features currently unavailable and other syringes in the market. This syringe will help decrease health care costs, needlestick injuries and help nurses save valuable time during routine injection procedures. Hilario, thank you so much for being here today.

Hilario Castillo:
Hi Rebecca. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be in your program. I know it’s listened to by thousands and possibly millions around the world, so for me is an honor to be here and have an opportunity to discuss my journey in this health care entrepreneurship, nursing entrepreneurship.

Rebecca Love:
I love that you’re here because your background speaks about the best of what nurses can do in achieving health care. And let’s start with what inspires your work? Why did you become a nurse and what inspires you to do what you’re doing today?

Hilario Castillo:
That’s a fantastic question, Rebecca. I often have those conversations with folks that are in the field, other nurses, and non-clinicians as well. There are usually folks out there, they’ll say, oh, my God, how can you do that? You know, the sight of blood. I can’t stand it. And I always say, you know, you have to have it in you. It’s something that has to come from the heart for us to be nurses. And that’s pretty much what inspired me to get into nursing. You know, ever since I was a kid, I always just naturally enjoyed helping people, helping people get better, always giving tips and suggestions. So when it came to this country, I was trying to figure out which path I wanted to take after high school. And when I saw the AMP, when I took my first AmP course in college, which was supposed to be the toughest course in that university, I ended up getting a ninety-eight, A+ in that course. At that moment I realized that I really enjoyed just learning about the body, learning how it heals, learning more, the process of taking care of people. And I never looked back since then and just became a better fit to get into nursing because it gave me an opportunity to help people get better to save lives, which is what generally I enjoyed doing. So that’s that was how I got into nursing. And the second part of your question in regards to what inspires me to do what I’m working on now, which is Innovative Neurons and develop technologies, especially the syringe, it was after witnessing a colleague of mine in an accident, so needlestick who was trying to give an injection to an agitated patient. And at that moment, just that light bulb hit. Like most of us that are clinicians and nurses, we usually have good ideas. And oftentimes we might not know how to take those ideas from the bedside to move forward. So which is lucky not to develop that light bulb moment and see a different process or different kind of technology that I believe could help us nurses reduce the need to save time. So that was how I came up with that concept, after witnessing one of my colleagues have an accident in needlestick trying to give an injection.

Rebecca Love:
I think that what I always love when I talk to nurses and especially those who are reimagining and bring new products to market, is that their innovations have always come from something that was a near miss or a harmful event to a patient or to a colleague. And your story about right now, your product, what you’re bringing to market is something that happened because of a needle stick. And can you dive in a little bit more? What are needlesticks? Why are they a problem? These are things that I think that the general population doesn’t even think about. So can you just sort of walk back that that scenario and how your product is adding some value to the space in this problem?

Hilario Castillo:
Absolutely. Fantastic question, Rebecca. Well, needlestick injuries occur in different ways while a clinician is trying to suture a patient with a contaminated needle, you prick yourself as a clinician with a contaminated needle and you can acquire multiple diseases from HIV, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and close to 30 different diseases that can be chronic. So usually it can happen whether you suturing in the OR or when you’re given injections, which is the most frequent procedure in health care. It’s the number one procedure that we give. So most of the needle sticks occur during injection with hypodermic needles, whether intramuscular injection or subcu injection. This is a huge problem that health care has been trying to resolve for decades. In 2002, if I’m not mistaken, there was a law passed to incentivize health care organizations to bring safer engineering solutions because of the big problem when needlestick in. Since then, there has been an introduction of different types of safety syringes in the market. However, despite different technologies, the problem remains. There are still close to a million accidental needle sticks injuries in the United States alone, Rebecca, about close to three million worldwide.

Rebecca Love:
Every year, Hilario? You’re telling us a million. You know, it’s interesting that you talk about this because I come from a family of nurses, and I’ll never forget when my aunt called me after she had been needle stuck by the HIV patient and what that process of treatment was for her, the month of treatment and follow up tests and medications that she had to take after having a needle stick. And I remember this as a nurse, you’re agitated patient, suddenly the needle in the arm would shift, the needle would slip, and your hand was right there stabilizing the arm. And you have these emergency situations and you realize that in these situations of these urgent situations because nothing is calm in the hospital and nothing is calm and patients are getting pricked and prodded, it’s an emergency situation. And that is where you can track these deadly viruses and bacteria that come through needle sticks. And I know that this has been an issue that I know that we dealt with, myself on the front lines as a nurse, everything from the emergency room to the med search to my hospice patients. This was an area of anxiety for me constantly. I’m so glad that you’re tackling it. Can you explain what you’re doing about how it’s revolutionizing or changing or decreasing needlestick? Can you talk to us a little bit about how your product is different from what currently exists on the market?

Hilario Castillo:
Sure, absolutely. And thank you for sharing your story. It’s one that I hear too many doing research for the syringe. And I’ve come across so many articles of so many nurses and clinicians that have acquired infectious diseases, HIV, hepatitis as a result. And it’s a costly problem, close to a billion dollars in health care spending and trying to treat accidental needle sticks because as we just mentioned, the follow-up process can go anywhere between three thousand dollars to up to a million dollars if someone acquires an accidental needle stick. So the reason we have this problem is that the technologies that we have that address, as you just mentioned, the need for a technology that would help us save time and decrease in administering medications in the acute care settings such as the E.R. which is where I Work most of my life in the ICU, paramedic’s psychiatric settings. These are stressful settings where, as you know, time is of the essence. So the traditional process requires us to take one syringe and waste very valuable time looking for two separate-sized needles. As you know, when we’re administering medication in the E.R. or PQR settings where there are paramedics or psychiatric settings, most medications we give in those settings are viscose medications or antibiotics or different medications that require 18 days needed to withdraw the medication. We have to manually attach the needle, whether it’s a safety needle or a regular needle. Then we have to waste time, remove it, discard the needle, look for another twenty-one or twenty-three or twenty-five needle that we’re going to administer the medication with. That whole process takes anywhere between two and three minutes according to data and the different packaging that we have to use in the process, which is also costs. In that process, data shows that the potential for needle stick is greater, especially in the stressful environment where you’re trying to save someone’s life. You might forget to apply the safety needle or might be left uncapped so one might get injured in the process of trying to give the medication to the patient. Oftentimes the safety mechanism might not be inserted properly. So our solution is a retractable safety syringe that instead of having to waste valuable time, switched to needles manually, syringe allows the nurse to simply choose the needle within this syringe, retract, and choose that twenty-one or twenty-three gauge needle to give the medication. So instead of wasting two or three minutes in the whole process, with our syringe, it can take anywhere between 15 to 20 seconds for the whole process, reducing the steps from 15 steps to about six steps. Every single nurse and clinician I have seen this technology so far, their only words are Where is this? How can we don’t have it in the field? Because it has been endorsed by everyone so far. And it’s great to have support from the nursing and health care industry and users that validate the need for this technology in the market.

Rebecca Love:
Well, you know, I think Hilario, you quoted that, you know, the cost of accidental needle sticks cost the health care industry in the United States one billion a year and also just the amount of stress that goes into it. But also time is life when we’re talking about patients in need of access. And when you’re tall enough that your situation and what you’ve been able to invent through Innovative Neurons is just creating more ability to be more efficient with what we do and decreasing the risks to our patients, but more importantly, also decreasing the risk to our providers, which, as you know, are under incredible amounts of stress and burnout. And I think it’s one thing that COVID showed us is that we constantly are crossing the threshold into dangerous situations. I am so glad we’re bringing this problem to light for those that are listening today because I don’t think people understand the incredible risks that providers are taking every day that they step across to care for patients. And here’s one of those incidences that cost lives that patients unknowingly through movements or things that they’re doing and accessing and how we’re developing and resolving these problems is that these providers are able to mitigate those risks so that they don’t have to worry about needle sticks and coming home with HIV or Hep C or any of these diseases that can be transmitted by the blood barrier, which happens during needle stick. So I think that’s really why I love talking to your lawyer is because you’re first-generation immigrants to the United States. You found out that MP became a nurse. And I wonder, what do you believe that people need to know that maybe they don’t know about the role of nursing and improving health outcomes because you’re a man in nursing and you’ve invented a solution to it. And, you know, just even talking about that huge scale and challenge of needles and the rates of transmission and injury to providers, I think is unexplored territory that we hear about, but that the average American doesn’t realize. So tell me, what things do you believe people should know about nursing and how they improve health outcomes that perhaps they’re not aware of?

Hilario Castillo:
That’s a great question and a great analysis, Rebecca. I think, you know, most folks see us, nurses, as you know, we’re there to save lives. We’re helping people get better is what we do naturally comes from the heart. But I think since most folks are not there with us listening to the conversations that we have as nurses at the bedside or the nursing station about seeing different solutions for the numerous things that we do every day. I think there’s a lack of understanding about the natural innovators that we are as nurses. I think we have a God-given capability to see solutions that most folks just don’t have with the technologies that we use daily, whether it’s for documenting or the different kinds of medical devices that we use or the different applications or telehealth technologies. I think that’s an area that as time goes by and there is a big push, especially with the incredible work that you have been doing for awareness in nursing entrepreneurship and innovation, I think as time goes by, people are going to really understand and see that capability or that hidden talent that we have that just hasn’t been tackled upon about nurse innovation and the way we really have solutions or have an eye for coming up with different and more innovative ways to bring our technologies to be more practical, more efficient in health care. I think that’s one area that is starting to little by little, become more common knowledge.

Rebecca Love:
I love what you said there, that, there are so many conversations that are going on at the bedside between nurses. And you’re right, all of us standing around the bedside. We talk about solutions. We talk about the challenges are facing that knowledge and how you just put it so effectively. Those insights could really drive efficiency and outcomes in so many ways. And I think to your point, I do think the conversation is changing and people are starting to recognize it. And I think that what you have done in the space of needle sticks just highlights one of the millions of obstacles and challenges that we as nurses and providers on the front line are facing that cause risks to ourselves, but also cause risks to the patient. And it’s these nurses as they stand there and they watch their colleagues fall to these injuries that say, hey, we can do better. And so I think one of the questions is, is can you give us an example? When you saw your nursing team provide a great solution, perhaps external like, can you just say, hey, there’s something you know, there’s a story here that of a great opportunity that nurses really created something to a problem that you’ve witnessed?

Hilario Castillo:
In regards to the different technologies or just health care as a whole?

Rebecca Love:
Health care as a whole. Or if you have colleagues that you sit there and say, you know what, there is something here. When I was working, this was a problem that we faced in addition to what you’ve done. Are there any examples that come to mind?

Hilario Castillo:
Oh, absolutely. There are different nurses that I’ve met in the process of that are colleagues of mine that saw a problem and came up with a solution as well. For example, there’s a good friend of mine, she went to college with me. She’s a nurse in the OB unit. And for some time she had been calling me and said, hey, Hilario, I see a problem with a basic technology that we use in OB, for the different Dopplers systems. She came up with a simple solution, and she started trying to figure out ways to move forward from the idea to get a prototype of getting the intellectual property. And it was just amazing how she just started doing research on that, coming from a business background and learning the steps that she needs to take. Eventually, she got in contact with folks that can help her get to the prototype stage and get a provisional patent application in place. But this is one of the different solutions. There are numerous nurses that I know that solve. For example, in urban community settings like in the South Bronx where I started my career, there are many nurses there that I met, one in particular that I can think of in regards to this conversation. She saw that there was the need for holistic care in that community in trying to educate that population in regards to whether is nutrition or a preventive measure. So she decided to leave bedside nursing and start up her own holistic company, where she started implementing innovative solutions to address the needs of that specific population in a different way that was just beyond literature. There are so many different ways that I can think of in so many different nurses I met that apply, but we just spoke about it. It’s incredible what we continue to do.

Rebecca Love:
I love those examples because I know it’s so funny because once you meet one, you start to realize that there are so many innovators that are nurses out there leading and doing things differently. And I love that it’s nurses like you just described from the bedside all the way to the South Bronx saying, hey, it doesn’t matter what environment you’re in, we can change health outcomes for all of our patients in the community all the way to the bedside. And I think that’s so, so important and I think a great example to share. So I think that people think when you come up with an idea that is all turning up roses and it’s an easy and fast and shining light. What is one of the biggest setbacks that you’ve experienced and the key learning that you could share with the audience?

Hilario Castillo:
Oh, my goodness. That in itself can take half an hour. But I’ll try to summarize that in a minute. I think that knowing what you don’t know is one of the biggest challenges when you go from nurse to nurse entrepreneur and trying to bring forward technology is not having, I guess, advisers and mentors early on that can identify what are the most important priorities and processes that you need to focus on to move the technology forward. For example, in my case, when I started out, I didn’t know the difference between a professional patent and an application. I didn’t know the significance of having an early prototype and an MVP minimum viable product. Had I had the opportunity to guess early on, meet folks like yourself that can tell me those differences and would have saved me a lot of time and money in the process. But not knowing that that intellectual property is so important for medical device technology and a minimal viable product, understanding that there is a process that we need to follow from the concept to market makes a huge difference, because sometimes you might try to raise funding when you don’t even have an intellectual property yet and you realize that an investor, depending on the kind of technology, wants you to have the patent issue and granted. Or you might try to raise funding for a finalized product and get testing were in reality perhaps just having a minimum viable product can get you to the point where you can raise angel funding to get to those next milestones of a final product, regulatory clearance, and testing. So I think that would be one of the key challenges that I faced, learning the process and knowing that to get from A to B, your first need to really focus on that before you go from B to B. Sometimes we might try to jump and we realize the process that there are steps that we need to follow and processes. So certainly learned that in the process and still learning as learning. So learning experience and organizations like the one you created and learning and networking. That’s the other part, the power of networking. I mean, sometimes we start we might meet folks like I met so many via SONSIEL and organizations that opened up new connections to new doors that I think the power of networking when you just start meeting like-minded folks that are working on other things and you develop a support system, that is just priceless.

Rebecca Love:
You know, I can’t tell you how many nurses that I meet that it is that you hit the nail on the head. It’s what you don’t know that tends to trick up everything. Right? And how quickly you drink in from the fire hose. And I love your solution and say finding mentors early on that can try to help guide you make such a world of difference. I remember thinking that exact same thing when I started my first company and what a world of a difference and just wow how much I didn’t know. So tell me, what are you most excited about today for the future of health care, for nursing? What gives you hope, inspiration, and excitement?

Hilario Castillo:
Well, definitely I would say, seeing the momentum that’s happening right now with nursing entrepreneurship. I just think it’s fantastic. It gives me a lot of hope that not just myself, but other nurse entrepreneurs are going to be able to live out their dreams of bringing a life-saving solution to the market, to the world. And I think it’s going to encourage more and more nursing students and nurses to come out from that shell and say, Hey, I believe I can do this as this person did it and this is how they did it. I can do this as well. Because I think there are just countless nurses out there that perhaps just haven’t been found or connected. They have incredible solutions to so many different areas in health care that are slowly coming out. And we’re learning about more. We connect them with each other. And I think eventually, you know, in five, 10 years, I think we’ll look back and we’ll see most of the technologies in health care, whether it’s wearable technologies, telehealth apps, medical devices. I think it’s going to be nurse-created technologies. You tackled something earlier Rebecca, with the healthcare problems and needlestick. So most, let’s say, medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies have focused solely on trying to bring a device to help reduce needlestick. But when your end-user when you’re a nurse, you realize that the problem is not just there and creating a technology that can help decrease time, which we know as nurses is a priority, being able to reduce time, save time in the process, which will help save hospitals and health care money in the process of reducing time and having more time available to see more patients or to do other interventions, et cetera. So I think we as nurses are able to see the solutions is in a whole different way as end-users. And that’s what I’m excited about. Seeing more nursing entrepreneurs out there coming up with life-saving world-changing innovations and technologies. It’s a very exciting moment to be in. And I’m just grateful and honored to be a small part of that process.

Rebecca Love:
Amen, I totally hope that what you just said becomes the future of health care, because you’re right, nurses come up constantly with life-saving technologies. And if they are inspired by your story, to believe that they, too, can do this, that through that road, that they can do that and it inspires that next generation, there is such potential for the future of health care. And I love that idea of you saying in the next five, 10 years, perhaps most of the devices that we see come out on the market or either nurse-led or nurse-supported or nurse-invented, because then we’re going to see this profession and the future of health care really start to tackle some of those big problems. And to your point, they see it from a multi-dimensional direction. They think about things that the traditional people that are tackling these problems only see the minutia in those details sometimes where they don’t see the nuances all around. And to your point, timesaving, dealing with the process, that is what nurses know. This is what we seek against, and that’s why we’re going to change the future of health care. So, Hilario, it’s been so great having you. Tell me and tell the audience, where can people find you and how can they contact you if they want to speak with you and network and all of that? Where do you exist external to this podcast?

Hilario Castillo:
Well, definitely you can always find me on LinkedIn. Hilario Castillo. I would encourage everyone to check out our website, which is www.innovativeneurons.com. The website is being revised as well, but you can check us out there to see what we’re working on currently and what we’re going to be working on in the future. And of course, you can always contact us via email. Innovativeneurons@Gmail.com is the preferred email and I would love to have the opportunity to connect with anyone out there that’s interested in knowing more about our technology or collaborating with us. It would be a pleasure to have that conversation with anyone.

Rebecca Love:
Hilario, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of Outcomes Rocket Nursing because your invention of tackling the problem of needle sticks is so acute in our environment across every kind of setting from the home to the hospital system. So thank you for all that you do. Thank you for all that you’re doing and so excited to see where you are going in the future. For anyone else who would like to tune in, we hope to see you again at our next, Outcomes Rocket Nursing podcast. Again my name is Rebecca Love. This is Hilario Castillo, the incredible inventor of Innovative Neurons who is leading to new safety syringe to help prevent needle sticks for patients and providers. Hilario, thank you for being here.

Hilario Castillo:
Thank you so much, Rebecca. It was an honor to be in your program. Thank you for all you do for us, nurses and nurse innovators. And we will always support you and look forward to doing great things. Together, it’s been a pleasure to be on your program. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Rebecca Love:
It takes a village and we will see you guys next time.

Hilario Castillo:
Thanks. Take care!

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Things You’ll Learn

  • Nurses and clinicians usually have good ideas. Oftentimes we might not know how to take those ideas from the bedside to move forward. 
  • Many nurse-invented innovations come from something that was a near miss or a harmful event to a patient or colleague. 
  • Needlestick injuries frequently happen, and this is a huge problem that healthcare has been trying to resolve for decades. 
  • Data shows that the potential for needle stick injury is greater, especially in the stressful environment where you’re trying to save someone’s life.
  • Nurses have so many solution-centered conversations as they stand around the bedside. 
  • Nurses have a God-given capability to see solutions that most folks don’t have.
  • The biggest challenge when you go from nurse to nurse entrepreneur is not having advisers and mentors early on that can identify what are the most important priorities and processes that you need to focus on to move the technology forward.
  • Networking opens new doors where you can meet like-minded folks that form a support system. 
  • Nurses are able to see the solutions is in a whole different way as end-users.

 

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