May 27, 2010
By: Alvaro Fernandez
Let me now share what the Judging Panel and the SharpBrains team found most impressive from each Winner and Finalist of the 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards, accompanied by some additional information on each of these 10 noteworthy initiatives and case studies.
Grand Prize Winner
USA Hockey, Inc., is the National Governing Body of the sport of ice hockey in the United States. With a membership of nearly 600,000 players, coaches, officials and volunteers that span all 50 states, USA Hockey seeks to promote the growth of hockey and provide the best possible experience for all participants by encouraging, developing, advancing and administering the sport.
Project Scope: The National Team Development Program (NTDP), a USA Hockey body, is a full-time development program aimed at preparing under-18 student-athletes for participation on US National Teams. Its efforts focus both on high-caliber participation on the ice and individual skill development. The program is composed of two squads: the US National Under-18 and Under-17 Teams.
During the past hockey season, the NTDP implemented a cognitive training system designed to help hockey players develop perception and decision-making skills called The Hockey IntelliGym. Designed to enhance ‘Hockey Sense’—or the way players gather information from their surroundings, make and execute decisions—The Hockey IntelliGym training system utilizes a software-based training environment with customized algorithms that adjust training programs to individual players according to ability and progress. Players engaged in a twice-a-week cognitive training regimen that became an integral part of their overall training program during which time cognitive scientists monitored players’ performance and provided coaching staff with analyses and progress reports. Among statistical figures measured, the most notable was the win ratio of teams involved, as IntelliGym trained team won more games.
The IntelliGym program took more than two years and $2 million to put together with the collaboration of Applied Cognitive Engineering (ACE) and was enabled by a grant from the BIRD Foundation who scientifically reviewed the plan and financially supported it.
Project Leader: Scott Monaghan, Director of Operations, USA Hockey National Team Development Program
Selected comments by Judging Panel: Excellent team approach between specialist, coach and player. Great concept and need, and insights/model could apply very broadly to skill development. The adaptation of cognitive training to this particular sports domain is clever and can be generalized to a wide range of other activities. I was impressed with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and their Hockey Intelligym. To develop/adapt such a program and clearly demonstrate it’s impact on real-life performance, is fantastic. There is also a great opportunity to expand this to even more athletes and sports and to everyday life.
Silver Prize Winners
Allstate (NYSE: ALL) is the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer. Allstate is reinventing protection and retirement to help individuals in approximately 17 million households protect what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow.
Project Scope: Allstate embarked on a journey with Posit Science Corporation to evaluate the interest in and effectiveness of Posit Science’s software—leveraging technology shown in National Institutes of Health funded studies to improve visual processing skills important for safe driving—to test a software program (Insight) in Pennsylvania. Selected drivers, 50 years and older, were invited to help validate the impact cognitive training has on driving safety.
The project was a “proof of concept” for what may turn out to be a significant effort by Allstate to prevent injuries and save lives, enable older people to maintain their independence longer and provide peace of mind to adult children faced with difficult decisions as parents age. The most important reduction was in insured losses and resulting injuries, trauma and disruption to the lives of those involved in auto collisions. After observing the accident behavior of those who completed the Posit program, relative to a well selected control group, Allstate saw a measurable decline that was statistically valid.
Project Leader: Tom Warden, Assistant Vice President, Allstate Research and Planning Center
Selected comments by Judging Panel: The potential impact of this program is second to none. I was impressed with Allstate’s project and their results that showed that the Posit Science software positively impacted the accident records of those completing the program. Allstate should be commended for trying something new and different and for creating such an initiative. Pretty soon I can imagine brain fitness discounts alongside safe driver and other discounts.
Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by A.M. Best. The company provides a full range of personalized insurance and financial services, including including auto and life insurance, pensions, health and productivity services, and more.
Project Scope: Nationwide Mutual Insurance worked with benefits provider OptumHealth and their partner Brain Resource to add a Web based brain training tool (MyBrainSolutions) to help employees enhance positivity, emotional resilience and deal with others more effectively — all key elements to productivity. More than 500 employees enrolled in the company’s ‘Healthy Holiday Challenge’ during the first week. The results of the new resource led to more positive behavior changes and greater productivity among the workforce.
As part of the MyBrainSolutions launch, associates were asked to register, take a baseline brain assessment, accumulate a target number of points during a 30-day period and then take a second brain assessment. The company found that aspects of positivity, emotional resilience and social skills improved in the short 6-week initiative and saw small changes in productivity were noticeable as well. 87% of those participating in the program indicated they were planning to take additional steps to improve health after participating while 33.5% wouldn’t have accessed other resources to address health and wellbeing if it weren’t for the initiative.
Project Leader: Kathleen Herath, AVP Health & Productivity
Selected comments by Judging Panel: Harvard Business Review estimated a couple years ago that $150B is lost annually as a result of lost employee productivity. Given all of the life events and transitions that individuals experience each year that can distract, this provides a feasible and attractive lever for employees to take advantage of. Employers of the future that can implement innovative models such as these to adapt to the changing needs of employees, enhance employee productivity, and help to redefine what work means by infusing the professional with the personal will win, and have as a reward loyal employees, a happy culture, and an overall higher performing workforce. The positive self-report measures were impressive as well as the improvements in such a short period of time. Seems to have potential for replicability with scalable, low-cost programs. In principle this approach could have large societal benefits. Implementing cognitive training in a work place is novel and taps into the desire to optimize professional functioning as well as stave off decline. The emotional and self-regulation training is extremely important in the workplace setting.
Rest of Top 10 Finalists
(Note: out of the 40 organizations that submitted entries to the inaugural 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards, 10 became Top 10 Finalists. Here we want to recognize the organizations which, while not winning the overall contest, did impress the judging panel with the quality of their ongoing initiatives. They are ordered by the approximate age of their end user population, from younger to older:
Most Innovative Special Ed School
Arrowsmith School offers a comprehensive suite of cognitive programs for students with learning disabilities, targeting 19 areas of the brain most commonly involved in learning. The Arrowsmith Program, which originated in Toronto, is now offered in schools in Canada and the US.
Project Scope: Help remediate Learning Disabilities by developing and implementing a proprietary suite of neuroplasticity-based exercises in 3 formats: computer-based, auditory, pen and paper.
- Project Leader: Barbara Arrowsmith, Director
- Selected Comments by Judging Panel: How easy would it be to say “they’s not smart enough” or “they’re making excuses”, instead of “they have a cognitive shortcoming that can be addressed.” The target audience of 5-10% of school children with learning disabilities can now have a fighting chance if models like these can be scaled through policy and/or replication. This gets my vote as the model creates almost immeasurable lifetime impact for those fortunate enough to be reap all the cognitive benefits of the program. Arrowsmith efforts since 1979 puts them in a class of their own as pioneers. Arrowsmith also has a process learning from and refining its initiatives. Program can be built further on very solid foundations.
Most Innovative Behavioral Health Provider
University Behavioral HealthCare (UBHC) was established in 1971 as a division of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and is one of the largest providers of behavioral healthcare services in the country.
Project Scope: Remediate cognitive impairments associated with severe mental illness by developing and implementing an innovative curriculum and proprietary manual for cognitive rehab support groups, combining best of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, cognitive training, and social skills training.
- Project Leader: Steven M. Silverstein, Ph.D., Director, Division of Schizophrenia Research & Director of Research
- Selected Comments by Judging Panel: Noteworthy person-centered approach, focused on how to impact quality of life with self-empowerment tools and social support.
Most Innovative Foundation
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safetyhas a mission to identify problems, foster research that seeks solutions, and disseminate information and educational materials that promote good safety practices.
Project Scope: Improve driving safety among older adults by promoting and testing visual processing training program InSight by Posit Science.
- Project Leader: Peter Kissinger, President and CEO
- Selected Comments by Judging Panel: Very high quality program Innovative. Eminently scalable. Benefits users, AAA, and community at large – very good synergy.This approach grounds cognitive training in an activity that for many is critical to independence. The tie to insurance will motivate the training which may increase road safety and have broader benefits for cognitive health.
Most Innovative Hospital
Saint Luke’s Brain and Stroke Institute, part of Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas and Missouri, covers the entire spectrum of care including acute intervention, prevention of complications, secondary prevention and neurorehabilitation.
Project Scope: Help extend healthy independent living and address cognitive impairments by making accessible a Brain Fitness Center that combines education, assessments, lifestyle advice and targeted neurocognitive and mindfulness-based training.
- Project Leader: John Corbaley, M.S., M.A., CCC/Sp., Director, Brain Fitness Center, Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City
- Selected Comments by Judging Panel: Saint Luke’s program was impressive in a number of ways. I liked that they worked with multiple disciplines to create a holistic program focused on improved brain health through cognitive training, nutrition and exercise as well as other activities. It is no surprise that they have a wait list of users eager to join their program.
Most Innovative Adult Education
Oakland Unified School District has a mission to ensure that all students graduate as caring, competent, and critical thinkers, as well as fully-informed, engaged, and contributing citizens, prepared to succeed in college and career. Adult and Career Education services empower adults through through education and training.
Project Scope: Extend healthy independent living (for new pilot: improve academic success among at-risk students) by offering a Brain Fitness Class that combines curriculum, discussions and computerized cognitive training (by Posit Science, for older adults; by Lumos Labs, for new pilot with young adults).
- Project Leader: Teri Barr, Brain Health Program Coordinator
- Selected Comments by Judging Panel: Strong approach to overcome some of the age boundaries among targeted populations. What I love the most about this wonderful success story is how this program has been able to appeal to individuals across socio-economic, demographic, and educational backgrounds, and in the process deliver both real and perceived value. One way I think it has done this is through presenting a multi-faceted value proposition (i.e., build cognitive health + build community + have fun in the process) in a single setting. Lessons learned were also very well articulated, and the approach of combining high-tech with high-touch I thought was ingenious and realistic given the context.
Most Innovative Mental Health Association
The Mental Health Association of Rockland County, in New York State, is a non-profit organization with a mission to prevent mental illness and foster mental wellness through community outreach, direct service and advocacy for legislation and programs.
Project Scope: Extend healthy independent living by offering a cognitive health series of live events to engage the community with a stigma-free, proactive brain fitness message, supported by professional training, socialization platforms and cognitive training (by CogniFit).
- Project Leader: Karen Oates, Director
- Selected Comments by Judging Panel: So great to see a Mental Health Association promoting this important project and allying with so many groups and organizations, including CogniFit, in doing so. Great that they have been able to overcome the stigma so often associated with aging and mental fitness through the project. With the manual and pamphlet, there are excellent replication possibilities.
Most Innovative Health Plan
SCAN Health Plan has been focusing for more than 30 years on the unique needs of people with Medicare and is now the country’s fourth largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plan. The company currently has nearly 120,000 members in California and Arizona.
Project Scope: Extend healthy independent living by developing the concept of a “SCAN Van” to deliver health screenings & education combined with physical and cognitive exercise (Wii gaming; touch screen-based cognitive training by HappyNeuron) in places where seniors gather.
- Project Leader: Lena Perelman, Director of Community Outreach
- Selected Comments by Judging Panel: A clever plan for the delivery of cognitive exercises. SCAN’s is innovative not only because its mobile but because it presents a more holistic approach to brain health with its “multi-pronged” program.
Here you can learn more about the 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards.