Health 2.0 Conference event in San Francisco featured rapid-fire product demonstrations, and venture capitalists were out in force to view the latest fads. Attendees saw that mobile apps and other health tools are moving past the novelty stage and beyond the limited consumer realm in healthcare to become increasingly useful in clinical settings. Some developers are even taking steps to integrate their apps into clinician workflow.
Ringful Health, a small company based in Austin, Texas, delivers interactive clinical content to patients on mobile devices to help improve outcomes and reduce hospital readmissions. It demonstrated a tablet-based clinical decision support tool for nurses that also can be used for patient engagement. The idea is to reduce risk for major in-hospital adverse events, while fitting the nursing workflow, CEO Michael Yuan said.
Nurses sign into the system on an iPad or an Android tablet by scanning their barcoded employee badges, and then must scan each patient's wristband to verify that it is the right patient. Once in, the nurse enters observational notes, and gets a list of the probability of potential ailments based on the problem list. All entries are sent to the hospital's electronic health record (EHR).
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If anything indicates the possibility of an emergent medical condition requiring prompt attention, the system can automatically notify "rapid-response teams" to head off high-acuity problems quickly, according to Yuan. For example, the technology is designed to catch symptoms that might indicate sepsis before it escalates into a serious infection requiring intensive care. "Sepsis is one of the most expensive problems for a hospital, and early detection is crucial," Yuan explained.
When a rapid-response team or physician arrives, the nurse simply sends the patient information from his or her own the tablet to the new clinician's mobile device, Yuan said.
Ringful is deploying its technology in 17 acute and long-term care facilities, thanks in part to a grant from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Another early-stage firm, InQuicker, of Nashville, Tenn., offers a website that goes beyond the increasingly popular apps and sites that display current waiting times for hospital emergency departments. Consumers can not only see wait times for EDs, they can enter the waiting queue for an ED or urgent care center online before they leave home, or set appointments for participating retail clinics and physician offices.
Beyond that, users can enter their chief complaints and demographic information while registering, helping nurses better triage non-life-threatening cases before patients arrive, according to InQuicker CEO Michael Brody-Waite. Each patient gets a confirmation email or text message, along with a map with driving directions. White reports a 95% satisfaction rate among people who have used the site for 167 facilities in 22 states.
A Health 2.0 attendee asked Brody-Waite about the wisdom of expecting patients to decide the urgency of their own cases by choosing whether to go to a hospital, urgent care center, or retail clinic. "At the end of the day, the consumer is always going to be triaging himself at home by deciding where they are going to go to," the InQuicker executive answered. "All we're doing is streamlining the process."
Brody-Waite said there are measures in place to make sure the patient is properly cared for. For example, a keyword search blocks patients who are experiencing true emergencies such as chest pains or profuse bleeding from accessing the system for 24 hours, instructing them to go straight to the nearest ED. If necessary, a nurse will call them at home.
A much larger entity, hospital alliance Premier Inc., showed off PremierConnect, which Wangzhohg Lu, Premier's director of enterprise solutions, called the world's largest "social collaboration platform."
The Charlotte, N.C.-based organization spent more than two years building this platform, Lu said, and now is "mating" it to technology partners through an application programming interface for individual hospitals and third-party developers to build apps. This will help organizations better integrate PremierConnect into physician workflow. "It's not a siloed social networking tool," Lu said.
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