Friday, June 25, 2010

Who put the "I" in Innovation....

It seems anytime you put an "I" in front of a product it can represent a number of different things.  In healthcare it means innovation, interaction, intelligence, and integral.  The goal however is to make sure that it does not become irrelevant, inferior, or illogical. 

The I-phone has spurned a number of discussions because of it's innovative nature.  The product has been built on a platform that allows everyone to create their own "Aps" - in my world that means design their workflow in a way that works for their unit not generically designed to work in all applications. (just a quick warning that can be bad also)

The flexibility of the platform that is open to large and small organizations (and individuals) is the best way to drive new ways to solve problems.  Let's face it - it's not always the big guys with all the ideas.  It's also not always those of us who break out and build a business - more times than not it's the people who live in the situations everyday. Therefore, the intelligence in the product is built by the users, and the flexibility allows it to become an integral part of the workflow and daily life.  So integral often times we overlook product "issues" such as durability and compatibility with infrastructure.

The challenge will be how do we make sure a strong "I" shaped platform does not become irrelevant and illogical.   The best way to approach this is to make sure that it's the workflow that drives the innovation and not the innovation.  Cool - for Cool sake - is not so Cool.  This is not meaning you need to run out and hire a Sphere3esque firm to document and help design your wireless device workflow - it just means if you are not currently doing it - why not? What innovative value are you missing?

The I-Phone is driving people to design applications that can be used in the healthcare space - in my world that's for automation of alerts to a wireless device.   Amcom releasing software that will automate information to the Iphone is interesting, but as you saw in my previous post about Voalte that application for clinical alarms to the Iphone is still hard for me to accept.  Durability has to be in the decision process for a clinical device not just innovation.  Also as we drive more information to a single device are we really making the best decision?  It sounds logical - don't get me wrong - one device that can get alerts, call the on-call doc, use decision making software, access facebook, see information on a med record, etc sounds great but is it really the best choice?  (I am throwing that out there for interaction sake because honestly I am not sure - I see benefits but I also see a lot of limitations due to the critical nature of alarm automation)

The device has more application to those who work outside the hospital, like a doctor but then the question becomes what information does he need that requires integration to the hospital.....this I know, but I will let  you ask me to find out.

From a market perspective - it's only good news to have multiple competitors in the on coming tornado that will occur with smart phones. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Command Centers

In a strange turn my blog has lead me to interviewing – ok so not really interviewing more having conversations with really interesting leaders in the healthcare medical device community. I want to be transparent – probably don’t need to say this because it’s apparent – I am not a journalist and 100% of what you read is my opinion.

Since the blog started last May, I have encountered all sorts of people. Some I like- Some I didn’t like so much. One that I have really enjoyed getting to know, during my contracted work with his organization which is now complete, has been Chris Heim, CEO of AmCom Software.

Chris is a genuine nice guy which permeates the corporate culture of his organization. He is genuine because he has never forgotten his roots.   He started in a garage - not in a band but building a shipping software platform that grew and grew and was eventually sold for multi-million dollars.   A lot of people would be pretentious after achieving that, not him.  He is down to earth and even willing to talk shop and understand the journey of little start up software company like mine.  Just because he’s a nice guy doesn’t mean he isn’t competitive – think of the way that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird competed – tactically, well practiced, engaged, and with a team spirit. That’s the competitive attitude of Amcom.

In 2007, Am Com Software, an operator/ call center company, saw an opportunity to enter a market space purchased a middleware company called Com-Tech. From the view of most middleware players Com-Tech was a simple “point to point” solution, one that wouldn’t rival the depth of Emergin, the flexibility of Connexall, and the integration to wireless power of Ascom. While the perception of the product is a challenge, the team behind it is building a well researched powerful offering.

Even at a high level view AmCom has a unique market opportunity. Their core product is operator or call center software, with a unique application that provides doctor on-call contact information. Since I have only seen in it a lab – the view is appears well organized and easily attainable. If you were to create a central call command center, then the operator software and middleware for alarms this could be a valuable pairing.

Communication from a patient perspective is any interaction dealing with their care, whether it is a with a licensed care provider, a volunteer bringing an extra pillow for their spouse, or even with the dietary group to order lunch. Communication from a caregivers perspective is any interaction from a patient, other caregivers, doctors or services provided that enable them to provide better care or services within the hospital. The faster triaged information can be provided the faster care can be administered.

Notice that I said triaged information. Information overload can hinder the effectiveness of the hospital’s performance. Sometimes I hear caregivers say, “we had pagers and/ or phones but we quit using them because they didn’t help”. Most of the time they “didn’t help” because the information was not provided in a usable fashion – in a central command center portions of the communications can be triaged and managed more efficiently than by pure automation. I’m a geek – I would like to say let the computer make all the decisions, but I have also been a patient, a patient advocate, and a parent –human interaction is more than just obtaining and triaging information.  It's about connecting - not just systems, people.

If you look at a central call command center from the view point of one communication point, it is really just a fancy phone booth. (not discounting it's importance, but couldn't we do more?)  The value of that command center is exponentially increased by leveraging it for additional abilities.   Even non-clinical - Think about the value of this application from a Mass Notification Emergency Communication standpoint! (see previous post on Seattle Grace)

It appears to me that the AmCom suite coupled with the Com-Tech software could be the “Killer App” in a command center design. Granted, I have only seen this application and their middleware piece in a lab environment. You all know my stance, I have to see it live to believe it would really work. (I do live in the Show Me State)

AmCom has a lot of "futures" planned and they have an impressive team of individuals who are working to build a really powerful very well integrated platform.  I look forward to watching them grow. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

To Wash or Not to Wash....

Recently, I enjoyed a spirited conversation with Hill-Rom’s GM and Vice President, Mike Gallup. Mike is a former IBM consultant who has been tasked with creating an unstoppable force in the Hill-Rom HITS (Healthcare Information Technology Systems) Group. His goal is to systematically coordinate the design of applications, creation of partnerships, and integration of collaborative initiatives that will strategically confront the marketplace status quo.  He was gracious to share his thoughts and a new project that they are going to be launching soon.

Hill-Rom as written and developed a patent on hand washing that should cause the industry to sit up and take notice. Hospital infections are costly and many are preventable. Those two items are ear perking to people who focus on providing value to a hospital. Not to mention the pain and discomfort that they cause a patient, and potential additional infections throughout the hospital. The ability to decrease infection by a simple hand washing or sanitization is crucial. To put dollars to the thought, according to Hill-Rom MRSA infections can cost in excess of $200,000.

Hill-Rom approached the marketplace trying to identify a strategic partnership with an RTLS provider that could meet the system and software requirements developed in the patent. After much research they decided on Centrak. Centrak’s ability to get granular in the patient room allows for the proximity of the caregiver to the dispenser to be identified. It also detects the actual motion and interaction with the cleaner.

Sound a little like Star Trek? It’s not.

The concept is actually quite simple, but software and application is really brilliant. The motion sensor within the Centrak tag notices movement of the dispenser when it is touhed and the badges correlate the proximity of the caregiver. To “fool” it you would actually have to have a caregiver bump the dispenser on purpose and not clean their hands. This would seem to be a farfetched idea. I am not an expert on hand washing, by any means, but I would assume that a majority of the time that a caregiver didn’t wash their hands prior to interacting with a patient would be more out of forgetting, and not intentionally avoiding.

I see this as a brilliant tool. Since it’s a standalone system it could be tied into a number of different integration points to track the effectiveness, but also offer some proactive notifications to the caregiver or manager. While the application is not prime time at a facility today the system has made it through all of the Hill-Rom and Centrak’s internal testing. Mike’s projection is to have it live within the next three month.

Thanks again to Mike Gallup – I look forward to more spirited interactions about healthcare in the future.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Trauma at Seattle Grace

Normally, I would not blog about a television show, especially Grey’s Anatomy. Personal views aside, I was drawn in to the finale this year.  A disturbed man entered the hospital with a gun and the facility went on lockdown. Doctors, Nurses, Visitors, and Patients were held in terror for 2 hours as he made his way throughout Seattle Grace. No one permitted in or out as the local police department determined the proper course of action. No one inside knew where the shootings were occurring, or what to do to protect themselves. The shooter made his way through the building killing and terrorizing all.

Hospitals will be receiving increasing pressure from AHJ (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) to be prepared for these types of events. Seattle Grace (as depicted in the show) was horribly ill prepared and it resulted in a number of dramatic losses and over dramatic saves. It was as if the building had no internal security system. (They should partner up with the hospital on the tv show 24 – they were able to view cameras in the hospitals on a tablet PC - by the way that's not as difficult as it may sound)

Here are just a few thoughts on “acts of terror” on a hospital. The security office should have access to view both internally and remotely all security cameras.  They should have a cooperative program with the local police department.  Providing access to the local police is not as challenging or space age as it may sound. Digital and IP based cameras can be network based or the Video Server can be leveraged. The security plan and threat assessment should determine how to notify staff of the location of the shooter. The Mass Notification should identify the following: What is occurring and what should the people do to be safe? Imagine if there were a series of cameras in the hospital that could identify where the shooter was and begin to strategically lock down areas within the hospital to keep him out. You can’t necessarily evacuate a hospital but you could minimize casualties by limiting the shooters movements within the building.

Additionally, there was no internal communications occurring. The doctors had pagers, but there were no internal wireless phones. The saddest scene in the show was when Dr. Bailey dragged the dying young doctor to the elevators only to find they had been shut down. She has no ability to call for help - she had to sit and hold him as he died. She had a pager. If she has wireless phones in this situation she could have called a central command post. To take it a step further, if there was a central command post they could have been able to see the entire situation unfold on a camera and have dispatched a help team.

This TV show depicted what Mass Notification Emergency Communication (MNEC) is all about. It’s sad that we live in an age where people find release in killing others, but casualty counts can be reduced if proper security people, process and technology are applied.

MNEC is really about choreographing movement based on the threat that is occurring. It’s about knowing who needs to get what information and how are we going to get it to them.