Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Day with Nurse Sue....

Learning about new products has always been a lot of fun for me, and whenever possible I like to go to the company and experience their product and meet their team in person. Just to be clear I am not a journalist, and everything I blog is my opinion. So, this is the story about my day with Nurse Sue.

As I entered the doors of Capsule Tech I was greeted by a friendly a woman and welcome sign displaying my name and company logo. In the corner was a larger than life cardboard cutout of the Nurse Sue Avatar, and down the hall came the real Susan Niemeier. She is an adorable red head with a bright midwest smile and matched warmth. There was no formality just a friendly hello and then off to get some coffee in the break room.

Our first order of business was a tour of the office. It’s not flashy – but nice – a large space with cubicles and a few conference rooms. Nurse Sue pointed out the large black and white pictures on the walls were their colleagues in Paris, and in Paris they have pictures of their colleagues in the US. Every person seemed busy but happy and frankly excited to be working on challenging projects. A few had Avatars which made me write *add S3 K Avatar to the development list. I internally sighed with relief. I have grown weary of the corporate stodginess and the competitiveness of HIT.

As we settled into the conference room, Nurse Sue delved into her passion for clinicians and how to drive more time at the Point of Care. She bubbled about the product she manages and how she believed it would – make life better. We dove in and vividly she relayed the story of “her” MVP. The Mobile Vitals Plus is really a simple product. It’s a box (isn’t everything ) that takes the vitals collected by almost any mobile vitals device (demonstrated with the GE device) – it automatically collects the data, allows the clinician to confirm, compiles it in a server, and then sends it to the medical record…any medical record.

MVP was created for Nurses by Nurses with influences from – not technologists – but Human Factors Engineers. The device is ergonomically designed to have the most beneficial colors for reduced eye strain to the most beneficial placement for the log on/off button. I was very pleased with the company’s commitment to not just make a product but make one that was easy to use. The presentation ebbed and flowed in and out of conversations of industry, family, business, and baseball (we were in Boston). I ended the day thinking – wow, these are good people trying to make a difference.

It is clear that Capsule is a darling in the industry. But Why?
  • It could be their Switzerland Status. They closely align with many EMR companies, but are married to none.
  • It could be their well thought out – well researched product. Nurse Sue’s commitment to research to make sure the product truly makes a difference is fed from her history of research on projects such as the Kaiser/ Ascension Time Motion Study and the ever famous Proclamation for Change. This woman gets data like few I have met.
  • It could be their people – many who I have termed “the good guys”
  • It could be a methodically planned approached to product, implementation, and test…continuously improve. Wash – Rinse – Repeat.
  • It could be their culture. Friendliness, Transparency, and a non-smearing attitude. They don’t spread FUD (my favorite new term from @VoalteTrey) Fear Uncertainty and Doubt – they just are who they are.
  • It could be that they are small and in small companies ideals and vision are easily disseminated amongst the team. There is no clawing to the top – you just walk down the hall way.

 It “could” be anything – end of the day this will make life better. 

This is my quest - if you have Healthcare IT products that "Make Life Better" I want to know about them.  I am interested in learning and sharing.   If you are a hospital with a process that will "Make Life Better" for other clinicians using HIT - I am intersted in learning and sharing.  

Monday, May 9, 2011


If we are honest with ourselves there are times in our career where we grapple with the business verse human aspects of our products. We seek balance. We balance making money with helping people. We balance “marketing messages” and big picture vision with everyday life in the weeds. We balance heart and commitment to being the change with the work that must be done.

On the 3 year anniversary of Sphere3, I find myself evaluating the balance of building a start up and staying true to my commitment to Make Life Better for Patients AND Caregivers. Today – I focus on the Caregiver.

There were two blogs that caught my attention over the past few weeks. One blog was noted by Paul Levy called “Medical Margins” by Josephine Ensign. Josephine tells the story of a RN who had made a medical error – her blog blasts the hospital for the inequality of discipline levels between Docs and Nurses. Really what struck me was Kimberly Hiatt – a veteran RN with all in all good approval ratings – was dismissed for her error of administering a lethal dose of medication to a fragile NICU baby. After which she committed suicide. (Note there is no public information about linking her suicide to her dismissal)

I struggle with the balance – a bad day for me is I publish something on the blog that irritates someone or my team misses an internal development deadline.  (which is really a bad day for them) A bad day for a RN is someone could be seriously harmed or die. Do we expect perfection? Are we being realistic to apply “lean six sigma” principles to a human based profession – patients are not cars and clinicians are not assembly line workers. The patient advocate side of me really wants to drive every ounce of error out of existence. What if that error was my child – what if that “bad day” affected my parent? Aperum™ was created to identify when workload balances are too great. Is it enough? Do we find that self reporting based EMR systems and other gadgets and gizmos really make a difference in the day of the RN?

When my brain went into over drive trying to grapple with it all another great blog was posted – this time by a Nursing Student named Jennifer-Clare Williams of my home state Missouri. Her heartfelt desire to be the super hero that “saves the world one patient at a time” brings back the sovereignty of unadulterated hope. The blog is beautiful – showing her true desire to be a help to those in need.

I replay my mistakes (“No wonder your patient was uncomfortable—you put the bedpan under her backwards!”), I cry more than I ever have in my life, and I continuously wonder how on earth I will ever learn everything I need to know.

But there is good news. I’m surviving. And I’m learning that perfection is unrealistic. That nursing really is a fluid profession: things are constantly changing, and that’s a good thing. That there are very few things that I’m going to master on the first try, or heck, even the 10th try . . . but that’s ok. I’m learning that the patients who are, let’s just say . . . unkind . . . are not launching a personal attack on me, but are facing a difficult set of circumstances and are unhappy with the situation.

The inspirational heart of this young woman pushes me forward that every nugget of information we can provide back in a visual meaningful way can make a difference to improve her ability to provide care. The S3 team has made linkages to reduce readmissions, show documented improvement to patient satisfaction scores, reduce fall rates and errors, and do all the big picture money saving things that we need to do to sell a product. That’s not what drives me – and technologist – EMR person – industry specialist – big picture lingo laden with catch phrases shouldn’t be what drives you either.

What drives me should be the thought that today – we made life better for Jennifer because we were able to identify that her workload was so great that she may make an unintended mistake. What drives me should be that today we were able to provide information to the charge nurse that over stimulation was increasing the propensity for medication error beyond capacity – so she can engage and make sure her clinicians are in an environment where they can care and not run. What is your “today” statement? What did your product, software, service do today to Make Life Better?

For a moment, stop and focus on how you can make life better. Stop thinking about selling the next big deal and start thinking about the people you are affecting.

Thanks to:

Josephine Ensign’s “Medical Margins” Blog

Off the Charts AJN Notes of a Student Nurse: A Dose of Reality written by Jennifer-Clare Williams