It’s a constant struggle working in a hospital. Patients’ well-being changes constantly and keeping staff up-to-date on major updates to a particular client’s prognosis and treatments can be arduous. Staff errors may lead to trouble, even death, if machines are turned off too soon or a round is missed. While modern communications and hospital-specific efforts to mitigate problems have shown some promise, relatively few apps have been effective in reducing communication errors and keeping staff alert on equipment needs or modifications to patient records.
One private network of hospitals in Israel, Assuta, is trying to change that. With its flagship location just around the corner from Geektime in the Ramat HaChayal tech district in Tel Aviv, the company has made some forays into modern intra-hospital communications. The startup-heavy location seems to be a clear strategic decision as it seeks to incorporate communications and medical technology into its brand, pushing itself as the go-to option not only for patients, but also potential job applicants. Assuta already has a doctor-specific app running in its institutions, with a new nurse version rolling out. This pair of apps might also be a stepping stone to something much bigger.
The apps were on full display to a visiting delegation of British medical professionals in early December, a trip that the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy organized. Assuta’s VP Marketing Dani Engel, Head of ICU Dr. Eran Segal, and Assuta CEO Pino Zruya presented to the delegation.
“We know we’re competing with other institutes. Through SMS, we have continuous communication with patients, saving money and giving better instructions,” said Dr. Eran Segal, head of Intensive Care and Anesthesiology at Assuta. When asked by one of the visiting delegates how ROI factored into their decision to invest in the development of apps, Dr. Segal said it was not just about minor improvements in communication, but also adding something to the aura of the hospital: Your facility is the place people will want to go to and work at because of the mere (and correct) perception the hospital is state-of-the-art.
The app is a joint venture with local firm Smart-X (Hebrew), which has worked with several government agencies, ambulance service Magen David Adom, Rafael Aerospace, the Tel Aviv municipality, and other medical services companies. To date, they’ve had five upgrades and are about to roll out a sixth.
“As far as we know, this is a unique app that allows the doctor to monitor his patients, even from afar,” a hospital spokesperson told Geektime. “The uniqueness of this app isn’t in the fact that the patient’s medical record is available to him on his smartphone, but in the fact that the app knows how to ‘red flag’ any medical issues that require immediate action.”
Full court tech
The app won the 2013 MOBI award in the health and sport category and has been presented at a number of national and international conferences. It gives doctors direct access to their patient profiles and gives the chance to update them in real-time. Besides those features, doctors can automatically order pre-arranged sets of typical post-op tests. It’s one of the investments the private network, a favorite destination for medical tourists, has made. They operate hospitals throughout the country, including new locations in once-hospital-barren Ashdod and Ra’anana, and are expanding their flagship location in Tel Aviv.
They have a laboratory dedicated entirely to catheterization, use a so-called Da Vinci robot for laparoscopies (minimally invasive surgeries) and has run a mobile MRI unit since 2011 that serves Israel’s southern sector. According to the Dun’s 100 list of Israel’s most innovative companies, they also have two mobile mammogram units and own two of the “most advanced” linear accelerators in the world: used in external beam radiation treatments, they focus X-ray lasers that pinpoint cancer cells during treatment while avoiding healthy tissue.
That puts these hospitality apps (get it?) squarely at the center of Assuta’s full digital strategy. Patients who visit the hospital for scheduled procedures are welcomed by an SMS and their chaperones or families are given constant updates about where the patient is in the hospital, recovery room, ward transfers, and updates during the procedure itself. They confirm their arrival by replying to an SMS, which includes an email appointment and directions via Waze.
“The patient is also asked to answer a number of questions regarding his medical history that will determine if he needs to have a pre-operation meeting at the hospital,” the spokesperson adds. While that doesn’t seem like a big deal, it streamlines things tremendously and makes it standard to look at the new forms for any outstanding or new information relevant to the upcoming procedure. “Another upside of the app is that it doesn’t bombard the physician with false-positive warnings and/or irrelevant data.”
Screenshots of the Assuta Doctors application. Photo Credit: Courtesy
“The more the physicians use the app, the more we change it according to the needs that arise. As time progresses, the app is becoming the main line of communication between Assuta and our doctors: we relay clinical information to them regarding their patients, important memos and messages, as well as billing information,” the spokesperson noted.
The newer app for nurses aims to remove the nurse’s station from the equation, enabling on-the-spot updates. And, if you were worried about fumbling around with a phone, its main design is for tablets, basically digitizing the patient clipboard. It purports to save time and let nurses cater to the psychological well-being of patients and their visiting families who can check Assuta’s notifications for updates instead of pulling nurses aside to ask for them.
Assuta seems to be focusing on the little things in addition to the more prestigious foundings of special institutes of medicine and purchasing the latest (and most expensive) medical technology. That’s an approach that will get people excited — well, less stressed — about the experience of a major surgery or wondering if the private hospital experience will get the patient their money’s worth. At least in this writer’s eyes, they seem to have the right idea.