Us­ing soft­ware tools to strengthen bonds be­tween nurses and pa­tients

Modern Healthcare - - INNOVATIONS - By Me­lanie Evans

Los­ing rev­enue af­ter fail­ing to meet Medi­care’s per­for­mance stan­dards is a painful prospect for hos­pi­tals. But for CipherHealth, it’s a growth op­por­tu­nity.

The New York-based com­pany is among a flood of ven­ture-backed dig­i­tal health star­tups de­vel­op­ing soft­ware tools and re­lated ser­vices to help hos­pi­tals wring waste from op­er­a­tions, im­prove pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion and cap­i­tal­ize on their in­vest­ment in fed­er­ally sub­si­dized health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy.

CipherHealth, launched in 2009 by an an­gel in­vestor and four em­ploy­ees, be­gan life as a start-up in­cu­ba­tor. It has since mor­phed into a rapidly grow­ing soft­ware de­vel­oper with 90 em­ploy­ees and four prod­ucts that help nurses im­prove pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion and en­gage­ment.

Its soft­ware aids nurses dur­ing hos­pi­tal rounds and en­ables fol­low-up af­ter pa­tients leave the hos­pi­tal. Sen­tara Health­care, Nor­folk, Va., and OSF Health­Care, Peo­ria, Ill., are among the clients us­ing its soft­ware to track and re­spond to pa­tient needs. Rev­enue has dou­bled each year since CipherHealth signed its first three hos­pi­tal clients in 2010.

The play­ful at­mos­phere at the firm’s Mid­town Man­hat­tan of­fices seems far re­moved from the pres­sure of that kind of ex­plo­sive growth. Dur­ing a tour, two em­ploy­ees sat in a ball pit with lap­tops. Harry Pot­ter posters hung from a wall. But that re­laxed ar­range­ment has fos­tered a highly re­spon­sive devel­op­ment team, which has emerged as the com­pany’s best shot at long-term viability, in­vestors and cus­tomers say.

Nearly all of its ma­jor prod­ucts have been de­vel­oped as a re­sponse to spe­cific cus­tomer needs. One of its early prod­ucts— Voice—uses au­to­mated phone calls to con­tact pa­tients who have left the hos­pi­tal and to iden­tify those at risk of read­mis­sion. Those at high­est risk are trans­ferred to hos­pi­tal staff for one-on-one in­ter­ven­tion. “Voice was the only tool that we es­sen­tially built by our­selves,” said co-founder Alex He­jnosz, a 28-year-old for­mer emer­gency med­i­cal tech­ni­cian and grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia.

Voice al­lows hos­pi­tals to triage those pa­tients who need the most help but keep la­bor costs low. “Every­body wants to do fol­low-up phone calls,” He­jnosz said. “The prob­lem is the hu­man cap­i­tal is­sue.”

Since launch­ing Voice, the com­pany has added round­ing soft­ware, pa­tient ac­tiv­ity mon­i­tors and a tool to re­peat hos­pi­tal dis­charge in­struc­tions once pa­tients re­turn home. “Ev­ery­thing else came from re­quests and in­put from nurses at our ex­ist­ing clients,” He­jnosz said.

CipherHealth soft­ware au­to­mates the fol­low-up from rounds that can drain nurses’ time, said Gen­e­marie McGee, chief nurs­ing of­fi­cer for Sen­tara. “You could spend your whole day round­ing and fol­low­ing up on is­sues.”

She praised CipherHealth’s devel­op­ment team. They are “nim­ble, in­no­va­tive and hun­gry,” she said. “Other ven­dors try to sell you what they have. Th­ese folks al­low you to de­velop to­gether.”

OSF Health­Care con­tracted with CipherHealth in March to stan­dard­ize the ques­tions and data col­lected from pa­tient rounds. Ex­ec­u­tives there hope to see bet­ter sat­is­fac­tion scores from pa­tients as a re­sult.

Rounds give pa­tients an op­por­tu­nity to voice their con­cerns and needs, which CipherHealth soft­ware can di­rect to ap­pro­pri­ate staff, said Lori Wie­gand, OSF Health­Care’s CNO. The in­for­ma­tion can also be ag­gre­gated to iden­tify trends that need to be ad­dressed.

OSF se­lected CipherHealth from among five com­pa­nies com­pet­ing to pro­vide round­ing soft­ware.

The com­pany’s tar­get mar­ket is nurses. “Their fo­cus was pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence, re­duc­ing read­mis­sions and pa­tient en­gage­ment,” He­jnosz said. “Yet they had no tools to help them.”

Just as it has got­ten its best ideas from its cus­tomers, CipherHealth is seek­ing to foster the same spirit among its grow­ing work­force. Work­ers do not have ti­tles, which en­cour­ages ev­ery­one to come up with new ideas, said Zach Sil­verzweig, an­other com­pany co-founder.

CipherHealth does use la­bels to iden­tify em­ploy­ees’ roles within its loose or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture, how­ever. The com­pany’s pro­gram­mers are called jedis; its sales­peo­ple are rain­mak­ers.

It also holds com­pe­ti­tions to re­ward work that oth­er­wise might go un­rec­og­nized. Em­ploy­ees are di­vided into teams named for the four wiz­ard houses in the Harry Pot­ter books, with the teams se­lected, of course, by the sorting hat. “Fam­ily,” He­jnosz said, “is the clos­est de­scrip­tion to what we’re try­ing to build here.”

“We saw a huge work­force that was un­der­staffed for the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties they were given.”

ALEX HE­JNOSZ, CO-FOUNDER

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