New York-Presbyterian Hospital brings innovation to healthcare IT through InnovateNYP app challenge

The New York hospital put out a call for innovative apps to improve tech for patients and providers.

Image: New York-Presbyterian

A phone, a television -- patient-side, that's about as tech-heavy as it gets in the average hospital room. Most of the intense technology in health care is medical technology.

There's nothing wrong with that, exactly, but it leaves a dearth of potential for tech that could address the needs of patients and providers.

This has been a motivating factor for New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, said the hospital's CIO Aurelia Boyer. Innovation isn't easy, but must be pursued. That's why the hospital has just wrapped up InnovateNYP Challenge, a call-out for apps and prototypes that would focus on patient engagement and improve communication tools for care providers at NYP.

NYP started its efforts trying to bring more visibility and innovation to healthcare IT at the hospital about two years ago. They'd already been working to automate clinical processes and adopt electronic medical records.

"I believe in creating electronic records and getting much more automation into the hospital environment that you need more than just the transaction systems to really have the kind of impact everybody was dreaming about," Boyer said.

They hosted a hackathon and started working with innovative companies.

But what Boyer said they really needed, was ideas born out of a real understanding of the hospital's IT environment. She talked about the challenges of innovation. They realized they couldn't do everything themselves.

"We're a very large organization and I think if you look at the history of great innovation in the world, often it comes from outside the organization, so you really want to try to cross that divide and see if you can do that, and so we felt that bringing outsiders in would help us with that," she said.

The NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital InnovateNYP Open Challenge solicited ideas for apps and prototypes from those inside and outside the hospital. The received 30 submissions from more than 200 participants.

Three finalists presented at a Demo Day August 6th, and a panel of judges from not only the hospital but Columbia University, as well as healthcare companies NYP has a relationship with, like Blueprint Health, decided on a winner.

Boyer and Dr. Peter Fleischut, associate chief of innovation, said one trend they noticed among the submissions was mobility. Earlier Boyer mentioned that paper is still prevalent at the hospital, even if employees tend to go home and do everything on mobile devices. Mobility's becoming a priority.

That was true of the winning submission, MedChat. MedChat is a mobile communication app that corrals all the specialists working on a particular case into one text thread. It provides not just a communication tool, but the ability to search a case file and exchange information.

A caretaker would sign in and see a list of all patients in his or her care that can be organized in several ways. The caretaker selects a patient and enters a chat room, essentially, with the other caretakers responsible for that patient.

The caretakers can chat, but also access clinical information about the patient by using a custom keyboard or typing keywords in the text field. So, #lab, for example, might bring up recent lab results within the thread. Caretakers can also create and subscribe to alerts.

Medchat's four-person team included Ryan DeCosmo, Maggie Jin, Eric Schmitz, and Marc Sturm, who all work together at NYP.

DeCosmo said they drew some inspiration from Slack, in particular, a feature where a command would bring up an animated gif in the thread.

"I thought, wow, what if someone used this for something important?" DeCosmo said.

Second and third place went to Mocabell, which is a mobile call button for patients, and Curbsided, which is peer-to-peer consults between physicians and specialists in real time.

Aside from awarding cash prizes of up to $25,000, Boyer said they hope to work with many of these teams on their ideas and see how they could be used at NYP.

"Sometimes even though what they proposed wasn't the best winning idea, there were ideas there that we think we can incorporate into some of the other work we're doing and actually solve problems for people that we weren't necessarily connected to," she said.

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