In the lean tech startup world, we build everything on “solving a problem.” Having just completed a fantastic 3-day/2-night stay at lovely Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, I found the following problems from the Primary Care Physician to the ER to the multiple day hospital stay which, if solved, could bring extraordinary improvements to our healthcare system and create large, scalable, sustainable businesses.
- The waiting room – I think ClockWise.MD is working on this one. It’s an age old problem and we all complain about it. Docs make appointments to the best of their knowledge, but every patient is different, and a doc never, ever knows how long they will have to spend with any given patient. That said, text me when I’m up! Again, pretty sure this is what the folks at Lightshed are working on. If that works, I can go run an errand or do some work where there’s actual working WiFi (another problem all too easily solved) and pop over when the doc is ready to see me.
- The ER admitting room and “chairs” – It’s always been my personal rule that “you simply do not go to the ER unless you have a harpoon sticking out of your chest.” Well, a harpoon I had not, but two common duct stones I did have, and I went to the ER. I was the only person in the ER waiting room that was doubled over in pain. Everyone else was casually working the iPhone, laughing, carrying on conversation as if they were in a regular waiting room. Maybe this particular one isn’t really a “startup” problem. I’m not going to rail on parts of our healthcare system after just having been very well treated through it. That’ll come another time. Anyway, I had yellow eyes because of an inflamed liver and acute pancreatitis due to choledocholithiasis, so I got right in. (Google that.)
- Doc to nurse to patient communications while in the hospital – this is a biggy. I was in a hospital room from 10pm Tuesday night until 3pm Thursday afternoon. If I wanted to actually know anything that was going on – CT scan results, ultrasound test results, liver enzyme test results, blood test results, urinalysis results – I had to seek out the nurse and nicely demand that the doctor make his way over to my room and tell me what’s up. In time, sometimes hours, they all did; however, all those records are on the hospital’s computer records system, and their “MyChart” system is linked to that system. My idea is to link the notification system only – not the details – so that when a test result is in, I get a push notification. As it was, the test results came in, and several hours later we learned that they were inconclusive, when the doctor was finally able to come to my room and explain it to me in person: “That test was inconclusive. We’ve got another test scheduled.” Which leads me to my next idea:
- Calendly for Hospital Tests & Procedures – self explanatory. Nurse or doc (or patient?) puts in the request, and the Calendly tells them when the service will be available.
- The vampire routine – every night during my stay, at about 1-3AM and then 4-6AM, the vampire nurse would nicely, quietly come in and wake me up to take several vials of my blood for testing. Didn’t mind it so much the first night, (because morphine!) but the second night I was actually trying to sleep on my own. No good! Solve the problem of pulling blood from a sleeping patient – or change the necessary required darkness – and you’ve got a real improvement to our healthcare system. When I asked about this one, I was told very nicely, “Well, they make their rounds all night, and there’s only so many phlebotomists to do the testing.” Yeesh. My thought: I already have a push IV in one arm. How about a pull IV in the other? Just hook up to it and take 3 vials. Don’t wake me!
- The ‘vitals every 2-4 hours’ routine – I think this one is already solved, but they just don’t want to accept it. I wore a “telly” (telemetry device) hooked to half a dozen or more leads on my chest (now scarred from violent hair removal) which sent a constant stream of vital data somewhere over the many, many WiFi systems in the hospital (HIPAA anyone?!?). Yet every night, 3 times per night, a nurse came in quietly and gently to take my temp, BP, and Pulse Ox. I inquired about this seeming duplication of efforts as well, and got a blank stare. No reason at all the telly couldn’t (or wasn’t) already collect this data.
- The food – Piedmont in Buckhead pretty much has this solved, but that has not always been the case. I can think of no other place where good food would be appreciated more. Not fancy schmancy “Chopped” or Iron Chef food, but wonderful, home style, stick to your ribs food that makes you all warm inside. Shouldn’t be that hard, and I would think that the food for a hospital is probably a fairly high margin part of the business, so outsource it to a real restaurant. The food at Piedmont in Buckhead was very good, and it had nothing to do with the fact that I had not eaten in 72 hours, I promise.
Thanks to some great care at Piedmont and a spot on diagnosis from my primary care physician, I’m good to go, after 3 extremely painful days. Have you ever experienced any of these problems? Do you know if any startups – or BigCos – are working on solving them? If not, what an opportunity! If so, please hurry. Our healthcare system needs you.