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App helps residents communicate safely, efficiently in hospitals

By Neil Zeidenberg

TORONTO – Some medical residents in Canada are still communicating with care teams by using outdated tools like pagers and even pen and paper for their daily processes – despite the fact most healthcare professionals own smartphones.

As an alternative, some are choosing non-compliant solutions like SMS and WhatsApp to communicate – improving efficiency somewhat, but at the same time risking patient privacy and potential loss of patient information to individuals outside the circle of care.

“Residents are using inadequate tools to get tasks done, and the solutions they’re turning to aren’t healthcare specific with built-in functionality – so they’re not the best tools for the job,” said Andrew Lawrence, COO of Hypercare (www.hypercare.com) – a new start-up company that aims to help residents collaborate more effectively and communicate securely within the care team.

“WhatsApp puts patient data at risk,” said Lawrence. “Although it has data encryption, it doesn’t have any privacy measures embedded, and there’s no paper trail if you want to know what’s going on.”

The National Health Service in the U.K. prohibits the use of WhatsApp in hospitals because it uses an unsecure web-based platform, yet doctors still like using it because its eases communication and the exchange of clinical information.

“WhatsApp is a very popular communication tool, but it’s designed for public consumer use – not for the workflows, privacy and security we expect and require in a complex healthcare setting,” said Josh Liu, CEO of SeamlessMD, and medical advisor on the Hypercare team.

Dr. Matt Strickland, president of GestSure (www.gestsure.com), a surgical I.T. solutions provider, and medical advisor on the Hypercare team, brings up another disadvantage to using a third party application: the information may not be captured adequately as part of a medical record. “Pictures and clinical opinions exchanged via alternative platforms would ideally be included in a patient’s record, but there are often inadequate ways to include this data.”

Pagers – still endorsed by many academic hospitals in Canada – do little more than provide call back numbers with no context in terms of who, what, or the urgency of the page. “Clinicians may get over a 100 pages in a single shift, and it’s hard for them to prioritize how they react to these pages,” said Dr. Liu. “Moreover, much time is wasted playing phone tag with colleagues in response to these pages.

“Hypercare allows doctors to send each other priority texts to attach to their messages. Clinicians can then gauge its importance and prioritize,” said Dr. Liu.

In early 2016, Hypercare was formed by a team of computer scientists and medical professionals intent on helping healthcare professionals exchange patient information safely using a modern, HIPAA-compliant messaging platform. “In simplest terms, it’s a mobile and web platform that lets residents collaborate securely, and privately around patient care,” said Lawrence. “We’re trying to improve the lives of residents and make them more productive.”

Hypercare is a cloud-based solution hosted in Toronto and stored safely in the cloud. It’s compatible with smartphones running Android, iOS or Web Clients and has built-in 128-bit SSL encryption.

Hypercare can improve how clinicians collaborate and deliver quality patient care by offering features like secure messaging; the ability to search the hospital directory to acquire detailed information about patients; task delegation within the care team and real-time updates so the entire team is on the same page. Furthermore, discussions can be associated with a specific patient so that this data could be imported into a formal medical record.

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