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An HIT Moment with … Michael O’Neil, Jr.

January 26, 2009 Interviews 3 Comments

An HIT Moment with ... is a quick interview with someone we find interesting. Michael O’Neil is founder and CEO of GetWellNetwork, Inc.

People may think of GetWellNetwork as an TV entertainment service for hospital patients. How do you describe your company?

GetWellNetwork was founded on the principal that patient engagement is a core strategy for performance improvement and a critical puzzle piece in the elusive search for service, quality and safety improvement in healthcare. GetWellNetwork provides technology, as well as process and skills training, to effectively actively engage patients in the care process. 

michaeloneil Today, we are leading this emerging HIS segment called Interactive Patient Care (IPC). Every day, we are humbled to work alongside leaders at the Adventist Health System, Catholic Health West, Children’s National Medical Center, Christiana Care, Henry Ford, Thomas Jefferson University, and Poudre Valley Health System, the 2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Winner. Their commitment to patient-centered care energizes and inspires our work. It matters, and it works.

We developed a patent-pending workflow engine called Patient Pathways. Patient Pathways leverage existing clinical workflow and HL7 interfaces as triggers to directly engage patients in the care process via their in-room television.

For example, a physician entering a Coumadin order via CPOE triggers a Medication Teaching & Pain Assessment Pathway via GetWellNetwork. Consequently, the system prompts a patient while watching the Oprah Winfrey Show, provides critical education on this high-alert medication through an interactive video, and then tests the patient on comprehension through a series of on-screen questions. The Pathway concludes by documenting the education results back into the EMR and alerts clinicians in real-time if the patient fails to complete the education. In another example, a Discharge Pathway guides patients through a series of activities, including a patient checklist and the ability to order discharge medications from their bed.

In summary, GetWellNetwork is a patient care tool, automating and hard-wiring critical service and quality tasks for nurses and providing an exceptional, personalized care experience for patients and families.

And yes, GetWetNetwork patients can also watch movies, send instant messages, surf the Internet, and play video games until they break every record imaginable. So we do entertain patients as well. Entertainment can be quite a powerful healing tool for patients and families.

Hospitals are struggling with reduced utilization and lower payments. How can you help them?

Alongside our hospital partners, we are measuring the application’s impact on HCAPHS scores, Core Measures, and preventing "Never Events" such as falls and hospital-acquired infections via patient engagement. As the transparency of service and quality data increasing rapidly, pay-for-performance systems and value-based benefit design are gaining significant traction. Top performing hospitals will continue to attract the best physicians, best nurses, best staff, and best patients. 

Over the past 18 months in particular, our hospitals are seeing exciting movement in their HCAPHS and Core Measures where we have implemented a focused Patient Pathway. In addition, we are also seeing encouraging indications regarding patient engagement on reducing cost per case. In 2009, we are investing quite significantly in research regarding the efficacy of patient engagement on outcomes, with heavy participation from our client community. It’s an exciting time.

Early in-room applications had facilities challenges, such as replacement of TVs, concerns about suitability of keyboards or other peripherals, and the need to rewire patient rooms. What’s required to install your products?

As one of the first companies in the Interactive Patient Care market (since 1999), we were among those applications the facing  the facilities challenges you mention. Through significant blood, sweat, tears (READ: lots of mistakes, frustrated early clients, and significant R&D expense), our engineers and supplier partners have created proprietary and cost-effective ways to implement Interactive Patient Care. Today, we are relatively infrastructure (wiring) agnostic and can run the system in old buildings on coaxial cable alone and, of course, on Ethernet where available. In both cases, digital video streaming and full Internet browsing has been integrated into the application. 

As for peripherals, today we offer a pillow speaker device that interfaces with all major nurse call systems and a fully-sealed keyboard for under $40/unit. This year, we will be launching a next generation keyboard that will finally make Internet through a patient room television as elegant as being on your laptop or desktop at home or work.

You’re working with Florida Hospital on their "Hospital of the Future." What elements of that do you think are important?

Late in 2008, we were chosen by the Adventist Health System as the exclusive provider of Interactive Patient Care throughout their organization. Since then, several facilities have contracted for GetWellNetwork, with one of them being Florida Hospital, where projects including their new Ginsburg tower as well as the Disney Hospital for Children @ Florida Hospital. 

The top three elements of success with Interactive Patient Care are 1) executive sponsorship to provide strategic outcomes priorities; 2) integration with EMR (they use Cerner, which we successfully interfaced with at Christiana in ’08) to provide triggers for our Patient Pathways and a place to document patient activity for compliance automation; and 3) nursing engagement. 

When nursing leadership embraces Interactive Patient Care as a tool vs. a task, the impact is powerful on their service, quality and safety initiatives on the floors. Florida Hospital is highly engaged and committed to setting a new standard in patient-centered care. We of course are thrilled to contribute to their vision for patient care.

Are hospitals getting better at involving patients and family members in their care?

Yes, they are. But, it’s hard work, takes a genuine commitment and accountability, and does not happen without strong leadership. On November 17, 2008, the National Quality Forum published their National Health Priorities and the first one listed was patient and family engagement: ‘PRIORITY STATEMENT: ENGAGE PATIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES IN MANAGING THEIR HEALTH AND MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT THEIR CARE.’ So, hospital leaders are listening and they are acting. 

Of course, this does not happen overnight, and the technology, applications and interfaces are perhaps the easy part of the equation. Interactive Patient Care is a commitment, and when hospital leaders make the commitment, their patients and families are winning. Hospitals are experiencing fairly spectacular improvements in satisfaction, quality, and operations measures that have been difficult to move the needle on in the past.

Lastly, keep up the great work on HIStalk … it’s simply terrific! Thanks for having me.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. This is interesting and I suspect such tools may result in greater patient per R.N. numbers but I have concerns about the impact of system failure given a reduced nurse to patient ratio. What happens if the system fails and there is a 1:10 ratio rather than the 1:4 or 1:5 today?

  2. I do not believe the tool is intended to change the nurse to patient ratio but to allow more time for the nursing staff to do clinical duties and take away some of the non-clinical requests by directing the patient directly to the person and or department that they need…such as “click here to speak to the Chaplin” “Click here to order your lunch” then the request is routed to the the proper location… Clinical staff deserve the time to care for a patients health needs….this tool could give them that time.

  3. Hope you’re right but given the battle we had with our governor here in California over the nurse : patient ratio I’m still concerned.

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