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These are transformational times for innovation in healthcare. Not that long ago, records were still captured on paper, doctors shared information via fax machine or courier, and people would actually go to the doctor to be diagnosed instead of Googling if a stomach ache could be a symptom of diabetes.
Now the industry is changing rapidly. Over the last few years, technology innovation has been transforming the way hospitals and other healthcare institutions deal with their processes and improving the quality of services delivered to patients.
Innovation in Healthcare: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?
Innovation in healthcare goes beyond diagnostic technology, new pharmaceuticals and drugs, surgical procedures, and medical devices. It’s true that patients, doctors, and medical staff expect faster diagnosis and treatment, but they also expect better access, more convenience, and sensitivity to cultural differences and health disparity.
The importance of innovation in healthcare has gained traction after years of technological lagging. New data, mobile, and cloud technology has forced the healthcare industry into the digital era where patients and doctors expect to have choice, control, and synchronization at every touchpoint. But building the hospital of the future involves breaking siloed tech stacks and a cultural shift, not to mention financial investment and skilled development teams.
With this in mind, Seattle Children’s was looking for ways to make the lives of their patients as comfortable as possible. One of the most well-known and respected children’s hospitals in the U.S. and a leader in healthcare innovation, Seattle Children’s was aware of the new demands and expectations from both staff and patients for better services.
Ever inventive, Seattle Children's Enterprise Analytics Community decided to organize the 2nd edition of the Data Innovation Hackathon—a data-focused hackathon with the participation of the patients’ parents and the hospital staff. Because, let’s be honest, who better to come up with solutions than its users?
3 Days to Bring Disruptive Innovation into Healthcare
During the three days of the Data Innovation Hackathon, participants could use any technology they wanted as long as the result was an innovative solution. Sixteen teams were formed and included the parents of patients, hospital staff, data engineers, specialists, and analysts. Not everyone had a technical background, but they all knew the complex challenges of managing these kids’ care.
At Persistent Systems, we were moved by the motivations and goals of the hackathon, so when we were invited at the last minute to support the teams from a technical perspective, we promptly put together two teams and flew them from Dublin, Ohio, to Seattle.
App #1: From a Series of Spreadsheets to One Click
The first team focused on creating an internal application to be used by the medical staff and patients in Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic. This clinic serves over 350 kids who don’t associate with their born gender and coordinates with several medical branches, from psychology to legal and surgery.
The nature of this cross-departmental care means lots of data and information need to be managed across multiple compilations of Excel documents. Dealing with these processes manually not only consumes a lot of the medical staff’s time, but can also lead to errors, duplication, redundancy, and missing information. Consolidating the complex web of information would help the clinic deliver the best care and support to the children during these potentially tough and confusing times in their lives.
To solve this obstacle and improve the support delivered to patients, the team developed a web and mobile care portal prototype using the OutSystems low-code platform that could capture all cross-departmental information about the patient, including every step of the gender transition. Thus, they digitalized and streamlined the processes that were previously “spread across a battery of spreadsheets,” to use the words of one of the medical staff.
App #2: Seeing the Whole Patient
We were also invited to support a second team, The Whole Child App team, which focused on one of the main struggles parents with hospitalized children deal with: siloed information and a lack of communication between different medical specialties. Imagine a mother whose son has leukemia and is hospitalized in the ICU. She’s waiting for some test results, managing six different departments’ information systems, and worried about forgetting the separate passwords.
This juggling act often includes processing input from different doctors from various clinical specialties and sometimes even different hospitals.
So, three mothers from the Patient and Family Advisory Council at Seattle Children's, along with teammates from the Patient and Family Experience Office, envisioned a mobile application with a single sign-on that would allow parents and all of their child’s care providers to seamlessly access a patient’s entire information portfolio and schedule appointments based on the availability of their doctors.
In a day and a half, also using the OutSystems platform, we worked together with these parents and the Patient and Family Experience Office to bring their vision to life. In a prototype version, the Whole Child app would function as a native mobile application for the family of patients and their care providers. The app would make sure that everyone from doctors to the patient’s family is on the same page in terms of patient goals.
The Whole Child App team ultimately took home the gold and has been pitched to Seattle Children's Digital Health team. This was one of those moments where we really understood how technology can make a difference and hopefully help these kids with faster treatment, less trauma, and better outcomes.
That’s the real incredible experience.