Digital health startup Herald Health is finalizing a contract with Brigham and Women’s Hospital as it nears the end of a nine-month pilot in the internal medicine department. The notification platform currently has 105 active users.
Herald Health seeks to help doctors manage electronic medical records more effectively. It sends them push notifications with critical patient data on their pagers and phones. The startup launched in 2015 from an award-winning pitch at Brigham’s Digital Health Hackathon. It integrates with electronic health record systems such as Epic and Cerner, used at Brigham and Women’s and Boston Children’s hospitals, respectively.
The pilot at Brigham has proved a valuable testing ground for the startup.
“The big picture take-away from it was that people said the product was allowing them to respond more quickly to critical information,” said co-founder Brad Diephuis, also an internal medicine resident at Brigham. “Overall it sounded like it was improving their ability to deliver care.”
For David Rubin, an internist and one of 105 doctors in the pilot, the notification system helped save time and energy during the workday. “Anytime we’re in an urgent situation for a patient, where we’re doing blood gas tests and checking emergency labs, I know it’s going to page me when it comes back,” he said. “It gives me freedom to think more about the patient, instead of just sitting at the computer and clicking refresh.”
Of course, there were some glitches uncovered during the pilot. “It is very fast but there sometimes still is like a little bit of a delay compared to the computer,” said Rubin, who noticed the delay while he happened to be sitting at a computer on a patient’s chart. “It’s a really small point, but there are times when you just happen to be on the computer anyway and you see it show up and then get the page one minute later. It kind of just struck me as a little unusual at that time.”
There’s also the risk of doctors depending on the system too heavily. “I think the danger would be becoming too reliant on it,” said Rubin. “If the paging system goes down and it doesn’t page you the results or if it then leads to a delay in you finding out that information because you’re not used to going to check the computer for the data.”
The Herald Health team has since worked to improve the product, adding features such as an “Event Feed” to make information more easily accessible. “We were able to apply the learning that we had at Brigham,” said Diephuis. “A lot of things that we didn’t know we didn’t know the first time, we knew to ask upfront, which really helped streamline the process.”
With contract talks underway, Herald Health has positioned itself to be Brigham’s latest investment in digital health innovation. “We are in the process of finalizing the contract that we’ll have in place with Brigham afterwards,” said Diephuis. “They’ve expressed strong interest in keeping it. So the product will continue to be used after the pilot period. We’re just finalizing the details as to what the exact terms of that will be.”
Brigham declined to comment on the contract negotiations.
Herald Health is gaining traction beyond Brigham as well. It recently completed startup accelerator PULSE@MassChallenge, one of 31 startups selected for the inaugural cohort. It has also launched a partnership with Boston Children’s and Cerner, with an initial rollout that Diephuis expects to last 4 months.
The startup is also looking beyond Boston. But it doesn’t want to take things too fast. “We do have plans to grow further. We’ve had talks with a number of the hospital systems around here as well as outside of Boston in the greater New England area,” said Diephuis. “We’re trying to keep those relationships warm while at the same time not trying to grow too quickly. I think six months from now is when we’ll look to escalating the pace of our expansion.”
Amy Pollard is a candidate for the MA in Communication and International Relations at Boston University. Her interest in health care began with her first trip to Tanzania, where she volunteered at a medical dispensary in a rural village and saw firsthand how access to health care impacts patients. She’s excited to learn about health care technology in Boston. She’s originally from Seattle and holds a B.A. in English from Saint Martin’s University. When she’s not writing, she’s probably drinking coffee, making tacos or watching Parks and Rec. Follow her @amyannexu.
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