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Ottawa hospital brings EHR to bedside using iPads

OTTAWA – Select Start Studios, an Ottawa-based software development company launched by three recent graduates of Carleton University, has won a contract to create EHR applications for iPads at the Ottawa Hospital. (Pictured: Joshua Tessier, left, Adam McNamara, centre, and Tariq Zaid of Select Start Studios.)

Earlier this year, the Ottawa Hospital announced that it would become a major adopter of Apple iPads for clinical purposes and would order 1,800 of them by the end of 2011.

The iPad applications are intended to provide the hospital’s healthcare professionals with instant access to patient records. The partners said the agreement firmly establishes Select Start Studios and the Ottawa Hospital as innovators in Canadian healthcare technology.

“The fact that I can walk around with all of my patient charts in my hand, see them where I am, makes a huge difference,” said Dr. Alan Forster, a staff physician and the hospital’s scientific director of clinical quality and performance management.

In early 2010, the Ottawa Hospital announced that it would revolutionize access to information in its facilities. Dale Potter, the Hospital’s CIO, questioned why doctors are required to print stacks of patient charts before making their daily rounds with a clipboard in hand
The hospital evaluated a number of products designed at making their patient information mobile. After rejecting vendors’ solutions, they decided to create their own.

The hospital turned to Select Start’s team of mobile experts with a complex problem. They needed a solution to provide access to millions of patient records while being intuitive enough for all doctors to use. The application had to be secure and protect sensitive patient information. Most importantly, the solution had to be easily extensible for many new features in the future.

Select Start was given a very challenging task. Within 60 days, the team was to design, develop and test an iPad application that gives healthcare professionals access to nearly all of a patients’ information – including past visits, allergies, medications, test results and lab reports.

Select Start analyzed the existing electronic medical record system in use at the hospital. The company conducted a usability review of the system and found many opportunities for improvement. According to the company, “Not only could we provide healthcare professionals with mobile access to patient data, but we could do it in a much more intuitive and easy-to-use way.”

The Ottawa Hospital is an example of a large organization adopting a technology with which many staff members are already familiar. Users are able to explore the application as naturally as they would an application designed by Apple for the iPad. This familiarity reduces the learning curve and provides staff with the best possible performance and experience.

Select Start and the partners expect to obtain many benefits with the iPad applications:

• Healthcare professionals will have access to the most current patient information.

• It will bring doctors and nurses closer to the bedside.

• More efficient rounds on the hospital floor.

• Reduced resource consumption with electronic records.

“We worked closely with the hospital to turn what is typically a consumer product into a solution for the hospital’s staff and patients,” Adam McNamara, 25, a co-founder of Select Start Studios, told the Ottawa Citizen. “The goal is to improve the doctor-patient experience while allowing the hospital to operate more efficiently.”

While working with hospital staff, McNamara and the other co-founders, Tariq Zaid, 29, and Joshua Tessier, 24, realized the extent of the opportunities to apply mobile software to patient care.

“Electronic health records are just the beginning,” said Zaid. “We have an incredible opportunity to bring functions like explaining an MRI or ordering a prescription to the bedside.”

The three business partners started the company before they even graduated, having worked on iPhone games in their spare time toward the end of their computer science studies. It wasn’t long before they were ramping up business.

“Generally half of our time was spent developing mobile apps for customers, and half was spent doing work for ourselves,” said McNamara. Their apps ranged from a large mobile app suite for Entrust to games such as Arrow. This summer, they developed an iPhone app for the Cisco Bluesfest.

Posted November 18, 2010