UW Health Surgeon’s Startup Expanding Software to Monitor Patients
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“normal” and “ideal” are unique to the individual, Medow says, the “adaptive physiology algorithms” within Digital Intern incorporate patient-specific attributes by communicating with hospitals’ record-keeping systems.
While the software is designed to be used in hospitals by clinicians who work there, Medow says the startup is initially targeting organ procurement offices (OPOs) as potential customers.
The reason OPOs would be the ones footing the bill for Digital Intern has to do with the payment model behind organ procurement. According to Integrated Vital Medical Dynamics company materials, when a hospital has a dying patient who has agreed to be an organ donor, the hospital notifies an OPO. That organization then sends someone over to coordinate the process of harvesting the donor’s organs. The OPO pays for the patient’s care, in theory knowing that it will be able to find others who need the organs. At that point, it can charge transplant recipients—or, more likely, their insurers—for organs, and stay in business.
Medow says he and other physicians who specialize in critical care are regularly tasked with trying to keep alive organ donors who are brain-dead or have conditions that are “completely not fixable.” Putting Digital Intern in charge of managing these patients does two things. First, it lets OPOs keep tabs on some of the donors who are close to dying and therefore prime candidates to have their organs harvested in the near future (some employees at OPOs would be given iPads with Digital Intern installed, according to the startup’s website). Second, it allows doctors to devote more attention to the other patients in the ICU.
Medow says that as a result of using the software at his hospital, the number of organs donated has increased to 3.5 per donor, from 2.8. There has also been a 61 percent decrease in critical care hours billed, a cost savings of $2,685 per donor.
Now the challenge for Medow, along with his colleagues and advisors working to further develop and commercialize Digital Intern, is getting OPOs and other healthcare organizations to see its value. In addition to organ donation, Medow says that Digital Intern could help clinicians manage conditions like diabetes, sepsis, shock, and traumatic brain injury.
Regulatory requirements are a hurdle the startup will need to clear for Digital Intern to be used in its fullest capacity, Medow says. OPOs can use Digital Intern for organ donors, he says, because software used to care for those patients does not need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, if the software is to be used for areas beyond organ donation, it may need to get FDA clearance.