EmOpti Aims to Help Patients in ER Get Seen by Doctors More Quickly

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nurses thought it was going to add a lot of time to triage. [But] I think they appreciate having some extra help.”

At Aurora, having doctors and physician assistants enter orders during or just after video consults with certain patients who come to the ER has shortened their hospital stays by about 45 minutes on average, Coogan says. Two examples of orders they might request are an electrocardiogram test for a patient experiencing chest pain, and an X-ray for someone who thinks he sprained an ankle.

The approach seems to be improving the ER experience for patients, too.

Mike Rodgers, Aurora’s director of strategic innovation, says under the typical ER triage model, some patients end up walking out because they don’t feel it’s worth the wait to see a doctor. That’s less of a concern at hospitals that use systems like EmOpti’s, he says.

“We’re able to put this in front of a patient within 10 minutes,” Rodgers says, describing tablet computers that run EmOpti software in ER triage areas. “We ask patients for feedback and have so many quotes. [They say], ‘I’m going to come back here because I actually see a doctor.’” (Albeit one located miles away.)

Inside Aurora’s command center, which is located at the organization’s St. Luke’s campus in Milwaukee, there are six large computer monitors mounted to a desk. (None of the three Aurora hospitals currently using EmOpti are located on the St. Luke’s campus, meaning the organization’s command center is truly remote.) Between two of the screens is a webcam pointed at the clinician who sits at the desk, so that she’s visible to patients and nurses during videoconferences.

Video signals travel up to 30 miles from Aurora’s command center to triage areas in the three hospitals’ emergency rooms. The patient and nurse sit side-by-side so they’re both able to see and communicate with the caregiver in the command center, who appears on a camera-equipped tablet computer.

The startup’s management team includes founder and CEO Ed Barthell (at left), director of product management Tim Fischer (in foreground), and director of software engineering Jared Rufer. Photo courtesy of EmOpti.

A two-way video feed was not part of the original setup for EmOpti, Barthell says. He and other early employees at the startup—including chief technology officer Bob Hedgcock, director of software engineering Jared Rufer, and director of product management Tim Fischer—originally planned to outfit triage nurses with Google Glass eyewear. At the time, EmOpti’s team envisioned the high-tech glasses wirelessly transmitting a live video stream to the command center, so the clinician there would see exactly what the nurse was seeing.

“As we started working with Google Glass, we realized it didn’t have very good battery life—it wasn’t going to be able to get through a whole shift,” Barthell says. “And when you streamed real-time video for more than about 20 minutes, the glasses became hot to the touch, which caused discomfort for some users.”

(EmOpti experimented with Google Glass before the tech giant introduced a new “enterprise” edition, which reportedly features a new type of computer chip that manages heat better than previous versions.)

EmOpti eventually scrapped the Google Glass concept, figuring it would be more appropriate for consults to have the feel of a Skype video chat.

“Patients like being able to see the face of the doctor while talking to them,” Barthell says.

Aurora served as a development partner of EmOpti early on, and has invested in the … Next Page »

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