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

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company. (The hospital network plans to rev up its collaborations with local tech startups, in part through a new $5 million investment fund.) EmOpti has raised a little over $5 million in outside financing from investors to fuel its growth, including a $3.2 million funding round that closed over the summer, Barthell says.

Rodgers, who oversees Aurora’s collaborations with startups, says when his team first learned of EmOpti and discussed the concept of remote provider-in-triage, some suggested Aurora copy the idea and independently build a command center and software for remote consultations. Others, including Rodgers, disagreed, he says.

“If we could’ve done it ourselves, we probably would’ve already done it,” Rodgers says.

The technology may have a similar look and feel to Skype, but with EmOpti there are some important additional pieces related to security and compliance, Barthell says. In order for a hospital to use a communication tool that stores or transmits patient health data, it must comply with HIPAA, a law that regulates the use, disclosure, and transmission of protected patient health information.

EmOpti’s software uses a standardized collection of communications protocols and application programming interfaces, which Barthell says is a popular way of handling video signals on the Web. The startup developed its own method for routing consult requests and arranging them into queues, and also added custom security functions, he says.

In early 2016, prior to turning on EmOpti’s software in Aurora’s emergency rooms, the two organizations began testing the tools in simulated patient care environments. Around that time, Aurora worked with Verona, WI-based Epic Systems—which develops electronic health records (EHR) software used by Aurora and many other large healthcare providers—to set up an interface between Epic’s software and EmOpti’s. This interface enables the caregiver in the command center to see information the triage nurse enters into Epic’s software before requesting a consult—data such as the patient’s name, vital signs, and chief complaint. (Clinicians in the command center can also use Epic’s tools to access patient information and place orders after completing a consult.) Yet another Wisconsin company, Redox, helped Aurora build the software connection between Epic’s and EmOpti’s products.

The startup has also worked with Redox to set up interfaces for EmOpti customers who use other EHR vendors’ software; one example is MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., which uses Kansas City, MO-based Cerner’s (NASDAQ: CERN) record-keeping tools.

Barthell says EmOpti has two more customers besides Aurora and MedStar: Charlotte, NC-based Carolinas Healthcare System and Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, in Philadelphia.

EmOpti has a number of prospective clients in the U.S., as well as ones in England and Mexico, says Jack Berkery, the startup’s VP of sales and marketing.

When a hospital shifts its ER to a remote provider-in-triage model, it brings changes for patients, nurses, and physicians. Coogan, the emergency doctor at Aurora, says his first shift in the command center felt different from any he’d worked previously.

“We’re not used to sitting for eight hours,” he says. “We’re used to a lot of noise and interruptions and busyness. There’s none of that [in the command center]. You’re completely by yourself.”

Nevertheless, Coogan says Aurora’s use of EmOpti’s technology might lead veteran physicians at the organization to continue working in emergency medicine longer than they had planned.

“Some of the older doctors have said, ‘I can’t do night shifts anymore,’” Coogan says. “Maybe this is something they could do to help extend their careers.”

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