MediSafe Makes Medical Adherence Simple & Effective
In the US alone, non-adhering patients cost the healthcare system in excess of $100 billion per year on readmissions, furthermore over $100 million worth of drugs go to waste because patients forget to take their medication and most importantly, every 90 minutes a patient dies because of an accidental overdoes or missed prescription.
MediSafe is a new medical application that aims to fight the war against poor adherence. The idea for MediSafe came about in 2011, when the founder’s father, who suffers from diabetes, asked, “Did you see me inject my insulin today?” He responded saying he hadn’t and consequently Bob Shor’s father injected a double dosage of insulin, causing him to overdose. Thankfully he survived the incident and provided his son with the inspiration for a medical adherence application that is easy to use. “We realised at that moment that medical adherence is largely dependent on memory when it needs to be a managed process, that is when we began working on MediSafe,” says Shor. Shor started the Company with his brother.
Creating A Simple User Interface
During the initial development phase Shor and his team agreed that they needed to create an app with a very simple user interface – they came up with the four-quadrant pillbox design, which is easy and intuitive to use. “We really feel this is our secret sauce,” he says.
A good design is one thing, however in order to give the app real value it needed to be executed properly, so Shor and his brother went about hiring some of the most acclaimed experts within their fields – one of their team members comes from a big pharma marketing background, while another was the CEO of the eHealth division of a large HMO as well as a doctor. MediSafe was also chosen to be part of the Microsoft Azure Accelerator program, which really helped it take off.
Finding Real Value
Now in its third phase of development, MediSafe is proving to be a valuable tool within the healthcare industry. Adherence is in everybody’s favour; primarily it saves live, but it can also save the system a lot of money.
When a patient is prescribed any medication, they can sign in to the MediSafe app and using a simple barcode scanner, input their medication. The app will then send the patient push notifications reminding them when to take their prescription – once they have done this they can confirm with the click of a button. MediSafe is also the first adherence application that can by synced with multiple devices, meaning patients, particularly elderly patients can also be connected with friends and family. In the instance of a confirmation not being made, the app can notify ‘emergency contacts’ who can follow up with the patient to remind them.
Another key capability of the app is that patients can send their doctor an adherence report via email, which can help physicians identify problems with medication compliance – it can also help doctors identify what medication would best suit individual patients.
“Healthcare professionals want to give a better service and MediSafe helps with that. This is also a way for them to say to their patients, ‘I care about you and I want you to be able to track your adherence,’” says Shor.
MediSafe already has more than 30,000 active users and medical institutions are beginning to recognise and importantly, recommend the application to their patients. The Company is also getting a good response from big pharma companies that want to support the tool. To continue its expansion, Shor would like to see the healthcare system distributing the app.
“We want to change the way people consume medication. Imagine this, you go to the doctor and he prescribes you antibiotics for 10 days. You sign into MediSafe with your Kaizen or ETNA login and all of a sudden the medication your doctor prescribed is already preloaded to the app from an email from your doctor. MediSafe has the ability to not only be an adherence tool but a prescription tool also.”
Rather than scanning a barcode, Shor would also like to see all medication come with a MediSafe QR code, which will upload all the relevant information straight to the app; this is in the pipeline. “This will lower healthcare costs, making care more affordable and more accountable – it will also make the healing process more simple for people,” he says.
How UiPath robots are helping with the NHS backlog
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hospitals to have logistical nightmares, as backlogs of surgeries built up as a result of cancellations. The BMJ has estimated it will take the UK's National Health Service (NHS) a year and a half to recover.
However software robots can help, by automating computer-based processes such as replenishing inventory, managing patient bookings, and digitising patient files. Mark O’Connor, Public Sector Director for Ireland at UiPath, tells us how they deployed robots at Mater Hospital in Dublin, saving clinicians valuable time.
When Did Mater Hospital implement the software robots - was it specifically to address the challenges of the pandemic?
The need for automation at Mater Hospital pre-existed the pandemic but it was the onset of COVID-19 that got the team to turn to the technology and start introducing software robots into the workflow of doctors and nurses.
The pandemic placed an increased administrative strain on the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) department at Mater Hospital in Dublin. To combat the problem and ensure that nurses could spend more time with their patients and less time on admin, the IPC deployed its first software robots in March 2020.
The IPC at Mater plans to continue using robots to manage data around drug resistant microbes such as MRSA once the COVID-19 crisis subsides.
What tasks do they perform?
In the IPC at Mater Hospital, software robots have taken the task of reporting COVID-19 test results. Pre-automation, the process created during the 2003 SARS outbreak required a clinician to log into the laboratory system, extract a disease code and then manually enter the results into a data platform. This was hugely time consuming, taking up to three hours of a nurse’s day.
UiPath software robots are now responsible for this task. They process the data in a fraction of the time, distributing patient results in minutes and consequently freeing up to 18 hours of each IPC nurse’s time each week, and up to 936 hours over the course of a year. As a result, the healthcare professionals can spend more time caring for their patients and less time on repetitive tasks and admin work.
Is there any possibility of error with software robots, compared to humans?
By nature, humans are prone to make mistakes, especially when working under pressure, under strict deadlines and while handling a large volume of data while performing repetitive tasks.
Once taught the process, software robots, on the other hand, will follow the same steps every time without the risk of the inevitable human error. Simply speaking, robots can perform data-intensive tasks more quickly and accurately than humans can.
Which members of staff benefit the most, and what can they do with the time saved?
In the case of Mater Hospital, the IPC unit has adopted a robot for every nurse approach. This means that every nurse in the department has access to a robot to help reduce the burden of their admin work. Rather than spending time entering test results, they can focus on the work that requires their human ingenuity, empathy and skill – taking care of their patients.
In other sectors, the story is no different. Every job will have some repetitive nature to it. Whether that be a finance department processing thousands of invoices a day or simply having to send one daily email. If a task is repetitive and data-intensive, the chances are that a software robot can help. Just like with the nurses in the IPC, these employees can then focus on handling exceptions and on work that requires decision making or creativity - the work that people enjoy doing.
How can software robots most benefit healthcare providers both during a pandemic and beyond?
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, software robots were deployed to lessen the administrative strain healthcare professionals were facing and give them more time to care for an increased number of patients. With hospitals around the world at capacity, every moment with a patient counted.
Now, the NHS and other healthcare providers face a huge backlog of routine surgeries and procedures following cancellations during the pandemic. In the UK alone, 5 million people are waiting for treatment and it’s estimated that this could cause 6,400 excess deaths by the end of next year if the problem isn’t rectified.
Many healthcare organisations have now acquired the skills needed to deploy automation, therefore it will be easier for them to build more robots to respond to the backlog going forwards. Software robots that had been processing registrations at COVID test sites, for example, could now be taught how to schedule procedures, process patient details or even manage procurement and recruitment to help streamline the processes associated with the backlog. The possibilities are vast.
The technology, however, should not be considered a short-term, tactical and reactive solution that can be deployed in times of crisis. Automation has the power to solve systematic problems that healthcare providers face year-round. Hospital managers should consider the wider challenge of dealing with endless repetitive work that saps the energy of professionals and turns attention away from patient care and discuss how investing in a long-term automation project could help alleviate these issues.
How widely adopted is this technology in healthcare at the moment?
Automation was being used in healthcare around the world before the pandemic, but the COVID-19 outbreak has certainly accelerated the trend.
Automation’s reach is wide. From the NHS Shared Business Service in the UK to the Cleveland Clinic in the US and healthcare organisations in the likes of Norway, India and Canada, we see a huge range of healthcare providers deploying automation technology.
Many healthcare providers, however, are still in the early stages of their journeys or are just discovering automation’s potential because of the pandemic. I expect to see the deployment of software robots in healthcare grow over the coming years as its benefits continue to be realised globally.
How do you see this technology evolving in the future?
If one thing is certain, it’s that the technology will continue to evolve and grow over time – and I believe there will come a point in time when all processes that can be automated, will be automated. This is known as the fully automated enterprise.
By joining all automation projects into one enterprise-wide effort, the healthcare industry can tap into the full benefits of the technology. This will involve software robots becoming increasingly intelligent in order to reach and improve more processes. Integrating the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into automation, for example, will allow providers to reach non-rule-based processes too.
We are already seeing steps towards this being taken by NHS Shared Business Service, for example. The organisation, which provides non-clinical services to around two-thirds of all NHS provider trusts and every clinical commissioning organisation in the UK, is working to create an entire eco-system of robots. It believes that no automation should be looked at in isolation, but rather the technology should stretch across departments and functions. As such, inefficiencies in the care pathway can be significantly reduced, saving healthcare providers a substantial amount of time and money.