A banquet of tools for health tech innovators

Tools-Shutterstock-donatas1205-croppedWant to hack something in medicine? Vendors are increasingly eager to contribute their tools to problem-solving teams, like those who will gather November 14 for Boston Children’s Hospital’s Hacking Pediatrics. Seeing an array of tools presented at a showcase at Boston Children’s last week, I felt excited about the possibilities ahead.

Here are a few tools that can help innovators improve health care for patients, caregivers and providers.

  • Data capture: Data are generated everywhere—doctors’ clinical notes, wearable devices, even patient beds—but are maddeningly hard to gather. Technologies like speech recognition systems and natural language processing allow health systems and researchers to cast a wider net when seeking to understand their patients. Nuance’s Clintegrity 360 | NarrativeSearch, for example, converts clinical notes or dictation to structured, usable data.
  • Data integration: A variety of platforms, some with data capture tools built in, bring together and present data from disparate sources to facilitate discovery and decision-making. One project, for example, is taking data from vital signs trackers worn by nurses at a trauma center—specifically, signs of fatigue—and crunching them against patient safety parameters to inform quality improvement efforts. (In the short term, the trackers could signal nurse managers that it’s time for a break.)
  • Data curation and sharing: Booz Allen Hamilton’s Sailfish Exchange is an example of a social platform that can curate data sets. It can find, organize and share data regardless of where it’s stored. It’s customizable to a user’s interests and fosters data-sharing communities where users can comment on and rate datasets for quality. The software sits on top of other data systems and is file-agnostic.
  • Hacking Pediatrics logoPredictive intelligence: Advanced data analytics systems can help health care providers “transform their data into intelligent action.” For example, through Microsoft, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System’s ImagineCare program is coupling analytics with remote patient monitoring, looking for patterns and gauging the probability of untoward events so providers can head them off. At Johns Hopkins, Microsoft is powering Project Emerge, which takes data from patient records and monitoring equipment to create a “harms monitor” for the surgical ICU.
  • EHR integration: Projects like SMART are aimed at making applications that can run on top of any electronic health record (EHR) system. This allows users to bring EHR data into their workflow without needing specialized knowledge about system configuration. Using the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) framework, developers can serve up EHR data for multiple uses and offer EHR-compatible systems in an app-store-like format.
  • Data management: Secure tools like Box help users view just the data they need to see in HIPAA-compliant fashion. Box’s “content management” system can handle up to 100 different file types, including images; provides for up to seven layers of permissioning; allows users to add comments and can even set files to expire after a designated amount of time.
  • Secure communication: Services like TigerText enable real-time, encrypted messaging between providers, across devices and platforms, during the course of patient care.
  • Collaboration platforms: Tools like Cisco Spark facilitate innovation and project teamwork by bringing multiple users together in a simple, secure, social-media-like format. You can set up a chat room (text or video) for a team in seconds and visit it from all your devices.
  • 3-D printing: Outside the IT space, clinicians and surgeons can quickly build prototypes of helpful gadgets and devices. Boston Children’s Hospital’s Simulator Program has launched an in-house service, SIMStart, which provides engineering, scanning and 3-D printing services, including synthetic tissue creation.

I expect to see more tools like these discussed next month at Boston Children’s Global Pediatric Summit + Awards (November 9-10)—for example, check out the session on Patient Engagement in a Big Data World. Register now!