“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things. “
– Theodore Levitt
A little over four years ago, Dr. Chris Patey, an emergency room physician and Paul Norman, an ER nurse at Eastern Health allowed their creative problem solving to spur on an “outside the box” idea. Their hospital was facing the highest emergency room wait times in the province of Newfoundland & Labrador and as a result their patient outcomes and satisfaction scores were low. They knew they needed to do something to address this.
After going through a process to identify and analyze the key stressors that contributed to ER surge, they started to measure them on a “windows version” – a tracking system comprised of tape, dry erase markers and sticky notes on a physical window in the unit. They quickly realized that by measuring the factors on the window and using a basic algorithm they could accurately predict the current level of ER busyness and when anticipated bottleneck of patients — a surge — was going to happen.
Using that information as a base line, they implemented a list of actions that needed to occur when a surge was approaching. Allowing them to proactively address the challenges that come along with an increase in emergency room patients such as a shortage of beds and not enough nurses or physicians.
The “windows version” proved that this concept worked and provided them with enough data to be awarded a grant to digitize the process and create an app — SurgeCon.
For years, MOBIA has been Eastern Health’s trusted technology innovation partner and was the natural fit for bringing the SurgeCon app to life. In a six week timeframe, the two organizations worked closely together to define the scope for the minimal viable product (MVP), define the workflow process and ensure that the app would be simple for frontline staff to use. SurgeCon has now been running in The Carbonear Regional Hospital’s emergency department for over a year and has been adopted across the ER as a key tool.
How Does SurgeCon Work?
SurgeCon is an app that’s accessible via tablet or desktop from MOBIA’s myOpenHealth cloud based platform. Using analytics, the app looks at the variables that are submitted by frontline staff and the current wait times that patients are facing to predict surge levels. This allows staff and administrators to “see the surge” before it happens and enables proactive implementation of measures to lower weight times, improve outcomes for patients and positively impact patient (and staff) experience.
There are 5 different levels that have been laid out in SurgeCon — ranging from level one (the ER is not very busy; no immediate concern for a surge) all the way to level five (the ER is completely overwhelmed; a surge is active and ongoing). With each level, an automated text message alert is sent to key staff and administrators, notifying them of an impending change in level and possibility of surge. These notifications inform each individual of the specific measures and actions they need to take to prevent the ER from becoming overwhelmed.
SurgeCon is not only user friendly and intuitive, it is also highly flexible allowing for users to be assigned different access levels – information entry, view only or notification only (automated text messages) – depending on their role within the emergency department.
Future Innovation is Bright
The preliminary results of the positive benefits for Eastern Health’s emergency room, since implementing SurgeCon, have been so positive that they have received a research grant to study the impact on the ER before and after the app was introduced. The results of this research will help other healthcare organizations, around the globe, better understand how to create better workflows and introduce technology to proactively manage surges and minimize emergency room wait times.
MOBIA is actively working on creating the next iteration of the SurgeCon app. The information gathered through the research study will inform future developments of the SurgeCon application, process and algorithms resulting in a more powerful solution with predictive features. Building on its already existing functionalities, the app will become integrated with other hospital data and systems via HL7 feeds. This will allow organizations to have access to more in-depth data that they can extrapolate from and further the apps reporting and analytics capabilities.
With an eye always on improving patient outcomes and experience, a public facing view of the app is also in the works. This version of SurgeCon would allow patients to see the current wait time and surge status level at their ER and ERs across their region, helping them to understand how busy the waiting room really is and make an informed decision on where to seek care.
To learn more about SurgeCon, visit us at surgecon.io.