From the Bench to the Bedside

March 5, 2018

A UA College of Nursing Professor’s Start-Up Will Improve the Electronic Health Record for Nurses

If you think commerce and academia don’t mix, University of Arizona College of Nursing Associate Professor Dr. Jane Carrington is here to show otherwise. A foremost nursing informatics expert, she will soon be one of the first nursing faculty members to bring a product to the commercial market.

On the heels of a $745,417 RO1 grant from National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) for her Electronic Health Record (EHR) algorithm to alert nurses to important clinical events, she was invited to participate in the 2017 Coulter College Commercializing Innovation (C3i) program. C3i helps inventors in the academic world usher their discoveries on to commercialization by uniting inventors with business advisors, consultants and marketers. In a moment straight out of Shark Tank, after she presented her pitch two venture capitalists offered her $3 million in seed money in exchange for 10% of her invention.

“It wasn’t just because of the product,” she says of her offbeat approach. “It was because I pitched it in a different way. I said, ‘You know what? All of us are patients in this health care system. And we have two simple goals every time we’re in the hospital: one, Get out as soon as possible and two, survive. Our current EHRs don’t promote enough guarantees that these goals will be met. But with the addition of our product, we will now have a way to up the ante.”

Tell us about your product.

We named it CECAMS – Clinical Event Communication Management System. It’s for early detection of change in status of six events – fever, pain, bleeding, urine output, breathing and consciousness – so as to prevent complications or unexpected death. Basically, it’s an algorithm and clinician interface that tracks the status of patients and based on a data pattern, triggers an alert to the clinician about the potential for or actual occurrence of a clinical event. The company we’re forming so far is named Quantum Communication Tools. Right now, we plan to name a CEO and using a business innovation approach, submit a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant proposal in order to have more resources to advance the product.

What’s unique about your approach?

It’s a hot thing on the market right now. Everybody sees the value of EHR data and not everybody has access to that data. But not all of these ventures are solid because they’re quick start-ups looking for the fast dime. Our project is more science based, following the rules of computer science for algorithm and machine learning. We’re moving more slowly but that gives us more accuracy and relevancy for clinicians. We’re using innovative data visualization strategies to develop a prototype EHR that we can test and eventually put on the market.

What sets my work apart is that I look at the EHR as a communication system rather than as a documentation system. I use the principles of information theory. I adhere to what is known about human factors for the user technology interface and I put all that together for messaging, receiving the message and then determining where the data goes after the message has been received. Current EHRs are great for data entry but not as great for retrieving the data, which often makes them useless for continuing care. We’re working on understanding how nurses use the EHRs so we can re-design to be useful as a communication system. The idea is to turn vast amounts of data into actionable knowledge.

How did you become involved inTell us about the C3i program?

We got an email from the SBIR program officer for NIH saying we were eligible to participate in the C3i program through the Coulter Foundation. The C3i is one branch of that foundation composed of people who are committed to helping people like me learn how to commercialize their inventions. Once I formed a business team, I had to stay on top of weekly assignments and web presentations, and take part in coaching exercises with venture capitalists. These people are masters at helping you take your scientific idea and lay it out in a way that will want someone to invest in it. They also assigned us a journalist who specializes in helping people tell their story in a way that’s succinct. And then our final was presenting our pitch in Bethesda in front of NIH representatives.

Tell us about you provisional patent?

What it means is we have put a flag on the moon, if you will. People are monitoring the patent list to ensure nothing threatens our patent before we’re done. It’s provisional, meaning we’ve got a flag out there and we’re protecting our corner.

What will Phase Two of the EHR Prototype interface involve?

The first step was defining each clinical event and then developing an event classification system – developing the rules, so to speak. We’ve ended up with a classification system that’s enormous but is an absolutely powerful document. One of the phases of the algorithm development is to make it scientific, so in Phase Two we’re going to send it out to staff nurses for review.

What are your hopes for the future?

The success of my business and my research are two facets. However, another facet is extending the application of EHR communications technology to other healthcare problems.  For example, I plan to shift my thinking from technology underpinning hospital individual patient acute care to creating technology solutions that will advance care systems safety and excellence. Informatics is a ubiquitous key to needed innovations.