How a Natural History Museum Inspired Innovation at Miami Children's

A trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City inspired one of the latest updates to Miami Children's Hospital's in-house app.

The museum's Explorer app uses an internal, GPS-like navigation system over the museum's wireless network to provide visitors with turn-by-turn directions to get from one exhibit to another. While using the app during his visit, Miami Children's CIO Ed Martinez immediately thought of adding a navigation feature to the hospital's Fit4KidsCare app. "I realized even though the technology is not that common, it is available and being used in other industries," he says. "We could make our app do that."

Using the hospital's Wi-Fi network and triangulation technology built on wireless access points and software from Cisco, Mr. Martinez's team added a navigation component to the highly popular app, developing between 80 to 90 percent of the new feature in-house. "A lot of people would welcome high-tech support to find their way around the hospital," he says. "Now, the app can tell you exactly where your physician or the radiology department is, and help you walk right to the door."

The app has also been updated to address other patient and family needs and desires. When launched in 2010, the app provided families with wait times for the emergency department and urgent care centers, directions to care settings and physician directories.

Now, app users can have an adult meal delivered to the room to help parents avoid leaving the child alone or have a gift from the gift shop sent to the child, says Mr. Martinez. "On top of helping people find their way in the hospital, we wanted to provide a concierge-type service, so that you could just open the app that already has your credit card number to have a hamburger and Coke delivered to your room," he says. "It's our intent to provide an app that improves the overall experience and engages patients and families to the extent a high-class hotel would."

In the near future, Mr. Martinez plans to add a secure video conferencing element to the app, to allow parents to communicate with their child from off the hospital's campus. "It will allow a parent at work to see their child and have that level of connection with the patient that's lost when a parent has to go to work," he says. The video conferencing would be hosted in-house, encrypted and HIPAA-compliant, and allow for "a level of sophisticated engagement with the patient," says Mr. Martinez.

Mr. Martinez also plans to incorporate some of the hospital's other apps, including medication management and post-discharge education, into the Fit4KidsCare app, providing a comprehensive tool for patients and their families. The ultimate goal of the Fit4KidsCare app had always been to create a product to allow consumers to be engaged both before and after the clinical encounter. By continuing to incorporate tools and features to make both hospital stays and home health easier, Miami Children's will be offering a "level of patient engagement beyond what's been offered before," he says.

To other CIOs looking to improve their patient engagement strategies or other key priorities, Mr. Martinez recommends continuously asking, "Is there a better way?" He advocates looking outside the healthcare industry, to places like the American Museum of Natural History, for innovative solutions to problems also faced by hospitals. "A CIO's status quo of using technology to automate business processes is good," he says. "Innovating in a way that creates a disruption in the market and finds something really new is better."  

More Articles on Apps:

Dignity Health's mHealth Strategy
The Promise of Clinical Management Apps
How Cedars-Sinai Made the iPhone Its Enterprise Mobility Device 

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