Telstra gives Verdi a boost as it pursues mobile strategy

When Telstra was looking at building a new health division last year, one of the first companies it began talking to was IP Health, the Melbourne-based firm best known for developing the Verdi suite of products in association with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Now known just as Verdi, the company has designed a range of products that are in extensive use not only at Peter Mac but also at the Mater hospital group in Brisbane. They include the original capability of providing clinicians with a single view into all of a hospital's clinical software, including the patient administration system, radiology and pathology systems, pharmacy and specialist clinical databases. Originally called the Patient Browser, this is now known as V-Chart.

Since then, Verdi has gone on to develop extra capabilities, such as its V-Referrals system. It also has V-Notes, a mobile solution that allows clinicians to digitally write and sign notes or to dictate them for transcribing, and V-Photo, which allows clinicians to take a digital image and upload it straight to the patient record.

The future, of course, is mobile, so in addition to the latter two solutions Verdi has also developed V-Mobile, which provides much of the same capability as V-Chart in accessing the required clinical programs but does it through the clinician's mobile device. The information is tailored so the clinician only sees information that is relevant to their workflow.

Now, the company is also working on a new solution to provide access to digital forms, and as well as a way to harness the explosion in medical apps and mobile medical devices, such as endoscopes that can be attached to an iPhone, to see how that can be integrated with Verdi.

It is also harnessing the vast resources of Telstra to broaden its reach. Telstra is the largest investor in the company and is leveraging its long-standing partnerships throughout the acute care sector in Australia to get a number of proof of concept trials up and running.

Verdi's CEO, Ashley Renner, said that with the “Telstra machine” behind the company, the product can now be implemented even faster.

“Telstra is engaged with pretty much every public and private hospital across Australia, so we’ve now got proof of concepts in very large hospital groups on both private and public sites,” Mr Renner said.

He said that at the heart of Verdi is the ability to link in to the many diverse databases found in hospitals and pull them up in real time. “Instead of having to replace all the existing systems and put in a one-vendor approach, you can put this in as an overlay across the existing departmental systems.

“To clinicians, the key part of the product is that they can easily get to the information with the fewest numbers of clicks or touches. That’s what they want, and that’s where we’ve put all the effort in the product.”

Mr Renner said the technology has the ability to access a range of different clinical software from different vendors, including ultra-specialist databases that a clinician with research interests may have developed over time using consumer products like Access.

This isn't something that an EMR can do, he said. “An EMR just looks at a single vertical and it doesn’t actually solve the problem in hospitals of this heterogeneity of databases. We call them popcorn databases.

“We can quickly go into the existing departmental system using our service-orientated architecture and we lift that data directly out of those systems. We link into the PAS as a source of truth and then we link into the RIS and the PACS and the pharmacy system and the allied health systems.

“So we’ve got the access, which is any mobile device – Android phone, Windows phone, the iOS ecosystem – then there’s the desktop client, and then there’s a middleware server. That’s where we spent our time, in writing that middleware server, so that we can link in.”

It is the middleware server that provides the real value proposition, he said. Hospitals have a tendency to invest large sums in different clinical systems that are unable to integrate with each other, but by sitting on top of or overlaying these systems and extracting pertinent data from them, Verdi can then offer that information up to the clinician.

And with the move to mobility, it can do that at the point of care or anywhere else for that matter. Mobility is an area the company jumped on early, and is something that suits both it and the workflow of clinicians intuitively.

“To run out a desktop hardware environment across hospitals is prohibitively expensive, so with bring your own devices, BYOD, clinicians now are essentially subsidising their own devices, but it gives these clinicians the right type of access," Mr Renner said.

“It's the ability to look at the patient record from wherever they are, whenever they want. Clinicians tend not to want to enter data, they can’t stand it, and the ability to quickly implement new features is the kind of driver that we have around our modules. It is easy to use and quick to implement.”

In addition to providing both desktop and mobile solutions, Verdi has also developed the V-Referral system. This is quite complex and is one reason why there are few if any purpose-built software packages on the market that can handle the hospital end of the referral process.

Verdi has designed a solution that can 'receipt' a referral from a GP by fax, email or secure messaging, triage that referral and then book it into the hospital's internal system. It also automatically sends a notification back to the referring physician, meaning they don't have to send out the same referral to different hospitals with the hopes of getting their patient seen quickly or their receptionist playing phone tag.

This solution also has a mobile component so the receiving doctor can triage the referrals on the go. “The biggest issue is that doctors don’t like to sit down and triage either lots of paper or on their desktop, so we’ve enabled a mobile side of this so that they can do this from the coffee shop or wherever they are,” Mr Renner said.

“If you’re a registrar and you’re not sure about triaging your referral or you’re a clinical nurse, you can then escalate it up to a senior consultant. If you allow over-booking, because the person’s obviously got melanoma and they need to be seen right away, it can be seen across lots of different clinics, which is how it’s being used today.

“This is one of the areas that we’ve seen where there’s a strong return on investment argument for moving toward the electronic format.”

In addition to the product suite, Verdi has a software development kit that has been used by customers like the Mater to develop a hospital-based personal health record and to link to the PCEHR. The company is further developing its portfolio to develop the capability to use digital forms that are completely mobile and finally do away with much of the paper that still plagues the acute care sector.

“We’re not believers in scanning other than for information such as incoming correspondence that you can’t get away from. Everything we do is atomic, and because we’re linked into all these databases, we can actually pre-populate a lot of the forms and the clinicians only have to enter the pertinent parts, not the whole form.

“When I first started this journey, I had a professor say to me 'the thing you’re fighting against here it 800 years of evolution of paper'. There’s nothing easier today than scribbling on a piece of paper and handing it to a nurse.

"That’s always been a part of our ethos: we must make this better than paper.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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