Canadian doctor invents mobile app for homecare

A visit to a British Columbia emergency room two years ago has spawned a technology solution for the home care of wounds and a company, WebMed Technology, to roll it out across Canada and the U.S.

Dr. Jonathan Burns, an emergency

room doctor, was on duty at the hospital in Abottsford, BC in the summer of 2001 when an elderly lady came in with a burn on her thigh, having spilt a cup of hot tea. Since it was a long weekend, the wait for her to see a wound care specialist was going to be long.

“”Her daughter asked me if she could just send in a digital picture,”” said Burns. “”I said why not, let’s give it a whirl.””

A diagnosis was later made and a treatment recommended based on the digital photo. The seeds were planted and Burns went on to co-found Chilliwack, BC-based WebMed.

The company’s main product, Pixalere, allows homecare nurses to use PDAs and tablet PCs in conjunction with a digital camera. Most of the technology is off the shelf except for the software, which was developed by WebMed.

The nurse takes a digital photo of the wound, and transmits it from their wireless PDA over the Rogers AT&T Wireless network to a central server. From there, if the case has been flagged urgent, the server will page the on-call specialist for an immediate assessment.

The specialist examines the photo, and can either send a response back to the nurse’s PDA or call their cell phone to book a time for urgent treatment, or just recommend a treatment that can commence right away.

Burns said Pixalere allows a patient to get through the system a lot quicker.

“”There’s also a lot of soft costs to the patients if they have to come in, like time off work,”” said Burns. “”As well, if we can improve heal times there’s a lot of hard costs there to the health authority.””

The Fraser Health Authority (FHA), which includes the Abbotsford hospital where Burns worked, has recently began to roll-out the Pixalere solution throughout their region, following a successful pilot project in Maple Ridge, BC.

Neil Currie, the FHA’s CIO, says WebMed’s solution provides a way to give better care to people in their homes.

“”We wanted to provide better virtual medical services, particularly in the area of wound care, which is quite a chronic area,”” said Currie. “”It was an area that we looked at and decided we can improve the quality and the mean-time between assessment and heal on wounds.””

The pilot involved a handful on homecare nurses and their clients, and Currie said once the system got off the ground both the patients and the nurses were ecstatic. The technology was simple and easy to use, and access to medical professionals was much quicker.

“”When we had to terminate the pilot there was great deal of disappointment,”” said Currie.

One of the biggest benefits the study showed was a dramatic reduction in the average healing time for wounds, from an average of 13 days between assessment and healing to three or four days.

“”It offers significant improvement for the client, and of course that means reduced effort in terms of resources needed,”” said Currie. “”The solution also gave clients online information that’s more current on the best wound kits to use and new practices.””

Cost savings for the health authority weren’t well documented, but Currie said having that quick access to medical professionals and quicker wound healing prevented possible onsite visits to the ER or the Wound Clinic. Previously, some of these patients ended up in the ER because they couldn’t get access to wound-care professionals.

The first phase of a full-scale rollout of Pixalere across the FHA began in Chilliwack last month, and after a more rigorous examination of the performance metrics and benefits in that implementation the next phase will see the solution put in place across the region.

WebMed’s Burns said Pixalere has recently been sold to the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, the Alberta Capital Health Authority in Edmonton, and St. Elizabeth Health Care in Hamilton, Ont. They company is also looking for a distributor to help them expand into the U.S. market.

“”We’re also expanding our modules to include post-operative care and chemotherapy, the other main reasons homecare nurses come into a home,”” said Burns.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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