EASE Mobile App: Improving Communication from the Operating Room

Dr. Kevin de la Roza discusses EASE (Electronic Access to Surgical Events) an application created by doctors that decreases waiting room anxiety by updating families with HIPAA-compliant video, image and text messages.

Dr. Kevin de la Roza is a pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist, and Co-Creator and Chief Medical Officer of EASE (Electronic Access to Surgical Events). He currently practices at The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. Dr. de la Roza is a graduate of the University of Florida and received his M.D. from the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in 2004. He is a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia, the Congenital Cardiac Anesthesia Society, and the Florida Society of Anesthesiology. Dr. de la Roza specializes in anesthesiology for all types of complicated pediatric surgery with a special interest in the care of neonatal and pediatric patients with congenital heart disease.

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program here on Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, having a conversation today with Dr. Kevin de la Roza. He’s joining us on the program to talk about EASE or electronic access to surgical events, it’s an application that’s created by doctors that decreases waiting room anxiety by updating families with HIPAA compliant video, image and text messages. Welcome to the program Doctor.

Dr. Kevin de la Roza: Thank you very much for your time Neal.

Neal:  Well what is your area of expertise for our listeners?

Dr. de la Roza: I am a pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist, so I take care of kids and babies when they are going to have heart surgery.

Neal: Is that something that you’ve always been interested in or something happened to steer you in that particular direction?

Dr. de la Roza:  Not necessarily in this particular direction. My grandfather was a physician and so I kind of emulated him a lot and I wanted to go into medicine as I was growing up. Once I got into it, it can kind of veer off in many different directions. I like anesthesia and then I especially liked taking care of kids. There was something about helping them. If you take care of a child, they might have 80 to 70 years of life ahead of them and so that was something that my personality I guess gravitated towards and so I really enjoyed that and then the cardiac thing was just so complex. It’s probably one of the more complex things you can do in medicine and like I said I guess my personality just went that way.

Neal: Now this device or this app that we’re going to discuss is called EASE, how does it work and who’s using it?

Dr. de la Roza: Well essentially it’s sort of a brew, very organically. We knew that everyone you know obviously uses their cell phone, almost everyone on the planet has a cell phone and we all communicate with texting and so we thought to ourselves as we have to take children or grown-ups or anyone to surgery. There’s a separation from families and for a very very long time, for 150 years, there has been sort of this black hole of lack of communication, lack of knowledge, lack of understanding for these poor family members that are waiting for their loved ones while they’re having surgery. And in about 2013 we had, our hospital wanted to Twitter and Instagram a cardiac case on a kid we were taking care of here and so we got some consents and did a special thing with the marketing department and they sent sort of Twitter and Instagram the little pictures and texts about our cardiac case that we were doing. The next week, a mom showed up and she asked “Oh that was amazing. I have to have that. Please give that to me.” And we kind of said, “We can’t really do that. It was sort of a special thing and there are these privacy laws that prevent that.” And she sort of broke down, I think it was like the only thing that was helping her kind of get through the idea of her baby going to have surgery and so we said, “Okay, just hold on let’s see if we can get the same permissions and do all that.” So we did that and essentially from our own cell phones we texted and send pictures and little tiny videos of the surgery that was happening and it was so meaningful and so profound for these parents that they scrapbooked, saved all the pictures and they scrapbooked everything and gave us a scrapbook and said “Thank you so much. This was so meaningful.” And so we have a little surgery reminder of that experience for that little girl and we said “Wow! This is something else and so what can we do to make this for two hundred and fifty people?” And we write it up in a journal as some sort of experience we had and as we did it more and more with just our cell phones and using the same permissions that we had before, it became more and bigger and expanded and more people wanted it and we thought “There’s something here. Can we do this in a sustained manner?” And so we went and studied and studied about HIPPA laws, HIPAA privacy laws, protection, found a developer, our CEO Patrick he’s sort of brilliant in the execution of hopefully what is a good idea and helped us find someone who can actually create an app. Everyone knows how to use apps, everyone downloads apps and so is there a way to use an app to text images, pictures, information from the operating room, train the nursing staff to do it, make it simple for the staff, make it simple for the families, whether they be parents, uncles, aunts all around the world and create little sort of networks where the clinicians can send information. And from that, the concept of EASE and the app was born.

Neal: Wow. When you’re talking about the HIPAA compliance, that had to be a nightmare to navigate all of that in order to be able to transmit these images, this information via cell phones securely. Not only that, but now that we have these patient satisfaction scores that directly relate to a physician’s compensation and overall rating, how is that impacted by the use of this app?

Dr. de la Roza: Well that’s a good question, because it’s actually a two-part. So the first part being the patient satisfaction side of things and so like I said I think there’s this big gap and this big opportunity quite honestly for hospitals to improve an area of surgery that they’ve ignored for a long time which I understand. You have the separation, you have the doctors and the nurses needing to do their job in the operating room but now with technology, we can really bridge that. We can help that understanding and so what we try to do was create this process by which we can do that and then we wanted everything to be data driven. So when in talks to the families, after we gave them survey, so they can fill out how often do you want to receive these messages? What do you want to see, do you want to see pictures? Do you want to see videos? What kind of information do you want? And let that kind of drive what we were teaching and training the nurses to do. And then these surveys which are now embedded into the app can actually get real-time surveying data from these families to find out how the app is performing, how the surgeons are performing with regards to communication, how the nurses are performing with regards to communication and our scores have gone up. So we actually did a Press Ganey study. Press Ganey is a company that actually kind of compiles data on patient satisfaction scores at hospitals and we saw an overall 6 percent increase in Press Ganey scores on all the questions that had to do with experience in communication at our adult hospitals and our pediatric hospitals a four percent increase in our Press Ganey scores. So that was really exciting to not only have thousands upon thousands of stories and anecdotes from families that how much it meant to them, how they can never go back to be in the dark anymore but now you have real concrete data that hospitals are using to as you were saying, drive their finances and to get better payment from Medicare, etc. so that they can get better reimbursement. So when we saw that, it wasn’t just a feel-good story anymore, it’s now an economic and sort of a real differentiator for these hospitals and it shows what kind of an opportunity that I think EASE presents to these institutions.

Neal: Is this a free app that a patient can or the loved one of the patient can download on their phone and is this something that is going to always be there? Can you just use it and get rid of it if that’s something that you want to do?

Dr. de la Roza: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So it was very very important for us that in this emotional time we’re not taking advantage of anyone that’s in an emotional state of letting a loved one go to surgery or in the hospital and so it’s always going to be free. The app is free to download, you can invite as many people as you want to receive these messages just like you would when you’re using your text messages on your phone. It’s all private, it’s all secure, it’s all HIPAA compliant. We have these special clouds to make sure that privacy is okay but it was very important for us that it would be free to use. The hospitals pay for a subscription for that but it’s free for families and for the patients. The other nice thing is that as we’ve evolved, we’re taking it out of the OR environment and now it really goes to anywhere in the hospital. We have it in our ICUs, our medical floors, on our radiology suites and our cath labs and it’s become a system that can follow the patient essentially throughout any stage they are in the hospital. So it’s becoming this kind of this platform for clinicians and nurses and the doctors to communicate with families who are so important in the recovery, in the convalescence of our patients when they get home.

Neal: Where can our listeners go online and get lots more information about this brand new app and take advantage of it when they or a loved one are facing surgery?

Dr. de la Roza: Well we have a website www.easeapplications.com. They can get all kinds of information there, find out if their hospital has it and if not that hopefully they’ll get it because it’s really quite remarkable what it does for the experience of these family members. And then obviously they can download the app for free from the Android and Apple app stores.

Neal : Kevin, it’s been a pleasure thank you so much for offering this information on this phenomenal application that I’m sure is going to be in well over the 35 plus hospitals that are now implementing this app in their facilities. Thanks for joining us today.

Dr. de la Roza: Thank you all very much, have a great day.

Neal: You’ve been listening the Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and listen in and download at SoundCloud.

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