Cedars-Sinai's accelerator bears fruit with rollout of hospital texting and end-of-life support technologies

By Jonah Comstock
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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is rolling out two new technologies incubated in its recently-launched accelerator program. Cedars Sinai VP of Legal and Technology Affairs Jim Laur told MobiHealthNews that all 11 companies in the first class are partnering with the healthcare system going forward, but the latest two to have all the contracts signed and to be ready to be announced are Well, which makes a system that allows patients to communicate with the hospital via text message; and Grace, an online platform that helps families deal with the logistics of the death of a loved one. HomeHero, ZendyHealth, and AppliedVR are other companies from the accelerator that have launched with the hospital.

"The accelerator program for us gave us an opportunity to look outside the medical center to others trying to improve the way healthcare is provided or efficiencies we might be able to take advantage of," Laur said. "The world in healthcare is changing very rapidly, and if we just depended on our own ways of figuring things out, we felt like we were missing a great opportunity to harvest that entrepreneurial energy."

With Well, patients can text the particular hospital department they're headed to in a way that is a simple text message for the patient, but is HIPAA compliant on the back end. At rollout, the system will be for basic logistical questions, but it's designed to be extensible in the future to allow patients to deal with insurance and patient history forms via text on the way to an appointment.

"You don’t have to sign up for a new app, you don’t have to teach people how to do different things. It’s the same old messaging concept, but it’s a system that allow the back-office people at the clinic to provide an instant, very friendly and recognizable way to get the basics," Laur said. "'Where can I park?' 'What time’s my appointment?' 'I’m running 10 minutes late.' All the things you use text for when you’re meeting someone to go to the movies you can use now to communicate with the clinic offices, in a platform that is HIPAA-compliant, secure, and feeding into the EMR."

Grace is a system that really helps Cedars-Sinai to make sure it delivers on the promise of being there for a patient on every step of the patient journey -- even the final one. Currently, bereaved, emotionally shaken family members are bombarded with decisions and responsibilities about their loved ones at the time when they're least equipped to deal with them, Laur said. 

"This is a part of us viewing the relationship with the patient and the family in a way that the relationship doesn’t end because someone passes away. There’s a point where nothing more can be done on the medical side. We provide them with that as a resource or when they need that kind of resource, to be able to deal with taking the final wishes an individual has and carrying them out. ... It’s something that we’re often asked about, and we’ve never been in a really good position to offer it because we haven’t been in that place to know enough about where they may be from and where their needs may be. So the group at Grace convinced us, and it’s proving out, that this is a resource that people are really going to need." 

Grace's online checklist helps bereaved family to determine who is in charge of an estate; discuss any known wishes of the loved one; arrange care for dependents; make funeral arrangements; secure property; arrange organ and/or body donation; distribute legal and healthcare documents to family, friends, and doctors; close out accounts; and arrange cremation services and burial services.

Even as Cedars-Sinai continues to roll out partnerships with the other nine companies in its first accelerator class (with partner TechStars), they've also –  for lack of a better word – accelerated their process, launching their next class in January instead of next April as originally planned.

"These are very good examples of how these accelerator participants come to us with solutions that really make a lot of sense and add to what we do and make it better in a cost-effective ways," Laur said. "These are good examples of the power of the accelerator system. It’s been a great experiment and I can’t wait for the next class."