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Xerox’s Innovation Day at PARC Showcases Advances in Healthcare

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What’s the future of healthcare? Recently, HealthBiz Decoded caught a glimpse by attending Xerox’s Inside Innovation event, held at PARC, a Xerox company. The event was a symposium of ideas converging on research, insight and design.

Corporate Ethnography Leads to Healthcare Innovation

The event began with PARC principal scientist and user-experience designer Ellen Isaacs, who specializes in conducting ethnographic research – an anthropological approach to research that involves studying how people behave ̶ in this case, how they work. Considered one of the corporate forbearers of this approach to traditional market research, Xerox’s implementation of ethnography redefined how work is done in industries such as healthcare, transportation, education, energy and design.

Isaacs explained how ethnography has helped Xerox make extraordinary strides in healthcare innovation by looking for the undisclosed, the glossed over, the forgotten details of a nurse’s job — and the best way, Isaacs says, to arrive at real answers is by shadowing the nurses themselves.

The Digital Nurse Assistant: Aiding Nurses When They Need It Most

Ethnography helped Xerox discover that nurses in hospitals handling patient complaints needed help in coordinating the many tasks they face daily. Embedded in the hustle and bustle of a hospital in real time, the Xerox team found that nurses weren’t showing symptoms of time mismanagement — rather, too much time was spent double-checking medicine, which meant that patient comfort requests were falling by the wayside. Xerox discovered that’s what customers complained about most, despite the fact that nurses were working overtime to ensure the safety of their patients.

The Digital Nurse Assistant was designed to provide ‘just in time’ service to nurses, so they could see when medicine had been administered and gain immediate access to digital records and patient information. Nurses, Xerox found out, don’t need to be told what to do — instead, they need to be told what the situation is. That’s a significant distinction; instead of providing nurses with task-completion technology, Xerox found that nurses benefit much more from mobile devices that instantly provide them with the pertinent information they need. The result? The creation of apps for cellphones and tablets nurses can easily refer to while on-the-go. With these advances, nurses can see when medication is missing or needed – and care can improve as efficiency increases.

Hands Free Cardiac Arrhythmia Detection to Prevent Strokes and Make Snap Diagnoses

Xerox is reinventing heart and respiration monitoring with the help of cameras and video processing, allowing for cost-efficient, more manageable detection. By focusing on a person’s face, a fine-tuned camera can read their heart rate by monitoring the pulses of the face and the respiration rate through a PPG signal – a series of pulses that reflect the change in vascular blood volume with each cardiac beat. Hands-free detection is a much safer alternative to EKGs  ̶ which can rip infants’ skin and can’t be worn for extended periods of time. The application of this kind of detection means more people can receive better care, faster. Pharmacies, minute-clinics and general practitioners can now make diagnoses for things like stroke and arrhythmia, as well as respiratory infections without the risk of spreading infection. The presentation included two demonstrations of this technology in action – one for monitoring heart rate, and the other for respiration.

Medication Adherence: Promoting Healthy Administration and Protecting Autonomy

The day’s third healthcare presentation opened with an astounding figure: 10 percent of nursing home admissions are due to people who can’t manage or monitor their own medication. Moreover, there’s a $290 million cost directly related to adherence problems —the culprit behind 125,000 deaths annually. The solution for this, Xerox discovered, had to be simple. The virtual pill-count system greatly decreases human error by keeping track of all medications, looking out for interactions and dispensing medicines into easy-to-use blister-sheets. The blister sheets make it easy for older patients to see what doses have been taken. A scannable bar code provides easy access to a patient’s medical history. The system also integrates with an app that reminds patients when to take their medications and when they need refills.

The Breakaway Group Makes Training Nurses A Breeze

The final healthcare presentation of the event was from The Breakaway Group, a Xerox company, which has developed a way to educate healthcare professionals: they have created a closed ‘social network’ for health institutions that houses tutorials, tests and information on daily tasks. That means less time is spent asking questions (which may be redundant and time-consuming) and more time on patient care, by way of streamlining the learning process. The presentation included a live demonstration of Hartford Health Care’s implementation of the system, which the hospital used to promote e-learning among its staff, customize education programs, and to update patient vital signs from anywhere in the facility. The hospital says it can now keep better track of its employees’ learning though published exam scores, and virtual meetings are a boon for staff convenience and efficiency — nurses can meaningfully connect via the system, no matter where they are in the facility.

PARC houses some of Xerox’s most ambitious and futuristic R&D projects, making it an ideal host for a day of insightful discussion on the future of technology in the public service sphere. Stepping back from the discussions and demonstrations, key themes emerged: improving healthcare isn’t so much about complex tech as it is about creating efficient systems and streamlined processes. As healthcare evolves, it appears that creating better, more personalized care just might be about simplifying our approach.