Digital Emergency Medical Information: Q&A With Beyond Lucid CEO

07 December 2011 | Randy Fusco, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Health Provider Industry
​Digitizing health information is at the forefront of healthcare reform. We know that by creating electronic records of health data, doctors are better able to analyze a patient’s situation and make the most informed decision about their care. But what about the patient information gathered during an emergency situation such as an ambulance ride?
 
First responders gather valuable and time-critical data during their first encounter with the patient and during the ambulance run, but often in the chaos of the transfer of custody to the emergency room that data is lost or ignored, meaning tests are repeated, time is lost, and outcomes can be compromised. Information collected on paper charts by an EMT is shared with the hospital or doctor but often well after the patient is already admitted and the data is no longer relevant.
 
But imagine if the hospital knew what his or her injuries were before the patient arrived, how vital signs were trending, and insurance information. The hospital could pre-register the patient, plan staff assignments and resources, and be well ahead of the curve when the ambulance arrived. And if the patient record were available to the ambulance en route, the first responders could make a more informed decision about immediate treatment and which emergency department could best serve the patient.
 
We no longer have to imagine this scenario. Microsoft partner and BizSpark participant Beyond Lucid has developed technologies that enhance the emergency care system and make it easier to capture vital information in the field and share that data as needed. I’ve been working with Jonathon Feit, Co-Founder and CEO, on this project and I asked him a few questions about their innovative approach to emergency solutions:
 
Randy: What is the biggest challenge in deploying effective technology in the emergency medical field?
 
Jonathon Feit: Interestingly for companies like ours, the two primary challenges we’ve faced aren’t technical at all, actually. The first is a perception problem: one of our advisors, Dr. Paul Paris of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, likes to say that there is a “perception-reality gap” when it comes to public understanding of First Responders’ technical readiness. We’ve learned that it’s more of a chasm, and our core mission is to cross the span.
 
Everyone thinks someone else is funding and equipping EMS, so unfortunately that often means lifesavers go without the latest innovations. The second problem is inertia among the stakeholders involved in emergency care, across the spectrum from medics to physicians to hospital financial officers to technology providers: whether or not an emergency-focused technology is specifically designed to save lives, it will nevertheless be used in a critical context where error tolerance is tiny but the stakes can be huge.
 
Consequently, while everyone seems to recognize that “old school” methods like paper-and-pen are anathema to efficiency, processes that have long been in use harbor something of a security blanket feeling. Medics in particular love high-tech toys; they love testing new computers, software, interfaces, apps. But when it comes to actual use in the field, they often defer to the “tried and true,” like paper records. The onus is on us to showcase the efficiencies that technology makes possible—and easy to use.
 
Randy: How are Beyond Lucid’s solutions different from other EMS solutions that are on the market today?
 
Jonathon: Early on we recognized that certain components of existing First Response software—electronic patient care records (ePCRs), for instance—had become standardized commodities in the market. They were relatively easy to create so they were cheap and had become “expected features.” That’s not how a company innovates with an eye to the future, so we took about a year (we were founded in 2009) to step back and assess the field, understand what our customers’ actual cost centers and revenue drivers were, and how we could build a business around meaningfully decreasing the former while boosting the latter. One of the critical pain points we uncovered (over and over again…) was the fractured nature of the systems currently in use: even the most tech-savvy First Responders still deal with multiple logins, vendors, languages, and the costs associated with each—an IT department’s nightmare, and even worse for the budgeting office. Happily, technology—we looked to model on companies like Microsoft that have consistently pushed the ball forward—empowered us to offer more features in a single package at lower cost than our customers were getting from existing vendors. My business partner and our resident technical genius, Chris Witt, can tell you more about the magic he and his team built with your tools. Now we’re going to become one of the first technology firms in the First Response technology industry to offer integrated GPS navigation, multimedia (photos first, and soon full-motion video), as well as real-time, secure, cloud-and-client transfer of data between ambulance and hospital - all in the single package. We’re also thrilled to be the first in the industry to incorporate speech-to-text into our documentation software, so that medics in an ambulance can fill in their run-records by voice, while keeping both hands on the patient.
 
Rand: How does the Microsoft platform enable Beyond Lucid to deliver better value and care to emergency departments and patients?
 
Jonathon: I’m not ashamed to say that Microsoft’s platform and component technologies have been invaluable to our progress—and BizSpark is, quite simply, a stroke of genius. The idea is so intuitive, but so right-on, that if you let innovative but cash-conservative startups like Beyond Lucid Technologies access cutting-edge Microsoft software that they would never otherwise be able to afford, they’ll find new and unexpected ways to leverage the software’s capabilities. From a technical perspective, I’ve asked my engineers why they chose to build so much of our technology on Microsoft platforms, and they said that other competitive platforms are simply too “thin” to do everything we need from them. Moreover, in many cases they require an Internet connection, but a large swath of our customers—from rural emergency care providers, to First Responders in a natural disaster—need offline-accessible programs because they often can’t get reliable Internet access. From SQL servers to Visual Studio to Bing Maps to next-generational data entry methods right built into Windows (and of course, PowerPoint), without Microsoft’s upfront investment it would be far more difficult to dedicate ourselves to living the startup dream and creating disruptive technologies that will make First Response more efficient, reduce emergency care costs, and ultimately save lives.
 
Randy: How did the Microsoft BizSpark program help Beyond Lucid?
 
Jonathon: I’d like to say something else about Microsoft beyond just BizSpark: we’re a small company in a Bay Area garage office, and we’re hungry to build relationships that will help us bring our solutions to market more seamlessly. It felt like Microsoft took us under their wing and made us part of the conversation. We’ve loved working together on projects including a recent white paper, conference calls with others in your healthcare and government-focused business segments; and just a generally feeling that while we may be small, every company—even Microsoft—once started out that way. Your faith and encouragement have been enormously appreciated. BizSpark may be Microsoft’s invaluable conduit to get entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed in both product development and building initial awareness through the ecosystem.
 
We believe the digitization of medical data and empowering first responders with new technology will only make their difficult jobs easier while also providing better care for patients. The more solutions that we create for first responders, the safer we’re making our communities.
 
Randy Fusco
Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Health Provider Industry