I was recently at the KLAS Digital Health Investment Summit where I met a ton of great people. One of those people was Brent Lang, CEO of Vocera. I have a long history with Vocera, but I’d never had a chance to meet Brent in person. As fate would have it, we sat down by each other at the opening dinner and had a great conversation about our overlapping connections, about Vocera, and the healthcare communications market in general.
Of all the insights Brent shared, I couldn’t stop thinking about his comment that Vocera was working hard to make the patient be the center of all their communication.
I’m sure some critics out there might wonder why the patient wasn’t at the center to start. Notice that he didn’t say that they were putting the patient at the center of their work. Knowing them as I have, I think they’ve been putting the patient first for a long time. However, as I understand it, Brent is suggesting a paradigm shift in how provider communication is designed.
Here are my thoughts on what he was saying. It makes sense when you’re first designing their popular Vocera badge communication (1 million+ badges) why most of the communication would be focused around the providers. The goal of those communication devices was to enhance provider communication. The nurse and doctors needed an “inbox” for their messages so they could read or listen and reply as needed. Having the providers at the center of those communications makes a lot of sense. The technology was looking to replace things like pagers and overhead speakers and it did that well.
The challenge comes as Vocera has taken on more and more communication modalities. Vocera now has secure text messaging, alarms and alerts, and integrations with a wide variety of clinical and EHR systems. Many of these messages need to be sent to a wide variety of providers and which provider needs the message can change over time. It’s no longer a one to one communication that’s needed. Plus, the history of messages for a specific patient across multiple platforms and multiple providers can be as valuable as the specific, in the moment message. Thus the need to put patients at the center of the messaging.
It’s a powerful idea that a provider could see all the messages for a patient in one location. It is probably how messaging should have always been done, but the implementation of technology is an iterative thing. If you try and do everything you end up doing nothing. It’s great to see Vocera iterating in a way that puts the patient at the center of their communication platform.
As I thought about this change, I wondered what other healthcare IT systems should have the patient at the center. It’s actually hard to think of healthcare IT applications where the patient is at the center. EHRs are largely focused around the provider workflow and not the patient. Some of them are trying to make this shift too. We do see it happening with new healthcare IT companies. I advise a company called CareCognitics that is an example of a company that puts the patient at the center. I recently wrote about Patient Directed that puts the patient at the center as well. It will be interesting to see which older healthcare IT companies adapt and put the patient at the center like Vocera is doing and which new companies come along with this paradigm shift built in.