Wharton MBA grads create app to streamline hospital communication

Former physician Divya Dhar wanted to address difficulties of doctor collaboration

· June 10, 2014, 4:37 pm   ·  Updated June 11, 2014, 10:06 pm

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Two recent Penn graduates are helping physicians quickly communicate with colleagues.

Seratis, a mobile app soon to begin a new pilot site in the psychiatric ward of Penn Medicine, was created to improve the sporadic communication between physicians interacting with common patients, 2014 Wharton MBA graduate Divya Dhar said.

By clicking on a patient in the app, a doctor can see which of his colleagues are also working on a particular patient and real time updates on the patient’s condition.

“Seven out of 10 care members coordinating with a patient do not know each other,” Dhar said. “We want to change that.”

Dhar worked to create Seratis along with fellow 2014 Wharton MBA graduate Lane Rettig, who turned Dhar’s idea into a physical product by designing and developing the app.

A former physician, Dhar came up with the idea when she witnessed the difficulties of doctor communication firsthand. With nothing more than a pager to keep track of her patients and colleagues, it was difficult for her to stay updated on the health of her patients — a problem that can threaten quality of care, she said.

“One story that sticks in my mind was a woman who had developed overnight really bad deteriorating abdominal pains... I had to get in touch with the senior physician and the nurse to get an x-ray and a CT scan done,” Dhar said. “While everything else was happening, her condition was deteriorating pretty rapidly and, well, she ended up dying.”

Although text messaging devices like cell phones could help to prevent these types of situations, they are illegal for use in hospitals because confidential patient-doctor information is at risk for hacking. Pagers, unlike cell phones, are more secure because the data is encrypted, but they are becoming an outdated technology.

Seratis has a secure network for communication, making it easier for doctors to speak with one another without compromising confidential information.

There are a number of other mobile apps working toward a similar goal, like Cureatr, which is currently being tested at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. But Rettig says Seratis adds extra value to hospital communication.

“Giving people the ability to communicate doesn’t help them if they don’t know who to message in the first place,” Lane said. “That’s the problem we’re solving, which we call team transparency.”

Last year, Seratis ran a small pilot with Andrew Resnick — the chief surgical officer of Penn Medicine who has since become the chief quality officer at Penn State University — along with some of his team members.

“I am very interested in quality [of healthcare], and one of the big issues in quality of healthcare across the country — and world, really — is communication,” Resnick said.

Seratis will begin a larger pilot in the psychiatric unit of Penn Medicine in the upcoming weeks, which will involve many more of the team members that work with each patient in the unit.

After finally finishing developing the app, Dhar and Rettig are ready to see how well their product works and to add any additional features that would further help physician communication.

“What we’re doing has enormous potential to help literally millions of people,” Rettig said. “I like to tell people we have a secret weapon.”

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