The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting emerging market needs gave opportunity to two Grand Rapids-area health care technology companies.
Belmont-based AvaSure Inc. has generated additional business with a remote video monitoring device that hospitals can easily deploy in infectious environments to allow staff to keep an eye on patients who are in isolation, reducing how often people enter the room.
Meanwhile, Wyoming-based eVideon Inc. in June quietly launched “Hello,” a system that allows hospitalized patients who are in isolation and unable to have visitors to connect virtually with family and friends. The company was already developing Hello when the pandemic hit.
The system enables virtual visits at a time when hospitals have been prohibiting visitors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, said eVideon CEO Jeff Fallon, noting the launch comes during a “huge spike” in the use of telemedicine and video conferencing apps like Zoom or Skype.
Via a hospital tablet or smartphone, Hello allows patients to use a web address specific to each hospital to connect with friends and family on a video call, without having to download an app or set up an account. Patients only need to bring up the website and dial a number.
As well, patients can run the program independent of nurses, who were “already ridiculously stretched thin” on a normal day, “much less during a pandemic,” Fallon said, adding that nurses often become patients’ de facto “tech support.”
Hello is intended not as a replacement for patients who are physically able to use their smartphones or tablets, but rather for people who either do not have a smartphone or are incapable of using one. The system allows them to do video visits “without the burden of causing that to happen falling on the nurse,” Fallon said.
The system can improve staff efficiency and minimize the need for a volunteer or a nurse to assist a patient with a video visit.
“Our belief is you don’t need a volunteer to come walking into the room with the iPad. You don’t need the nurse to come walking into the room to do tech support for that,” Fallon said.
For health systems, eVideon offers a technology platform that’s already installed at about 100 hospitals nationwide, including Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Metro Health and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. The technology enables patients to watch instructional videos on their medical care, order meals or entertainment, and control the room lights and temperature. Earlier this year, the company received a capital investment from Spectrum Health Ventures LLC, the corporate venture capital arm of Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health.
Hello is now in an early-adopter launch phase. The company has made the product available during the pandemic to a handful of existing hospital clients, such as Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, to test and offer user feedback on the design, Fallon said. He believes Hello’s potential will extend beyond the pandemic.
“I think the market potential is massive,” Fallon said. “It can certainly become as large as our existing business and it can be as durable as our current core business as well.”
At AvaSure, the pandemic provided an opportunity to extend a remote video monitoring technology to infectious environments in hospitals. The company’s technology has been used in settings to monitor patients with dementia, for example, or who are a threat to themselves or others. The device is now deployed at hospitals in 48 states.
When the pandemic hit, AvaSure experienced a spike in demand from hospitals for remote monitoring of infectious areas and rooms used for COVID-19 patients who were in isolation. Where it’s been deployed, the remote monitoring device has helped hospitals significantly reduce patient falls and assaults on care providers, AvaSure CEO Brad Playford said.
The pandemic drove higher interest in the device, he added.
“Many of those customers called up and said, ‘I need 10 more now, I need 70 more right now,’ and we’ve satisfied those orders,” Playford said. “And then the ones in the field were pivoted for COVID cases as well.”
With the remote monitoring system and the reduction in how often a caregiver has to enter patient rooms, hospitals have been able to preserve personal protection equipment (PPE) for staff during the pandemic, Playford said. Data show hospital staff were putting on and taking off PPE eight to 10 times a day per COVID-19 patient, he said.
“When there was limited PPE available, we extended the life because they didn’t have to go into the patient room as often. They could talk to them remotely,” Playford said.
The pandemic has accelerated the planned roll out of the remote monitoring device at some health systems, including Livonia-based Trinity Health, the parent corporation of Mercy Health in West Michigan. Some of the demand comes in preparation for a possible resurgence of the pandemic later this year, Playford said.
“They’re now accelerating planned rollouts to prepare for the fall,” he said. “Our business has been growing annually very, very rapidly and it’s accelerating.”
AvaSure has annual revenues of about $50 million and 150 full-time employees.