Penn Medicine has made 75 apps to make its hospitals run better - Technical.ly Philly

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Sep. 26, 2014 8:29 am

Penn Medicine has made 75 apps to make its hospitals run better

Its latest in-house app is called Connexus, which gives hospital staffers mobile access to patient data. Penn Medicine has a software development team of 32.

Nurse Jenny Schockemoehl is one of more than 500 users of Connexus, an app developed by Penn Medicine.

(Photo by Juliana Reyes)

Before this summer, hospital staff at Penn Medicine didn’t have a way to access patient data on-the-go.

They had to log in to the computers in patient rooms to pull up health records — things like vitals, lab results and what medications patients are taking.

That’s where Connexus comes in.

Connexus is a web app, developed by a Penn Medicine team of software developers and a doctor. More than 600 hospital staffers in three different Penn hospitals use the app to pull up patient data on their HIPAA-secured smartphones. That means doctors and nurses can make decisions more quickly and answer questions faster, said Dr. Subha Airan-Javia, the doctor who helped design the app.

Airan-Javia likens Connexus to having email on your phone.

subha

Dr. Subha Airan-Javia.

Before we had email on our phones, we had to remember that we wanted to write or respond to a specific email when we sat down at a desktop. Now, we can respond immediately — that’s kind of how Connexus has changed workflow at the hospital, she said. (While the current version of Connexus doesn’t let staffers input data into the app, a future version will.) Plus, it’s 22 times faster to use Connexus on your phone than it is to log in to a computer, she said.

Connexus is just one example of a bigger push.

It’s one of 75 web and mobile apps that Penn Medicine has developed in-house, said Glenn Fala, Penn Medicine’s senior director of software development.

His team develops apps when there’s nothing on the market to satisfy a need. (Penn Medicine uses at least 100 third-party apps, Fala said, including the messaging mobile app from venture-backed, New York City-based Cureatr.)

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The most popular app is a web portal app called MedView that culls data from 25 different systems, including medical records and lab results. It has more than 10,000 active users. The Penn Medicine software team also built an iOS version, which has more than 1,600 users, Fala said.

Fala’s software development team of 32 has been around in some form for the past 15 years, he said, but mobile apps have become a new focus for the crew. Dr. William Hanson, Penn Medicine’s Chief Medical Information Officer, is the exec who’s in charge of overseeing all software development.

Some on Fala’s team, along with Airan-Javia, are working on a new version of Connexus that will allow hospital staffers to input patient data into the app. That’s set to launch in the next six months.

Connexus has been out for less than two months and has just over 600 users, but Fala expects “several thousand” Penn Medicine staffers to sign up over time, especially when new versions of the app launch.

Commercialization is definitely a possibility, said Airan-Javia and Fala, though Fala said Penn Medicine has not commercialized any apps so far.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes became Technical.ly's associate editor after reporting on the Philadelphia tech scene for four years. She's co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia chapter and a two-time Philadelphia News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." The Bryn Mawr College grad lives in West Philly, likes her food spicy and wears jumpsuits often.

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