Who are “the experts?” In healthcare, we typically refer to “experts” as the doctors. A huge theme for me this year has been coming to see all stakeholders as experts in their sliver of experience with the healthcare system - that includes nurses, dietitians, clinical psychologists, IT specialists, and absolutely includes patients, family members, and caregivers. As we continue to return to our experts in the patient experience for the hardware piece of our solution, we also looped back to our clinical experts to ensure that the software piece is as useful as possible to clinical staff and can be well integrated into their existing workflows.
At this point, we’re specifically interested in the phone tree beginning when the patient calls the doctor’s office. When a patient realizes they’ve gained weight overnight, remembers that this could be a sign of heart failure exacerbation, and calls the office, who answers the phone directly? What’s the triage process? To determine phone transfers, medication changes, or being sent to the ER, what is the patient asked, and when, and by whom, and how many minutes or hours pass? What does “I gained 3 pounds since yesterday” really mean to a nurse on the phone? Are there other pieces of data that our product can provide at the moment of calling, alongside weight gain?
One of our more difficult questions: can any other piece of this process be automated? Some suggested that further piece of the decision tree could be algorithmized. Others insisted that for various parts of the decision tree, human to human conversation was not only preferable, but critical to urgent, highly individualized situations.
We also learned from our interviews that Meerkat may be a great fit as a tool provided at point of discharge, or as a transitional tool for the post 30-day period, when all other telemonitoring equipment is returned to the hospital. (At the point of discharge from the hospital, patients begin a follow-up period of 30 days (soon to be extended by some policy changes)). Overall, we found some consistencies and quite a few differences in response across provider types and clinical settings. We have our next test already lined up.
Next stop: role play. We’re rounding up a list of doctors, nurses, and receptionists that work in specialized heart failure units, clinics, and primary care settings anywhere in the US. We’ll take them through one standard case study where one of us will act as a CHF patient calling into the office. Our participant will role play the receptionist, medical assistant, nurse, and any other players involved in the decision tree. We’ve drafted up a profile or “persona” of one specific CHF patient, and we’ll improv to answer any questions that come our way. I won’t share the details of the persona yet, but more to come on our acting prowess. With three weeks to go, we're returning to interviews of the experts - reminiscent of our first four months. As we approach the end of the year and the beginning of a new chapter for Meerkat, we're bringing things full circle. Please enjoy these throwback stock photos.