Mayo Clinic At Their Fingertips
A look into Mayo Clinic's mobile initiative. (part 2 of 2)
The Mayo brothers were known as health care innovators, and their creative spirit lives on today in the clinic that bears their name. For instance, in May a team of public affairs and information technology employees at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, will roll out an iPhone and iPad digital guide to the Mayo environment for patients and their families. The culmination of a yearlong effort, the Mayo Clinic Patient Mobile App promises to be more extensive than anything on the health care scene so far, with features ranging from a fully mapped-out electronic itinerary to access to patient medical records and secure messaging with physicians.
Last year, LEAD IT ™ highlighted a Mayo Clinic effort to create an app that pulls pertinent data from several clinical applications, and displays it on the mobile device screen for doctors and nurses. The positive response to that design effort gave the IT team confidence it had the skills in-house to tackle an app for the public, even though it’s a different type of project. “I think that the work we did on the mobile enterprise EMR definitely shaped what we thought was possible to create in an app for patients,” saidTroy Neumann, chief software architect on the Patient Mobile App project.
In early 2011, Mark Henderson, division chair in information technology, and John Murphy, a public affairs specialist, began brainstorming about how technology could help ease patient navigation around Mayo’s three campuses. “We had the opportunity to apply for an internal grant to help fund an idea we had been kicking around that started with way-finding,” Henderson explained.
With $40,000 in funding from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation and a one-year timeline, a six-person team began work on a project code-named “eConcierge.” One early step was to get input from visitors and staff on the basic content and features. “We had our own ideas about features, but we wanted to ask patients what their challenges are as visitors,” Henderson said. In addition to patients completing surveys, close to 200 volunteer service staff made suggestions; including adding information about dining, parking, and hotels. The top requests were for social services, international services, and business services information.
“One thing we got from that feedback was that initially it was very Rochester-centric, but Mayo has campuses in Florida and Arizona, and we wanted it to be an enterprise app from the patient perspective,” Henderson added. “If a patient is going from Texas to Scottsdale, then that is Mayo for them, and we want to have a consistent experience for them no matter where they are.”
The project team divided content into six categories:
- About Mayo Clinic
- About Our Locations
- My Health
- My Visit
The electronic itinerary they developed includes:
- Information about preparing for appointments
- Patient education about tests and procedures
- Maps and directions to desks and procedure areas
- Access to the patient portal
Web-based portal access to patient clinical data has always been handled by clinical system vendors GE and Cerner. But for the mobile devices, the Mayo team had to figure out how users could access the electronic medical record content in a safe and secure way. “We had to make sure it doesn’t expose the Mayo brand or data to hackers,” Henderson said. “The data is all encrypted, and no patient data resides on the device. Once they close the application, the data is no longer on the iPad or iPhone.” The IT team had some experience designing for the iPad on the clinical side, but it was still a challenge to make sure the user interface scaled well from the iPhone to the iPad, Neumann said.
The design team also sought to take advantage of as many features of the mobile devices as they could. Mayo’s maps are overlaid on Google Maps so that visitors can use GPS and Wi-Fi access for way finding around its campuses. The app also takes advantage of push notifications to provide patients information about upcoming appointments. Mayo’s IT organization has long realized that providing technical support for the public is more challenging than supporting staff. “This new initiative is complementary to our patient online Web presence, and we decided to have continuity in terms of support,” Henderson explained, “so it makes sense for PDS to handle support for these mobile devices as they have with our Website on the community side.”
Just the Beginning
A month before the go-live date of May 15, the team rolled out a “soft launch” pilot project for the 65,000 Mayo employees, who were able to download it from an internal app store. That allowed the project team to do load testing and garner feedback before it hit the Apple App Store in May. “The employees are our ambassadors,” Henderson stressed, “so we needed them to become familiar with it and spread the word about the value it brings.” While the prototype was initially labeled “eConcierge,” the final product is called the Mayo Clinic Patient Mobile App. Henderson was surprised at how challenging and time-consuming it was to find and agree on a name that’s catchy and still protects the Mayo brand and identity. Currently for the iOS platform only, the app will have an Android version by the end of the year. “May 15 is just the beginning,” Henderson said. “This is a platform we can grow.” For instance, features called View My Bill and Pay My Bill are not in the initial version but will be added to a future release. The Mayo team also plans to leverage technology that can show people information about possible clinical trials near their location, as well as patient forms, questionnaires, appointment registration, and enhanced scheduling. Another potential future use involves remote monitoring devices such as Wi-Fi scales and diabetes testing equipment that can push data directly to a medical record. “Because we have so much clinical data,” Henderson said, “we have algorithms that can take that data and note if someone might need an adjustment to their medications and send them a notification.” The app also links Mayo’s Facebook and
Twitter activity to alert people to relevant news in the health care environment. “This is about building long-term ties with patients and extending the unparalleled Mayo Clinic experience beyond our walls to help people in a meaningful way,” Henderson said. “It’s a way to keep people connected. We looked around and couldn’t find anything in healthcare of this depth. Some hospitals are doing way-finding or providing medical record information, but as far as we can tell nothing of this depth and integration, so we’re excited about the possibilities.”