Hospitals that want to enhance their electronic health record systems’ capabilities may wish to take a longer look at some of the innovations being sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT. Both the first- and second-place winners in ONC’s recent provider user experience challenge may be able to help.

ONC had launched the challenge to spur development of market-ready apps to improve the exchange of electronic information. The winner of the challenge was Herald Health, a digital health start-up based at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, which created an app that improves providers’ access to data and reduces alert overload by enabling clinicians to customize the notifications they receive.

“Doctors spend 12 percent of their time in the hospital trying to get results out of EHRs. That’s the same amount of time they have face to face with patients,” says Brad Diephuis, M.D., Herald Health’s CEO. The inability to quickly obtain often buried information, such as a patient’s low potassium level, could also contribute to medical errors, he says.

Herald Health’s app provides a portal where providers can customize what they want to be paged about, such as lab values for different patients. Providers can also designate how they receive the alerts.

The app, which won a $50,000 prize, was launched at Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital for lab, admissions and discharge, and radiology data. It will be expanding to allow for more-complicated notifications, such as certain lab abnormalities.

The second-place and connector prizes, each worth $25,000, were awarded to the collaboration of University of Utah Health Care, Intermountain Healthcare and Duke Health, which created a clinical decision support tool to help treat newborns with jaundice. The app charts patient-specific assessments, tracks bilirubin levels, shows when phototherapy was provided, and can pull in both the baby's and the mother’s data automatically. 

“It saves the doctor two minutes per assessment and avoids paper and a lot of clicks. I expect it will save 300 minutes per provider a year in my little [health care] system, says Kensaku Kawamoto, associate chief medical informatics officer with University of Utah Healthcare. The team is planning on enhancements and aiming for wide distribution of version 2.0.

Both demonstrations were part of the ONC Tech Lab’s inaugural Interoperability in Action Day, held March 20, to highlight the innovations and advances ONC has been supporting. Other presentations addressed consumer health apps, pilot programs and information technology in health care.