Hypercare is “a mobile and web platform that allows clinicians to communicate with their colleagues in real time, specifically about patient issues.” It was co-founded by Albert Tai, Dr. Joseph Choi, and Umar Azhar. The Medium talked with Tai, who is a University of Toronto alum, about the innovative healthcare communication platform.
As Tai explains, “in the current healthcare system right now, there are three primary forms of communication. The de-facto [form] is pagers [which are primarily used] in the hospital system. Second are faxes [which are] typically [employed in] healthcare organizations.” The third are “non-compliant communication tools such as WhatsApp or text messaging” which are used by clinicians because neither pagers nor faxes allow for instant communication.
Pagers are also not ideal because “they take about a minute to go off once you [send the page]” and “are oftentimes very frustrating for clinicians because it provides no context. The failure of differentiating for the clinician often result in pages getting ignored.”
WhatsApp is also problematic in a clinical setting. Firstly, “WhatsApp does not comply with healthcare regulations [because] there is no ‘audit trail.’” Messages sent through WhatsApp can be deleted by the sender, and therefore, does not allow for physician accountability. Tai emphasizes that if a doctor “makes a decision that ends up killing the patient, [they] could delete the message.”
Furthermore, though WhatsApp messages are encrypted, the app itself does not lock, and so the messages can be read by anyone who has access to the phone. It is impossible to ensure that the message is being sent to the right person and that the clinician has not changed their number. These flaws in text or WhatsApp messaging can result in “patient information [being shared] with people who are not a part of the circle of care.”
Tai considered the issues solved by the usage of WhatsApp by clinicians when developing Hypercare. He says that interning as a product manager at Microsoft while completing his undergraduate degree in medical and computer science at the University of Western Ontario shaped his thinking process.
“Product managers are critical in building a good product because they understand what kind of questions to ask the customer [in order] to understand the pinpoints and to come up with a solution with prioritized requirements [that] engineers can look at and start building. That experience has really helped Hypercare be a very product-centric company which is often atypical in healthcare where most of the software systems are [usually] extremely clunky.”
Following his undergraduate degree, Tai completed a Master of Information degree with a specialization in Information Systems and Design at the University of Toronto. He says that “the healthcare system is very complex with a lot of entities and essentially, my Masters [degree] really taught me how to distill that down into a diagram and understand which pieces [and processes] can be improved upon.”
“I think the reason we’re successful is [that] we made an app as simple as WhatsApp. We built our app [so that it] requires no training manual.” Hypercare was also “built to incorporate the concept of organizations. Clinicians from one organization can talk to clinicians from another organization and therefore have a closed feedback loop.”
Tai shares an example of how Hypercare can be successfully used to improve efficient communication in a healthcare setting. “A bunch of clinicians in Vancouver leverage[ed] Hypercare to take care of the Native population in rural BC, where they have no cellular signal, only satellite Internet. They’ve been using Hypercare to send critical results such as EKGs so the doctor knows when to fly in.”
Hypercare is currently being used in fifteen healthcare organizations including the Toronto East General Hospital, Reconnect Health Care, and seven other healthcare organizations in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Tai says that the platform is “already experiencing viral growth.” During the two weeks after their launch, they went from 13 to 145 clinicians in Toronto East General Hospital.
Tai adds that clinicians are pleased with the ease of communication that Hypercare allows them. “The platform can not only reduce wait times in the hospital, but also reduce poor patient outcomes. There are a lot of pieces that move to deliver patient care. The faster each piece responds to it, the faster the patient can be discharged. The more cohesive the team is, in terms of information and timeline, the more likely the patient could have a better outcome.”