Nursing app aims to improve quality care in hospitals

Ditching the cape and skin-tight suit for a lab coat and scrubs, today’s superheroes are saving lives through the magic of application technology.

AkkeNeel Talsma, Walter Schroeder Chair in Nursing Research and associate professor at UW-Milwaukee’s College of Nursing, has worked around the Midwest as a nurse in quality improvement for more than 20 years. Growing tired of collecting data on yellow pads, Excel spreadsheets, and running pivot tables to generate reports, she felt hospitals were spending too much time collecting data and not enough on implementing changes.

Determined to bring change, Talsma established Melius Outcomes in July 2015, with two Ph.D. operating room nurses, Melissa Bathish and Cathy Kleiner, joining in 2016.

Melius Outcomes is developed as “software as a service” business in which the data analytics and quality reporting take place in the internet cloud and are released to user devices such as PCs, tablets, and smart phones through an app.

Just as a “Fitbit” may tell you to drink more water or get your steps to maintain your health, Melius Outcomes can spot problems in real time and provide on-the-spot solutions and online resources without the guesswork.

Quality reporting describes the information clinicians need to become informed about a hospital’s quality of care. This could include costs, patient information and data analyses. For example, if a patient develops an infection, questions that might arise include: Did this patient get the right antibiotic? Was the skin cleaned before incision? Was the air filtering appropriate?

The duty of quality reporting is falling on nurses, which steals time from patients. Nurses chase after data, running from department to department, and usually are short on time to fix quality problems.

“Having insights on how we ‘dropped the ball’ is critical to improving a hospital’s internal processes. So many clinicians do excellent work but we never see it, nor are we able to easily spot problems and fix them before they get too large,” Talsma said.

“Often nurses can’t access the data they need. Even with access, some don’t know what to do with that data and are sitting there at 9 p.m. Googling answers just like the rest of us. You do not want to run your quality department like that.”

“From COO’s to OR Directors and nurses, we make everyone’s jobs easier while improving patient outcomes and the hospital’s reputation by dramatically affecting the bottom line,” Talsma said.

Melius Outcomes has evidence of being able to affect that bottom line.

In 2015, it launched a 25-hospital pilot program. Users receive either daily, weekly or monthly updated measures and benchmarks that are linked with specific quality improvement resources. These include recommendations to address lagging performance, immediate access to pertinent references and websites, sample policy language, and QI tools to implement specific strategies.

The pilot resulted in a 50 percent decrease in life-threatening bacterial infections such as sepsis and another 20 percent in other surgical site infections. Also, another 30 percent reduction in pressure ulcers, and 30 percent reduction in patient mortality rates.

Perhaps the most rewarding achievement is the program’s effect on patient outcomes. Hospitals reported a significant reduction in infection, readmissions and mortality in patients. And Talsma said some employees reported better job satisfaction and less burnout.

Talsma hopes to have the prototype installed in three hospitals in 2018 and open it to the full market the following year.

Talsma’s team is also participating in the 2018 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, with Melius Outcomes ranking in the top 25 businesses.

“The business plan contest has been great,” she said. “The support from the Wisconsin Technology Council is superb, very friendly, accessible and knowledgeable. It has been an exciting process and I’m looking forward to attending the conference in June.”

When asked to comment on her success, Talsma encourages other entrepreneurs to take advantage of any community resources to identify a problem and solution.

“The impact on me has been an extremely valuable learning experience. The community is so supportive, great insights and encouraging. Coming from nursing and academe, it was a long road to develop a concept to a business. Everyone is very encouraging and positive and that has been wonderful,” she said.

Talsma hopes to pay back others for that support.

“I’m one of few women with a startup, out of even fewer nurses. Nurses are very innovative and creative in the workplace and I’m pleased to share my story with students and other women and nurses developing their startup,” she said.

By Ysabella Bhagroo

Ysabella Bhagroo recently graduated from the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.