It has been over a year since we last spoke with the vendor relationship management (VRM) provider Medtel about what was happening in their space. In that time the company launched what they call the Medtel Automated Surgical Tracking and Confirmation platform (MAST) which aims to improve the way surgeons and vendors interact to test emerging device technologies. We spoke with Medtel’s Director of Public Relations, Carrie L. Carrier to learn more:
Shiv Gaglani, Medgadget: What has Medtel been up to since our last conversation?
Carrie L. Carrier: In the spring of last year, Medtel.com introduced you to its general vendor relationship management (VRM) service, which functions primarily as a search engine and messaging platform geared to healthcare providers looking to connect with specific vendors. Fast forward one year, and Medtel.com has expanded and fine-tuned its offerings to address some very specific and underappreciated needs of the healthcare industry. Namely, it has rolled out the Medtel Automated Surgical Tracking and Confirmation platform (MAST), which serves as a vital logistical link between surgeons and vendors for procedures involving emerging device technologies. MAST not only solves various surgical logistical challenges, it also enhances patient safety and outcomes while reducing readmission rates – a mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
Currently, five top-ranked New York hospitals are actively using the Medtel and MAST platform to facilitate surgical scheduling within the neurosurgery, interventional radiology, and orthopedic specialties. Though currently focused on our home base of New York City, we are fielding calls from across the US as well as internationally, with particular interest from California, Canada and the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. Hospitals are embracing the platform for its ability to significantly reduce their administrative costs while enhancing patient safety both inside and outside the operating room (OR). At the same time, vendors have gravitated toward our third-party platform to streamline their own administrative costs, enhance their convenience with respect to providers, and increase the quality and efficiency of rep outreach efforts. Over 37 major medical device and pharmaceutical companies have reps on our platform, with more added daily.
Medgadget: Can you describe the MAST system?
Carrier: Simply put, “MAST” is a cloud-based, third-party platform that automates the coordination of surgical teams and protocols (including sterilization) and provides a way to broadly manage medical device (and pharma) representatives. Our platform is designed to provide the entire surgical team with real-time access to important surgical procedure details. All scheduling, product, tray and sterilization information is delivered to the whole team instantly via email alerts as well as on the MAST user’s own surgical dashboard. Surgeons, nurses, and surgical reps are now all empowered to arrive at the procedure fully prepared without wasting time on multiple inquiries and confirmations to various members of the team.
Medgadget: What is the main pain point that it solves?
Carrier: The main pain point that MAST solves is the coordination and safety gap that occurs in the surgical procedure arena. Nowhere is this gap more evident than when it involves organizing procedures across departments and with participating vendors. Most surgical coordination is still performed manually by hospital staff. Current surgical protocols tend to be ad hoc, labor intensive, and hampered by countless redundancies and/or information failures. Such workflow issues potentially undermine patient outcomes and may lead to higher readmission rates post-surgery. Given the emphasis on reducing readmission rates in the new healthcare law, a new approach must be found to lower the number of returning patients. We believe that high-tech solutions, like Medtel.com and its MAST platform, will be instrumental in managing patient safety and decreasing readmission rates going forward.
Just how much of an issue is posed by workflow and process gaps in the OR? A major one. According to the findings of a systematic review published July 25, 2013 in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, surgical device errors are responsible for a staggering number of errors in the operating room. Specifically, the configuration or settings of a device/machine caused problems in about 43% of cases, whereas the availability of a device/machine was an issue in about 37% of cases. The researchers who authored this study concluded that using an equipment/technology “checklist” before surgery could halve the error rate. Thus, it is critical for hospitals to implement reliable “checklist” systems in the OR that can: (1) organize the team; (2) keep everyone current on inevitable updates or changes; (3) ensure that the necessary tools with the proper specifications will be delivered to the right location at the correct time; and (4) convey the sterilization protocols that are followed. MAST offers precisely that kind of organization, detail, and reassurance both within the hospital itself as well as outside of it, such as with participating surgical vendors. MAST also provides a kind of safety audit trail and accountability log, enabling continuous monitoring and archiving of procedure details, including the sterilization methods performed.
Medgadget: How is this pain point currently solved by competitors, if any?
Carrier: Competitors have not yet found a way to resolve the surgical coordination quagmire nor the general vendor management challenge, hence the reason we developed our specialized MAST platform to complement the main Medtel.com VRM system. At present, our competitors only provide partial or piecemeal solutions, not an integrated approach that is at once practical, cost-effective, and user-friendly. On one side of the market, there are credentialing companies, i.e. those who provide a kind of background check and verification of sales reps. In another corner, you have enterprise software purveyors who can help to coordinate surgeries, but only among hospital-based participants. These systems tend to be expensive to set up and maintain. They are also difficult to access when not at the hospital. And then there is a company that aims to use a video teleconference method to incorporate surgical reps into the operating room, a questionable approach that raises safety and efficacy concerns of its own.
We believe that our approach melds the best of existing and emerging technologies to optimize the surgical experience and outcome.
Medgadget: Why have you decided to focus on surgery?
Carrier: Excellent question! Surgery is one area where healthcare providers (namely, hospitals, surgeons, nurses) rely on the expertise that vendors provide with respect to surgical device technologies, especially when it comes to demonstrating emerging products. Given this reliance on external vendors for technical advice, a solution was needed that could more efficiently and safely integrate all the key players of a surgical team.
Moreover, surgery is an error-prone endeavor in light of all the “moving parts” and organization that is required. As the Quality & Safety study recommended:, some sort of device/equipment checklist must be widely implemented. With MAST, we provide such a “checklist”, and we do so in a systematized way that is automated, trackable, and can be used reliably in all hospital ORs to reduce surgical errors and minimize any unnecessary risks to the patent. Further, our system generates insight-yielding analytics based on usage correlations that can help hospitals pare expenses and improve patient outcomes over time.
Medgadget: Can you provide examples or case studies?
Carrier: Overall, use of our platform has helped hospitals trim hundreds of hours from their surgical logistics planning time while reducing device-related errors. Our platform is having a profound impact in neurosurgery, interventional radiology, and orthopedics in particular, as these are device-heavy specialties. Cardiology also stands to benefit greatly from MAST’s workflow optimization and safety features. We are currently gathering data from our pilot studies to quantify precisely how much [administrative] time is saved per procedure. In addition, we are conducting a separate data review to analyze the percentage reduction in surgical errors that the MAST platform helps hospitals achieve.