Local tech startup getting pandemic boost from app that connects hospitals, nursing homes

An Indianapolis tech startup that makes software that connects hospitals with nursing homes is getting a big boost in sales from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Olio Health Inc.’s software platform and dashboard—also called Olio—operates through a mobile app and allows nursing homes to quickly contact hospitals if a patient’s health begins to deteriorate.

Within two or three minutes, the nursing home can connect directly with a hospital to get advice and updated treatment plans, allowing patients to be treated safely in their rooms, skipping the risk of patient transport and cross-contamination with others.

The technology also can alert a hospital that a seriously ill patient is on the way to the emergency room, giving the hospital time to prepare for a patient who might be infected.

Olio rolled out the software last summer and it is now being used by hospital systems across Indiana, including Indiana University Health, Community Health Network, Hancock Regional Health, Union Health in Terre Haute and Deaconess Health in Evansville.

Altogether, more than 300 nursing homes across the state are now using the software in conjunction with the hospitals.

The software is sold through a subscription model paid for by hospitals that are interested in keeping tabs on patients once they are discharged from hospitals and are recovering in skilled-nursing facilities. Ben Forrest, Olio’s CEO, said company revenue is $1 million.

In the past, many hospitals have not been able to keep connected with patients, or lose track of where they are. That can be expensive and dangerous, since patients can relapse, and both hospitals and nursing homes can be penalized by the federal government for unnecessary readmissions.

“I think that more hospitals are going to are going to get around that rally cry,” Forrest said. “It could be good for us.”

IU Health started using Olio software last fall at three of its hospitals in Indianapolis, Muncie and Bloomington under a pilot program. After the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Indianapolis-based health system quickly decided to expand the service to all 16 hospitals.

“I think that the pandemic has really demonstrated that our most vulnerable patients are those that are—I don’t think you could say they’re hidden from view, but they are certainly not in the direct eyesight of the major health systems in regards to their location,” said Dr. Tony Sorkin, executive medical director of population health at IU Health. “They’re scattered around in various nursing homes.”

As a result, he said, hospitals and doctors tend to lose visibility of them. To make matters more complicated, nursing homes tend to have different electronic medical record systems that are not easily connected to hospital system records.

“As it became clear that the pandemic was certainly coming our way, we contacted Olio and very quickly, in a matter of a week or less, we were able to stand up this process, using this application, to include all 16 IU Health hospitals, and all patients from all lines of business that were discharged from an IU facility that were in any nursing home,” he said.

IU Health added that Olio’s software helped it fill in a “blind spot” in keeping tabs on patients once they are sent to nursing homes.

“We knew that that blind spot caused us to not be able to influence the care that was occurring,” said Ed Lee, executive director of health care  economics outcomes at IU Health. “So essentially, once they were discharged from the hospital, then we would hope they don’t come back.”

Olio, based in Broad Ripple, was incorporated in early 2018 and launched its software last summer. It has raised more than $4 million in angel funding.

What Olio’s software does is instantly relay information about the condition of a patient in the nursing home to the hospital. If the patient spikes a fever or has any other serious medical condition, a nurse can press an “escalate” button on the app, and it will connect with doctors from the hospital assigned to that patient. The doctor can examine the information, talk to the nursing home and size up the situation.

Forrest, the CEO, has a background as a distributor of spinal products for medical device maker Stryker Corp., based in Michigan. He said he decided to start a health care software company after talking to countless hospitals and nursing homes over the years over how they communicated with others over patient care.

“The lay person just assumes that nursing homes and hospitals work together in harmony,” Forrest said. “The reality is, this has not been the case.”

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