Jeff Dunn can remember when the seed was planted for his idea for a smartphone app to help doctors and nurses manage medical emergencies.
It was 2012, and Dunn was working as a physician in the intensive care unit at St. Luke’s when he rushed into a room where a patient was “Code Blue,” or needing immediate resuscitation. Two other doctors were already there, staring at each other, trying to remember what to do next.
By the time Dunn got home that night, he had decided he couldn’t blame the doctors, because he had been in that situation, too.
“Code Blue is one of the most stress-provoking, anxiety-ridden scenarios you can go through,” Dunn said. “I liken it to being a pilot when both your engines go down. When you get to the room and know that you’re running a Code Blue, you have what’s called ‘adrenaline brain’ where you forget everything.”
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Technology had already condensed thousands of pages of maps into turn-by-turn directions to almost anywhere on earth. Dunn figured it could do the same for the lengthy Code Blue checklists.
So he left medicine, started a company in Olathe called Redivus Health and teamed with four other doctors and a few programmers to develop an app called Code Blue that tells you what to do and when to do it.
Then they developed another for stroke. And another for sepsis.
Dunn’s team has enlisted groups like Truman Medical Center residents and the Kansas City Fire Department to test the individual apps, and now they’re ready for their biggest test yet: a pilot program with all three apps in five small northwest Kansas hospitals that are part of the University of Kansas Health System Heart and Stroke Collaborative.
Dunn said he’s close to signing up two more hospital systems — one local and one outside the Kansas City area — and would like to add two more after that. He’s raised about $2 million in investment funds and wants to raise about $1.5 million more. But the plan is to start making returns on that investment soon, by licensing the app to hospitals, clinics and emergency medical services.
“Our goal this year is to pick up five marquee partners, or customers,” Dunn said.
Medical providers have a financial incentive to correctly diagnose and treat complex conditions like sepsis under a new “bundled payment” Medicare billing system.
So far, the Redivus apps have gotten good reviews in that regard.
Jacob Shepherd, a family medicine physician at Truman’s Lakewood Hospital in Lee’s Summit, was one of the residents who tested the sepsis app last year.
He and other second-year residents used it throughout July, then compared their results to second-year residents who worked without the app in July 2015. He said their rate of correctly identifying sepsis, a bloodstream infection that causes a complex series of symptoms, went from about 35 percent without the app to 85 percent with it.
Shepherd was also able to do some ride-alongs with the local EMS service and used the Code Blue app to help resuscitate a man in his home.
He said having an emotionless machine telling him and the other first responders what to do made a major difference.
“It’s kind of an uncontrolled chaos when you’re in somebody’s house doing a code,” Shepherd said. “You’ve got the Fire Department there, the family is all worked up.”
You also can’t just call down the hall for more help, like you can in the hospital.
“I think this app has huge potential with the EMS providers just because of the lack of resources you have in those situations,” Shepherd said. “You just don’t have the hands you need.”
Tom Collins, the deputy chief of the Kansas City Fire Department, said the Code Blue app helped his teams stay on time with their chest compressions and switch off every two minutes to avoid getting fatigued.
“They’re in talks with the city manager for us to go further with it,” Collins said. “In other words, to purchase it.”
In addition to helping providers diagnose and treat sepsis, stroke and cardiac arrest, the Redivus apps also record all the steps that are taken. Dunn said the company is working on linking that to electronic health records software to further streamline hospital procedures.
“You launch it, it sees (what you’re doing), documents it in real time and helps you comply with evidence-based practices,” Dunn said.