AtHoc launches emergency alert system for home health caregivers

By: Neil Versel | Oct 17, 2013        

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AtHoc Home CareA company with a background in emergency alerts and crisis communications is entering the commercial healthcare market by adapting a system previously designed for government operations and by introducing a safety app for home health workers.

AtHoc, of San Mateo, California, this week launched AtHoc Home Care Alerts, a system for monitoring the whereabouts and safety of home caregivers and the patients they serve. The mobile app, available for Apple iOS and Android devices, lets caregivers report when they arrive and depart patient homes and optionally send their location to supervisors if they feel they might be in danger.

The app features a duress button for home health workers to summon help, either for themselves or for their patients. “This gives them a mechanism to have a companion with them,” AtHoc’s senior director of healthcare operations and marketing, John Tempesco, told MobiHealthNews.

With the check-in/check-out feature enabled, supervisors can see if their field personnel are spending an inordinate amount of time at a patient site, potentially indicating a problem, Tempesco added.

AtHoc Home Care Alerts supports text messaging, images and video, all routed across a secure, encrypted network, according to Tempesco, who joined the company in March after holding executive positions at health IT vendors Informatics Corp. of America and Companion Technologies.

AtHoc now also is offering its core emergency communications platform to private-sector healthcare organizations. The AtHoc system had been designed for general public safety; clients include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. For the last 18 months, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs had been using the technology in healthcare settings.

“Within healthcare, we’re finding other use cases” than just responding to public-safety events, Tempesco said. “We don’t want to sell them a product they hope they never have to use.”

For example, he said, in the case of an IT outage, the AtHoc platform can fire off pop-up messages to all registered users on PCs or mobile devices with links to backup systems so they can continue to access patient data. Tempesco reported that one customer slashed notification time from more than an hour to less than two minutes after an outage. “It also cuts down the overall episode of downtime,” he said, because people aren’t tying up IT staff by frantically calling help desks.

In addition, AtHoc has applied its technology to nursing coverage by integrating with staffing systems. If a nurse calls in sick or otherwise is unable to come to work, the system scans the list of personnel qualified to work the appropriate department and sends alerts to anyone who has been off-duty long enough to meet state minimum requirements. As soon as one nurse grabs the open shift, another alert goes out so others don’t have to respond.

AtHoc prices its healthcare platform and apps based on the size of each organization and how the customer plans on using the technology. Home health costs $6 to $14 per user per month, based on organizational size and the number of features enabled, according to Tempesco.

Large organizations can opt for an enterprise license at a bulk price, he said.

Current private-sector healthcare customers include Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Health System, both in Texas, as well as Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California region, according to the company.