Student creates app to increase hospital efficiency

Last winter, when USC student Mohammed Usama and his sister Fatema Jahra saw the inefficiency of the pager system at Lenox Hill, one of the busiest hospitals in New York City, Usama got the inspiration for Wave, an app that was selected to be mentored by WorkBench SC, an on-campus venture studio that collaborates with startups to help bring their ideas to life. 

The app eliminates the use of pagers to increase hospital staff response time and ultimately improve patient care.

“The purpose of Wave is to increase efficiency in high acuity medical settings,” said Usama, a junior majoring in aerospace engineering. “Right now, medical personnel use pagers which is very old technology to [contact] people when they actually need [to complete a hospital task], which makes it hard for them to prioritize urgency levels.” 

The app, still in the development phase since last summer but looking at a completion date in two months, works by allowing messaging between different hospital personnel while prioritizing patients’ needs and mitigating the inefficiencies and limitations of using pagers and traditional phones. 

According to Jahra, a neurosurgery physician assistant at Lenox Hill Hospital, replacing the current pager system with Wave would allow her to perform her hospital duties more efficiently, especially while attending to a vast number of patients a day.

“[There are a lot] of limitations and as my job covering … patients who are very sick and very acute and very complex, I need to prioritize what needs to be done faster, what needs to be done as a task list and what needs to be just communicated,” Jahra said. 

The app will also allow for task lists that help differentiate urgent calls, general questions and coordinated projects, whereas the current pager system does not specify caller ID, urgency level or location of the caller’s location. 

According to Jahra, the app will help increase efficiency in her hospital workspace by allowing users to allocate to hospital workers specific tasks that need to be completed as well as document the tasks as they complete them. She said that the app would help in time-sensitive hospital procedures. 

“I’m actually reminding someone three, four times for the same thing,” Jahra said. “Then I’m checking to see if it’s done … It’s a lot of steps. [With the app], when I send a lab to someone, it automatically will give them an alarm for [the time it’s due] and they won’t be able to turn it off until they actually complete it.” 

After starting the project when Usama was visiting home in New York last summer to solidify the idea and create a prototype for the app, the two continued to work on the app during Usama’s  studies at USC. They find ways to work together through weekly phone calls to discuss future planning and scheduling that includes surveying more workers in different hospitals.

Jahra is currently in the process of surveying hospital workers at the Northwell Health System as well as other hospitals including Mount Sinai, New York Presbyterian and New York University. She is specifically looking at hospitals that have inpatient acute care settings such as intensive care units, emergency departments and telemetry units to determine which hospitals could benefit from Wave.

According to Usama, Wave is currently facing difficulties in gauging future consumer needs that should be implemented in the app. He and Jahra are unsure whether the app will be implemented in hospitals or for the general public to use and whether it will fit each hospital’s needs. 

“Every hospital and every wing in every hospital is different,” Usama said. “So the fine line between what kind of hospital needs this and what kind of hospital doesn’t is very vague.” 

For the past two weeks, Workbench has been helping to develop the app and continue surveying hospital workers in Southern California, Chicago and New York. 

According to Usama, WorkBench  SC has also helped him develop Wave by using the National Science Foundation’s “lean methodology,” a curriculum that operates on the guiding principles of respect for people and continuous improvement. Usama said the “lean” method has been beneficial because it has helped him emphasize the importance of research before releasing his app.

“The ‘lean’ method mitigates the risks associated with startups by a lot, and in a weird way, the lean method has a lot of counterintuitive things you should do,” Usama said. “They focus on customer discovery a lot more than the prototypes. You can do prototypes later — before that, you need to find out if there’s a market there.” 

Andrew Brilliant, the director of operations of WorkBench SC, said Usama’s application stood out as a concept that aligned with the values of WorkBench SC which looks for startups that will economically and sustainably shape industries that businesses are involved in.

“We found that his app solves a really good problem,” Brilliant said. “It helps people, which is a big thing for us. We want to be as helpful to people and to USC students as we can, and it is properly executable in the sense that it’s something that we could accomplish with the resources we presently have.” 

Usama and his sister plan to launch the first usable version of the product that will be distributed to consumers of Wave within the next two months. The first version of the app will be available at Lenox Hill and further developed according to users’ experience. 

“I’m excited to start with my own hospital and firsthand see the effect [of Wave],” Jahra said. “My goal is to develop an app that will be multifunctional and will have a capacity to allow for prioritization, coordination of care and increased efficiency and decreased error.”