What The Doctor Ordered – Aug 2012
Eleven years after its founding, medical-software company VigiLanz Corporation is hitting its stride. The chief reason: increasingly tough federal health care rules.
Those rules (many not connected to the legislation recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court) are pushing hospitals and clinics to keep closer tabs on how they administer care. VigiLanz’s software systems help care providers in a couple of key niches: monitoring adverse drug events and controlling hospital-borne infections. The automated system keeps tabs digitally on patient lab results, the pharmacy’s drug dispensation entries, and the other departments in a hospital enter data.
“The system is a listener,” says David Goldsteen, VigiLanz’s CEO and chairman. “We take data as it flows on a transaction basis when possible, or retrospectively, as it were, as it flows from the health care system.” VigiLanz operates on a software-as-a-service model, freeing hospitals from handling the monitoring themselves.
The system also can be customized, not only from hospital to hospital but also from patient to patient. Patients “aren’t widgets,” Goldsteen notes. “If you have 10 people, you’re going to get five different outcomes. So you can’t tweak on an assembly line and get predictable change in the future.”
VigiLanz grew out of the work of David Klass, the medical director of a large public mental health hospital in Illinois and a self-taught computer programmer. In the mid-1990s, with his hospital under pressure from the state to control prescribing practices, Klass developed a software program to monitor drug dispensation. In 2000, a mutual friend introduced him to Goldsteen, former vice president of medical affairs for emergency services at Health One, an Allina Hospitals and Clinics predecessor.
Goldsteen had shifted careers from physician to entrepreneur and investor; he’d founded Vascular Science, which was sold to St. Jude Medical in 1999. He then started a merchant banking group (which he still operates) that acquired technologies upon which to build companies. Seeing an opportunity with Klass’s software, Goldsteen put together VigiLanz in 2001. Klass is the company’s chief medical officer; his son Adam is chief technology officer.
Under Goldsteen, the software was reconfigured to make it scalable. The company’s first commercial product, the Dynamic PharmacoVigilance system, was introduced in 2004. Two years later, VigiLanz gained its first commercial client, California’s John Muir Health System. The tech bust hampered VigiLanz’s growth early on, but it also gave the company some time to improve the software and introduce its Dynamic Infection Monitoring software product aimed at infection prevention.
A bigger challenge was simple market acceptance. Health care providers had no real incentive to shift to a standard method of monitoring their patients’ drug responses and infections. Since 2006, that’s changed. Federal rules are requiring that providers measure adverse drug events and hospital-borne infection rates. If hospitals and clinics don’t show improvement in these metrics, that can shrink reimbursements.
“We have found VigiLanz to be a very intuitive software program to use,” says John Russillo, manager of clinical pharmacy services for John Muir, who also praises the company’s responsiveness to building new features as needed. “At this point, our pharmacists couldn’t imagine not having VigiLanz to aid them in their daily workflow.”
All told, VigiLanz’s prognosis looks good. Its software boosts providers’ “ability to report these data and meet certain metrics and measures that are coming down from the federal government as part of health care reform and get more bang for the buck, so to speak,” says Tim Morin, VigiLanz’s chief marketing officer. “Manual ways are not productive or efficient, and they put at risk a health care provider or a hospital’s ability to get reimbursed.”
VigiLanz reports that at the end of 2011, 51 hospitals were running its real-time surveillance systems. This year, it’s on track to exceed 100.