By Scott Meacham
A most difficult and heart-rending aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that COVID patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities are so alone. Quarantine is mandatory. No outside visitors. Not friends, family, or even next of kin. A patient’s only human contact is with “strangers” wearing face masks and shields, gloves and surgical gowns, booties and other protective gear.
These “strangers” are of course the best of the best. Dedicated teams of nurses, doctors, and additional medical professionals who are serving under some of the most stressful conditions imaginable. Not only are they risking contracting this highly contagious and deadly disease, their multishift hours are incredibly long. Staffing models are turned upside down. And, if all of this were not enough, they are juggling persistent shortages in personal protection equipment.
In a seemingly unrelated sector of the economy — the hospitality industry — COVID-19 has also delivered a body blow. Marcus Robinson, CEO of Monscierge, an Oklahoma City-based interactive software company with solutions installed in hotels around the world, recognized immediately that Monscierge had to be nimble and creative to manage through this unimaginable crisis. An early aha was the recognition that the capabilities that Monscierge provided hotels could be adapted to hospitals dealing with COVID-19. Changing the way face-to-face interactions occur is something Monscierge solutions deliver every day.
“We have always had a guest-centric approach,” Robinson said. “I challenged our team to come up with a way that we could support the challenges that hospitals were encountering. We used our platform to allow hotels to communicate with guests, why couldn’t we help hospitals do the same thing?”
Monscierge worked the last several weeks around the clock to develop telehealth and video solutions that provide a new “waiting room” and video chat system that connects patients and caregivers in hospitals and other facilities such as nursing homes, in a very personal way. It is simple to use, one-touch for the patient, and very secure.
“One of our core values is to listen to our customers and understand what is driving their needs,” Robinson said. “We came up with a way to have an iPad in a hospital room to monitor the patient remotely from back at the nurses station and allow the patient to have a video chat.”
This not only helps the hospital accomplish a reduction in PPE use, but it relieves the disconnected experience for patients for patients who couldn’t see a doctor’s or nurse’s face.
“Now they can connect in a more empathetic way,” Robinson said. “Now they can see a smile. Oftentimes technology is considered cold and distant, but the nurses and doctors have been commenting that it is more empathetic to use video and communicate with patients through technology than talking through a mask or a hazmat suit.”
Interestingly, Monscierge’s hospital solutions have come full circle back to the company’s hotel clients who expect to reduce interactions with guests and communicate more online when the hotels do reopen. It’s a rapid shift, from an industry that has been a bit reluctant to adopt technology although guests have been asking for it for years.
We are seeing that a lot from our portfolio companies. This pandemic, painful as it is, has caused industries, companies and individuals to look at doing things in new and innovative ways. That will lead to good that comes from the current bad we are all experiencing.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.