UW Health Surgeon’s Startup Expanding Software to Monitor Patients
[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories on physicians at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics who have become full- or part-time entrepreneurs.]
Though he now works as a neurosurgeon, there’s always been a little bit of computer geek inside Josh Medow.
While growing up in Illinois during the 1980s, Medow says, he had so much fun using the local library’s Apple II Plus that he resolved to save money so he could purchase his own machine.
“I bought a Commodore 64 and I lived to program on it,” Medow says. “All I wanted to do was to use it to solve problems. My intention was to go to college and become a computer engineer.”
But when he was in high school, his cousin died of acute myeloid leukemia, which made Medow decide instead to pursue a career in medicine. He stuck with it, first as an undergraduate and medical student at the University of Illinois, then as an intern, resident, and fellow, all at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics (UW Health) in Madison.
Still, Medow says he remained “a code junkie all the way through” his time climbing those rungs on the medical ladder. Today, he’s as passionate as ever about innovations in computing and technology, in particular how they can be harnessed to improve healthcare.
When he’s not in an operating room, or a classroom—he’s also an assistant professor of neurosurgery at UW’s medical school—Medow passes the time developing software that he believes can lead to better outcomes and lower costs in intensive care units (ICUs), and possibly other departments in hospitals and clinics.
“I firmly believe there are algorithmic ways to treat medical problems that exist with patients,” he says. “And there are [existing] algorithms that can be made more efficient and can help with imaging and all types of other things that we haven’t developed yet.”
The algorithms Medow created and has since helped to refine have been used in UW Health’s Neurocritical ICU for more than four years, he says. Medow founded the program in 2008 and serves as its director (he has a board certification in neurosurgery, but also in neurocritical care and clinical informatics).
Medow says that at first, he was essentially “a one-man show in the Neuro ICU,” and “was pretty much living in the hospital 24/7.” Even so, one of the nurses who worked in the unit approached Medow to express her concerns about the ability of care teams to manage patients there, he says.
“She came to me and said, ‘Look, Josh, we desperately need more help, particularly when you’re not here—at times we don’t have what we need,’” Medow says.
His initial solutions for addressing the challenges around staffing levels were basic—flowcharts that clinicians could follow by hand, and sets of orders stored in the hospital’s health records software that could be called up instantly.
“All of a sudden, things started turning around,” Medow says. “From there, I developed more complicated algorithms that would be too confusing to follow by hand, which then needed more extensive programming. And that’s when I started building the team.”
Digital Intern, the company’s flagship product, is aimed at decreasing the amount of time physicians spend in the ICU monitoring patients, he says. The software can be configured to alert a doctor when patients’ lab test results don’t come back normal or their vital signs are not in the ideal range. But since the definitions of … Next Page »