Calgary app aims to solve widespread health-care issue
A Calgary-based tech company has received praise from Silicon Valley for its solution to a widespread problem found in hospitals around the world.
With the omnipresence of smartphones and the fast-paced, high-pressure environment found in hospitals, doctors and nurses routinely use apps like Whatsapp and iMessage to communicate and share pictures of patients in order to treat them.
Those apps, however, don’t meet encryption standards for the sharing of sensitive medical material and many health professionals are inadvertently breaching patient privacy.
ShareSmart was developed as a way to tackle that issue. The program encrypts all text and photos within the app and stores them on a Canadian server with a number of safeguards in place.
The ShareSmart team app worked with privacy lawyers to make sure it complied with Canadian privacy legislation.
According to co-founder and CEO Rena Tabata, the problem is widespread.
“What the public doesn’t know is it happens all the time, every day,” she said.
“In medicine, the use of unsecured apps is actually a named problem. It’s called the ‘Whatsapp problem.’ There’s stats and figures on how many health-care professionals have been reprimanded for using these technologies simply because they’re not fit for medicine.”
A 2016 survey of Canadian general surgery residents found 100 per cent of respondents used their phone for patient-related communication. Eighty-nine per cent did not have encrypted phones.
Another survey from 2014 revealed 89 per cent of Canadian plastic surgeons used their smartphones to take clinical pictures of patients.
ShareSmart co-founder and physician Justin Yeung saw the importance of health-care workers being able to communicate quickly and effectively, but also recognized the risk of having unsecured patient information – especially pictures – stored on people’s smartphones.
“It’s a very universal problem. [We are] more and more looking to protect the information of our patients and to protect ourselves from legal ramifications,” Yeung said.
“Frankly, when I started this I was looking for a solution. I couldn’t find one and we decided to come together and make it.”
The app hit the market in mid-2016 and is already used by 20,000 people in more than 70 countries.
The app was endorsed by the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary and Tabata has noted “a strong, grassroots” uptake by doctors in Alberta hospitals.
In February, ShareSmart was recognized by Startup Grind – a “global tech community” based in California. The app competed against 6,000 tech companies from around the world and was named a Top 50 Startup of 2018.
“[It’s] very exciting to know we’re competitive at a global scale,” Tabata said.
“We had a lot of interest from potential investors and institutions looking to pilot our application. So, lots of followup has been done.”
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