I am thrilled that Ease Applications (Ease), based in Orlando, FL, is now part of Vocera. Ease is a cloud-based communication platform and mobile application built to improve the healthcare experience for patients and families. Caregivers use the app to easily update a patient’s family members and friends with secure messages, photos, videos, and video conferencing while the patient is in the hospital.
Here’s the story of how Vocera and Ease came together to humanize the patient and family experience.
A few months ago, a customer told us they’d just seen a demo of Ease. They were fascinated by what the app could do and asked if we could build similar functionality into our Vocera Vina smartphone app.
Vina is made for clinical communication and collaboration centered around patients, but not for communicating with patients and families. We considered what it would take to build this functionality into our existing software platform and did some prototyping. In parallel, we reached out to the Ease management team to see if they’d be interested in working with us. When we met the company’s founders and saw the product demo, we realized this was not just about technology or adding a feature to Vina. It was about a fundamentally different approach to thinking about how caregivers interact with patients and family members. Ease was created by doctors for families with the goal of keeping the family connected and at ease.
For a caregiver, using technology to interact with patients and their friends and family is quite different than using it to interact with other members of the care team. The software user interface, the words, and the workflow are different. There are policies and clinical best practices associated with the right way to communicate during medical procedures. The Ease team spent five years moving up the learning curve to successfully create an experience that is secure, convenient for clinicians, and beloved by patients and families.
As soon as we met with the Ease founders, we knew this could be a great fit and that our company cultures were well aligned. They were evaluating the next stage of the company’s growth and what it would take to scale the organization to the next level, and, as a result, were open to being acquired as a way of accelerating the progress towards their vision. For Vocera, acquiring Ease was the quickest path to getting a complete solution to the marketplace and adding some great technology and talent to our organization.
In a past blog, I described my family’s experience when my son was diagnosed with lymphoma and we had to spend a lot of time at the hospital.
I remember when he had surgery to implant a chemo port into his chest. My wife and I sat in the waiting room, staring up at a TV monitor. It displayed the first three letters of each patient’s last name and the first letter of the first name, like the standby list at the airport. To the right of “LAN, M.” was posted a simple status: pre-op, surgery, post-op. That’s the only information we received.
We stared at that monitor, waiting for the status to advance. If we wanted to go have lunch at the mall across the street, or take a walk to clear our minds, we couldn’t. We needed to be there watching the monitor, because it was our only link to our son.
I think of how different that patient and family experience would have been if the hospital could have used Ease. We would have downloaded the app to our phones and received personal updates from the care team, so we would know how our son was doing. We wouldn’t have been tethered to the waiting room, anxious and wondering.
Ease has several unique features that make it a powerful tool for connecting care teams with patients and families.
First, because it is a native app downloaded to the mobile phone, encrypted information can be shared directly between the caregiver and family members to allow a rich user experience that includes photos and video.
A second unique feature is the “Snapchat for healthcare” approach, where messages are kept for only 60 seconds after being viewed. This addresses security risks and privacy concerns, which have been front and center in the Ease design process.
A third unique feature we think is especially cool is Ease’s ability to communicate across multiple languages. The caregiver can select a message in English and send it to the family, translated into Spanish or one of several other languages.
The Vocera mission is to simplify and improve the lives of healthcare professionals, patients, and families, while enabling hospitals to enhance quality of care and operational efficiency. Even though that has been our mission statement for a long time, we saw an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to the patient and family experience portion. By bringing Ease into the Vocera portfolio, we are fulfilling our mission.