VisionIT project aims to smooth health care information flow

November 08, 2015

Vision Information Technologies Inc. is cooking up a new tech laboratory, and its first project is intended to help doctors, nurses and others in health care solve a knotty problem — communication.

Microsoft Inc., Henry Ford Health System and Detroit-based Vision Information are collaborating on a cloud-based system called StatChat to let health care professionals track patient care remotely — whether they’re on a desktop computer, iPad or smartphone.

It will be the first product developed by the new VisionIT Innovation Center that Vision Information plans for its New Center headquarters.

Vision Information has hired Detroit-based firm dPop! to design the center. Though the build-out hasn’t started, David Segura, Vision Information’s founder and CEO, said he has hired 25 employees already working on projects, and he will hire 125 more over the next year.

The innovation center will work on a wide variety of projects. Some will be owned by Segura’s company, some will be joint ventures with other large tech companies, and some will be stand-alone businesses for which he will seek venture capital funding.

VisionIT was one of the first institutional investors in Michigan eLab, an Ann Arbor-based VC firm founded in 2012 by four Silicon Valley veterans. Segura said eLab would be a natural fit if he needs capital to grow a business, including StatChat if it has the kind of growth he anticipates.

StatChat, which has been licensed from Detroit-based Henry Ford, will be owned by Segura.

The Henry Ford Innovation Institute created the requirements for StatChat, to replace the hodgepodge of communication tools now used in hospitals — including pagers, cellphones, land lines, text messages, emails and face-to-face conversation.

StatChat will use Microsoft’s Skype for Business as the basic platform, with Vision Technologies building on features and capabilities deemed necessary by the Innovation Institute.

Microsoft’s international health care business unit will market StatChat in the U.S. and overseas.

Segura said StatChat will begin generating revenue next year. He said pricing is still being worked out and declined to provide revenue projections.

“We already have health care systems around the country telling us they want in,” he said.

Michael Robinson: New model for tech in the marketplace.

“We’re very excited about this collaboration,” said Michael Robinson, vice president of Microsoft’s health and life sciences business unit. “This is a new model for us to take technology to the marketplace. In this day and age, it amazed me we still have pagers in the hospital environment.”

He said he took a tour at the Henry Ford Innovation Institute almost a year ago and was briefed on plans for StatChat then.

“They really have a framework that I think is mature enough to bring to market,” he said. “We can help them get into the Cleveland Clinic or wherever we have customers.”

Ward Detwiler, project manager at the Henry Ford Innovation Institute, said StatChat has been in the works for two years, growing out of a request for two residents at the Henry Ford to scout around for problems to solve.

“You look at how doctors and nurses communicate, and it’s very disaggregated,” he said. And some of it, text messages particularly, don’t comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which requires patient confidentiality.

Detwiler said about 250 Henry Ford professionals, in the departments of surgery and orthopedic surgery, will beta test StatChat later this year.

Rajesh Kothari, managing director of Cascade Partners, a Southfield-based investment banking and venture capital firm that focuses on health care, said that while StatChat may solve a real need for better workflow tracking and communication about patient care, VisionIT may have a tough time convincing hospital executives to pay for it when they are under pressure to cut costs.

“If you look at the top five problems hospital CEOs are looking at, I doubt this makes the top five,” he said.

In March, VisionIT, annually ranked as one of the fastest-growing IT companies in the U.S. and as one of the largest Hispanic-owned companies in Michigan, was rebranded as Vision Information, the holding company for three LLCs — VisionIT, which is developing StatChat, other mobile apps, IT products for smart homes, wearable technologies and the so-called Internet of Things; VisionPRO, an IT staffing business; and Prime Workforce, a managed-services provider.

The holding company employs more than 1,100. The company has 30,000 square feet at its headquarters at 3031 W. Grand Blvd., with 7,000 square feet being carved out for the innovation center.

Segura said the innovation center will also host community events, training programs for Detroit students and hackathons.

Tom Henderson: (313) 446-0337. Twitter: @TomHenderson2