About five years ago, Dr. Daniel Siegal, a musculoskeletal radiologist at Henry Ford Health System, found himself waiting for a patient to arrive for a procedure. He sat tight, thinking the patient transfer would be a quick, maybe 15-minute process, he recalls. But the patient didn’t arrive for almost 2½ hours.
“In that time, the resources—four people, the whole room, a lot of equipment—could have been much more efficiently put to use,” said Siegal, vice chair of the Detroit health system’s radiology department. “It didn’t make sense.”
That 2014 incident hits at a core problem complex medical facilities like Henry Ford Hospital, the system’s flagship hospital, face, Siegal said—lack of clarity about where people are. He wanted to create a way for managers and dispatchers to gain a “bird’s-eye view” to more efficiently coordinate staff as they’re moving patients and supplies.
“If you don’t know where people are, or what they’re doing, or how long things are going to take, you get a lot of frustration,” he said.
That frustration fueled creation of Novatrack, an indoor tracking system that Siegal developed with Paul Zieske, program manager for location services in Henry Ford Health System’s information technology department. The co-collaborators conceived of Novatrack in 2014 during a fellowship with the system’s Henry Ford Innovations arm.
Novatrack doesn’t track employees themselves, but the location of hospital-issued iPhones, which are outfitted with a Novatrack app.
To develop the system, Siegal and Zieske collaborated with Apple—leveraging an indoor maps system from the tech giant. Apple’s tool is an indoor positioning system—the indoor version of a GPS, or global positioning system—and links signals from a building’s wireless network to floor plans, ultimately pinpointing the location of each iPhone running an app.