Hospice of Michigan Unveils Mobile App to Connect Caregivers, Patients, Family

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A demonstration of the HOM Cares Hospice of Michigan app Wednesday at Compuware headquarters in Detroit by Compuware's Michael Girard. Matt Roush photo.

A demonstration of the HOM Cares Hospice of Michigan app Wednesday at Compuware headquarters in Detroit by Compuware’s Michael Girard. Matt Roush photo.

DETROIT — Hospice of Michigan Wednesday unveiled a mobile app that will allow family and friends of patients to stay better connected to the care teams of their loved one in hospice care — no matter where they live.

Believed to be the first hospice app that connects patients and families, HOM Cares was demonstrated by the HOM senior leadership team during a special meeting of its Foundation Board at the headquarters of Compuware Corp.

Representatives of Verizon Wireless Michigan, whose $24,500 grant to support development of the grant was matched in-kind by Compuware, also participated in the demonstration.

A demonstration of the app is at http://youtu.be/wv7RoYsRRys.

“Our new mobile app will change the way we are delivering care to patients and their families,” said Dottie Deremo, president and CEO of HOM.

Deremo said Hospice of Michigan began using technology in a serious way in 2004, when “we put laptops in the hands of nurses so they could order meds from the bedside, delivered by FedEx overnight. That’s also true of equipment and supplies patients need. Our aides use PDAs to chart their car. We’re proud of this work. The more we can leverage technology, the more we can put people at the bedside, and not be nursing and social-working the system, but putting those resources in direct content with the patient.”

She said the new mobile app, HOM Cares, will be “a digital solution that will enable families and friends to create a private social network surrounding their loved one — a hub of expression, if you will. The new app will enhance patient comfort, care and communication, giving our care team the opportunity to interact in real time with an extended network of patient family and friends.”

Under HOM Cares, a hospice patient can create a social network of family and friends who can receive regular updates about their care. Those family and friends will get an alert every time a patient has received a visit. They will be able to see a picture and read a short biography of the HOM team member making the visit, understand the role of that team member (medical, spiritual, social work, volunteer or another type of support) and see the date and duration of the visit.

Michael Girard of Compuware gave a demonstration of the app at the event. Compuware technology architect Dave Truxall led its development.

Although HOM has been discussing the app for about two years, serious development work took about 10 weeks, said Robert Kennedy, vice president of strategic services at Compuware.

The HOM Cares Android app is available now. The iOS version should be available in a day or two, Deremo said.

Officials said the app is secure because no personally identifying information is stored on the phone of any app user. And it’s easy for HOM;’s 600 staffers to use because the information is automatically sent to app users out of the electronic health records system they’re already using anyway.

Added Kennedy, who is also a HOM Foundation board member: “HOM Cares provides a new avenue for loved ones to be a part of the great work the HOM family does everyday, regardless of where they are or live. This anytime, anywhere access will make the entire hospice experience more meaningful to everyone involved, and we are thrilled to have been able to build this application for HOM.”

Deremo said the idea behind HOM Cares began surfacing about two years ago as HOM realized a major shift in where the organization cares for patients. A decade ago, 80 percent of HOM patients were still living at home, cared for by a spouse or child, while 20 percent were in nursing homes or other care facilities.

Yet when the organization re-examined those numbers a few years ago, it found patients were split nearly 50-50 — meaning more children were living out of state or away from their parents and unable to participate actively in their care. So HOM sat down with Kennedy to discuss the role that mobile technology might play in connecting families at end of life.

“When our nurse can’t sit across the kitchen table from the husband or daughter of the patient we are caring for, this app can help to bridge that distance,” Deremo explained. “HOM Cares subscribers are not simply getting a notification of a visit — rather, they are getting a picture of the nurse, social worker or spiritual caregiver who is taking care of their loved one. They can match faces and names to backgrounds and bios so that family members can get to know our staff as if they still lived down the street.”

When a family decides to subscribe to HOM Cares, one family member is designated as the primary contact and given responsibility for managing the network. The family member approves access, allowing family members, friends and neighbors to become part of the circle.

HOM has plans to expand the app’s capabilities, allowing greater two-way communication between the care team and family, such as sharing of text messages or pictures.  Additionally, the organization is exploring ways to expand interaction after a patient death that might include sharing of family photo albums, comments or memories, providing details on funeral arrangements, connecting those mourning a loss with grief support and related services.

Hospice of Michigan is the original — and largest — hospice in the state of Michigan. The non-profit organization cares for more than 1,200 patients each day in 56 counties, raising more than $4 million each year to cover the cost of care for the uninsured and underinsured. For more information, call Hospice of Michigan 24/7 at (888) 247-5701 or go to www.hom.org.

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