MedCrunch Speaks with Brian Yarnell, VP and General Manager of Starling


byarnellMedCrunch: Please describe Starling for MedCrunch’s readers

Brian Yarnell: Starling is a platform that helps patients communicate their needs to care providers in inpatient settings, like hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Starling has tools for both patients and providers to streamline the entire process of resolving those needs.

A touchscreen tablet is mounted at each patient’s bedside that presents the patient with icons representing needs they might have while in the facility like reporting pain, requesting assistance with toileting or asking for a glass of water. The patient interface adapts automatically to each patient based on factors like the location in the facility, cognitive ability and, of course, preferred language. We analyze all patient requests in real-time to route them out to the most appropriate care provider through a number of channels, including a dedicated mobile interface as well as manage an intelligent escalation process.

starling health 2MC: How will the product create value for: patients, clinicians, healthcare systems?

BY: When we created Starling, our goal was to create a product that drove down the cost of care delivery, while driving up the quality of care patients receive—two things that are typically at odds.

For patients, the impact is enormous. Compared to traditional nurse-call systems, requests are resolved more quickly and staff members are able to proactively manage patients’ expectations. Something as simple as giving a patient a heads-up that a care provider is aware of the request makes a big difference. This is especially true for non-English speakers.

For care providers on the front-line, we are literally eliminating steps. With Starling, the idea of a nurse seeing a call-light and walking to a patient’s room to assess the situation is obsolete. We are able to automatically triage requests across an entire facility and send each request to the most appropriate care provider along with specific information about patients and their needs.

From a system standpoint, process optimization is a key focus. Something I feel very strongly about is the importance of tracking data and using it for iterative process improvement. We provide visibility at an extraordinarily granular level into the specific steps to resolve each request made by each patient. On an aggregate level, this provides the blueprint to run a facility cost-effectively while providing outstanding care to patients. Armed with this intelligence, we have seen customers make subtle changes that achieve significant impacts such as sending certain requests directly to departments outside the unit or walking through the unit in the evening to refill water pitchers.

MC: What’s next on the horizon for Starling?

BY: We are actively eliminating white-space in our solution both by continuing to develop innovative features, and by providing a footprint at the bedside for 3rd-parties that have best-in-class solutions of their own. Within the next couple of weeks, we will be introducing examples of each scenario to our customers.

We have partnered with a leading children’s hospital in Nashville to create a very unique set of communication tools that will be delivered via Starling to help care providers communicate with non-English speaking family members as well as children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We also recently announced a partnership with an organization called Incendant that lets us provide a fantastic set of educational resources for patients directly at the bedside.

MC: How have you grown as a professional while working on the product?

BY: I spent a number of years building business intelligence and analytics systems for manufacturers in the consumer goods industry, so I tend to look at things a bit pragmatically. Starling is my first experience in the healthcare industry, and it has certainly been eye-opening.

From an intellectual standpoint, it’s fairly straightforward to create a system that can load a million rows of data into tables and make objective recommendations based on facts and algorithms. Creating an interface that reduces anxiety for an 80 year old, bed-ridden, patient that speaks Cantonese is a bit harder to objectify. Fortunately, working on Starling has given me ample opportunities to get involved with people that are truly experts in this field.

For example, I spend most of the day yesterday visiting patients with a nurse-educator named Michael in a post-acute rehab facility. I had the opportunity to observe his bedside manner and have my own conversations with the patients about their experience and their expectations. Experiences like this provide unique perspective on building solutions with a bit more subtlety.

MC: What advice would you offer to our readers who are passionate about healthcare innovation?

BY: The number one thing I would say is to never lose sight of the fact that the product you build needs to make sense from a business standpoint. You’re not helping anyone if you can’t afford to deliver the solution to the people that stand to benefit from it. Make sure your business can be self-sustaining and that customers see enough value to pay you for what you are passionate about.

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Aubrie-Ann Jones is a student in the Master’s Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. She holds an MFA in Fiction from The New School, and a BA in Anthropology from Fordham University. Aubrie is hoping to promote Narrative Medicine training in both medical schools and in the clinical environment after graduation, and to continue to explore the patient/clinician relationship, particularly in trauma care. She is a writer, traveler, advocate, teacher, and runner who is currently heading up Operations and Leadership & Development at a boutique executive search firm that builds teams for NYC-based tech startups. Twitter: @aaj1026