Ben Ranard

Sponsored by PCI Ventures, AppItUP is a mobile application idea challenge designed to solicit innovative app ideas from the University of Pennsylvania community and connect creators with the funding and technical expertise necessary to make their apps a reality. 

PCI Ventures is a key component of the Penn Center for Innovation, providing a suite of products and services to incubate the development of early-stage technology-based businesses as they make their way towards commercial success.

Benjamin Ranard, a graduate student at the Perelman School of Medicine and a junior fellow at the Penn Social Media and Health Innovation Lab competed as a finalist in the AppitUP Challenge this spring.

Ranard’s app, Who’s Up is a dynamic phone directory designed to help health care workers determine whether the providers they are trying to reach are physically at the hospital.  After being chosen as a semifinalist in November, Ranard worked with Wodify to build a functional prototype of his idea. 

On April 15, he presented his app to a packed room at AppitUP Demo Day at World Cafe Live.  He is currently seeking funding to create a working beta version of the app for pilot testing as well as looking for partners interested in furthering the work. 

Learn more about Ranard's app below.

What inspired you to create this app?

The idea came to me during my medicine sub-internship.  During a sub-internship, the medical student replaces the intern (first year resident) on a medical team.  Acting as an intern, one of my main jobs was to manage the care of my patients by coordinating a large number of people.  Consulting physicians, labs, imaging, transport, etc. all had to be coordinated, and this required a huge number of calls to the operator trying to get the right numbers to reach the right people.  I often ended up dialing the number the operator gave me only to reach the wrong person.  After that experience, I thought that there had to be a better way to organize and provide on-call contact information to physicians and nurses.

What problem will your app solve? 

Identifying on-call physicians is a challenge for many hospitals.  The live-operator is often referring to a calendar that is out of date, and although there are a few web and mobile based solutions to on-call scheduling available to hospitals - they don’t account for last minute schedule changes such as swapping shifts.  Who’s Up solves these issues by automatically updating content based on who is physically in the building.

Who will benefit?

Physicians, nurses, patients, and hospitals all stand to benefit.  Physicians and nurses will waste less time determining who to call and providers who are not on-call will receive fewer accidental calls.  Patients will benefit from reduced delays in care as staff efficiency improves, and hospitals will be able to dispose of outdated communication systems (like pagers) and reduce the volume of calls to operators.

What advice would you give to others hoping to innovate in health care?

Innovation requires that you keep shaping and adapting your initial idea in response to feedback from users of your product or system.  People rarely get their idea exactly right on the first iteration.  Hospitals are complicated places, and what works for one service does not always work for another.   So, once I had the core idea I ran it by as many people who work in hospitals as I could.  Not just at Penn Medicine, but people all over the country.  Based on their feedback, I constantly refined the app.


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