Health Tech: Tracy Mills on How MedSitter’s Technology Makes an Important Impact on Our Overall Wellness
In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rap. But of course, many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these stories, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making an Important Positive Social Impact.” We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Mills.
Tracy is the founder and CEO of MedSitter, a remote patient observation solution that works to keep patients safe without straining onsite hospital staff. Tracy is a passionate, customer-focused technology visionary. For over a decade, he has been committed to bringing technology solutions into the healthcare space.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I was born in French Lick, Indiana, and I am a lifelong Midwesterner. French Lick is a very rural area, and I am fortunate to come from a supportive family. My father was a teacher and my mother worked in retail.
At a youthful age, I began working at the French Lick Resort golf course, which led to a life-changing opportunity. I started work at age 14 picking up balls on the driving range. That lead to other jobs including caddying. While I was caddying for a friend at a state golf tournament, I learned about the Evan Scholarship which offers a full ride to caddies. The scholarship is based on four categories: 1) two years of a strong caddy record, 2) financial need, 3) academics, and 4) character. I applied at the beginning of my senior year in high school and was honored to receive the full-ride scholarship. This scholarship is unique in that all the Evan Scholars live together all four years of college. Beyond academics I learned a lot about communal living, conflict resolution, and household management. For a kid from a small town in Indiana, exposure to so many different people from different areas and diverse backgrounds was transformative. I continue to stay involved with other Evans Scholars to this day and I serve as director for the WGA which manages the Evans Scholar Foundation. On top of all of that — I graduated with a degree from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story is really the story of MedSitter itself. I started my career as a software developer at AT&T, and never could have predicted I would one day become the founder of a company like MedSitter. I have always had a passion for technology and people. MedSitter brings those two passions together for me and has helped me to achieve my career goal of making a difference in people’s lives through healthcare technology.
MedSitter is a remote patient observation company that allows one remote observer to watch over ten patients simultaneously via a video connection, using carts that nurses deploy to patient rooms. It is a unique technology that helps to prevent patient falls and other adverse events.
MedSitter came from a previous company I founded, Interactive Digital Solutions (IDS), which supports video communication in healthcare. When our customers were looking to solve for patient safety it seemed like something we could manage. Our solution is derived from the perfect mix of my love for technology and my love for bringing a human element to the technology. We not only wanted to create the ability to observe patients but the ability to connect people at the same time. Yes, we want to keep patients safe, and we want to do so much more. We aim to bring a human connection to the most vulnerable people in need. In many cases patients feel isolated and alone in hospitals.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been so fortunate to have a lot of great people in my life, including my family, teachers, coaches, and business leaders. It is hard to pick just one. Choosing one from my business career as an entrepreneur, it would have to be my first business coach Rick Doran. Rick had a long successful career in business before becoming an author, thought leader, and coach. Rick was one of those people that could help you focus in and see exactly what you already knew more clearly, and then help you execute on it. Rick knew how to push me when I needed pushing, show me grace when I needed grace, and educate me when I needed to learn. He helped me to become the best leader I could be, for both my team and my family.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I recite my favorite life lesson multiple times a day. Whenever someone asks me how I am (usually rhetorically), I respond with “Super fantastic! How about yourself?” The first-time people hear it, it takes them off guard, but I quickly become known as the “super fantastic” guy. It may sound cheesy, but I believe that a positive attitude and approach can help you achieve any goal. If you believe that your life, your career, even your obstacles, are super fantastic, it will start to become true.
I do not like to take anything for granted. Every day that I get to work on a technology that saves lives is a super fantastic day, and I like to remind myself of that often.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- I would say that the ability to be forward-thinking is number one. I started my career in software development at AT&T, and after receiving my MBA I moved into a role as a director of video conferencing. I held that title in the nineties, when video conferencing was brand new. We could see that it was the way of the future, but it was still an innovative technology that required business flexibility. We had to adapt to changing circumstances and customer needs at a rapid pace. When I left AT&T, I built IDS, which became a leader in the video communications industry. Twenty years later, IDS is still going strong. We have listened to our customers’ evolving needs over the years, which is what led to MedSitter becoming its own stand-alone company that supports patient safety through video communication. No matter what I am working on, I take a moment to step back and look at the big picture. I find that when I do, I am able to gain insights from my entire team, our customers, and our partners. Big picture thinking has allowed me to look ahead to where a market need is trending so that we can pivot in that direction.
- Tenacity would be number two. Running a business is not easy. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of setbacks that can be frustrating at best and terrifying at worst. A good leader sticks with the challenges and perseveres through all the tough times
- The third and last trait I would pick would be compassion. It is an often-overlooked quality that all truly good leaders hold. Growing a business requires a lot of dedication, and you get the best work out of people who feel appreciated and supported. I understand that our team wants to deliver their highest quality work and support their families. A good leader knows families come first. I am fortunate to work with incredible people, and we accomplish incredible things with support and respect for one another.
Ok super. Let us now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on wellness. To begin, which problems are you aiming to solve?
When we started MedSitter, we were hoping to address patient safety. In-hospitals falls are a tremendous issue for both patients and providers. No one goes into the hospital expecting to sustain further injury, but it happens. When it does, it can cause a lot of pain and suffering, and often extends a patient’s stay. We developed MedSitter so that one remote observer could watch over ten patients at one time via a persistent video connection. That way, if a patient moved or needed assistance, someone would notice right away and could either speak to the patient directly or call onsite staff for assistance.
That is the problem we set out to solve, but what we found is that MedSitter could provide even more comprehensive relief to nursing departments struggling with staffing shortages. We were experiencing the beginning of a nursing shortage before the pandemic, and now nursing departments are stretched beyond maximum capacity. MedSitter can make one-person ten times more efficient without sacrificing patient safety. Our clients are appreciative because the technology allows hospital staff to reclaim time and resources, which they can then dedicate to other vital tasks and services.
This year, MedSitter even began staffing our own observers working out of our headquarters. If a hospital truly has no one to spare for remote observation, our observers can watch their patients from Indianapolis.
How do you think your technology can address this?
Our technology is already addressing these issues. Our software is powerful. With MedSitter, the video connection between a patient and a remote observer is constant. The observer can go off-camera just like you can in a Zoom meeting, but with just one click of a button they appear onscreen in a patient’s room. The patient can see their face, hear their voice, and communicate in real time. That persistent connection has gone a long way toward supporting patient safety.
On the observer side, there are a myriad of features built in to support safety. Motion detection notifies an observer when there is movement in a patient’s room; the observer can play pre-recorded statements in more than seventy languages for patients who do not speak English; and if on-site staff is needed, the remote observer can either put in a call or ring an alarm. We ask observers to record every instance in which they believe a fall, or other adverse outcome was avoided due to their intervention. The data shows that we help to avoid falls every single day.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel enthusiastic about this cause?
The company I mentioned previously, IDS, provides telehealth equipment, installation, and support. A few years ago, we were working with a hospital on an install and learned that patient falls were a massive problem. We spent twenty years extoling the virtues of video communication, and we thought :why can’t video be used to keep patients safe, too?” — The rest is history.
How do you think this might change the world?
We chose an angelfish for our logo because in nature, angelfish are never alone. In-patient treatment is incredibly stressful, and stress can make any and every condition worse. We genuinely believe that MedSitter’s value lies in the human connection it supports. Imagine the comfort of knowing that, in your most challenging moments, you always have someone by your side. We are not just stopping patients from falling, we are supporting their wellbeing by offering a kind and comforting presence. Providing security and solace for patients will undoubtedly improve patient outcomes across the board.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
For some, the thought of constant surveillance is disquieting. We have had people compare MedSitter to Big Brother. While we understand that concern, surveillance is not our goal — human connection is. The in-room carts provided are equipped with both a camera and a monitor, so that the patient can see the observer in the same way that the observer can see the patient. Some of our competitors only offer an audio connection between the observer and the patient, and so when the observer speaks to the patient it gives off an eerie “voice of God” feeling. We enabled a two-way video connection so that the patient and observer could build a friendly relationship. We also do not record any video or audio from a patient’s live feed. At the end of the day, humans are communal by nature. Sickness and injury make us vulnerable, and we come together to help ensure a safe recovery. That is what MedSitter is all about.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)
- Listen to your end user. We design technology utilized by nurses, but I am not a nurse. We knew we needed to bring that expertise in-house to ensure long-term success. We organized a clinical team of RNs to provide insight and experience. Without input from this clinical team, our product would be quite different and be much less impactful than it is today.
- Listen to your customers. In addition to seeking feedback from our end users, we also continually and proactively seek feedback and advice from hospitals and other customers about what matters when it comes to patient care — then translate that into solutions.
- Know the why behind the how. We know how MedSitter works, but more importantly I know why MedSitter works. Our technology works because we support patients, clinicians, and the hospital itself. We make everyone is lives easier. For patients, we provide technology to keep them safe. That same technology supports their mental well-being by connecting them with a friendly face. For nurses, we take aim to take the pressure off. Hospital nurses are often the most caring people and their time is highly valuable. We support nurses by providing critical observation for their patients, which gives them more time to focus on treatment and care. Lastly, the hospital absorbs the cost from patient falls. The average cost of a fall with injury ringing in at $14,000. By preventing falls, we keep patients safe and help hospitals save money.
- Know the evolving competitive landscape. As a leader, you must keep one eye on your business and one eye on what is happening around your business. This is not only in your specific market but also as relates to bigger technology trends. MedSitter is the only true cloud solution in its market, and when it was initially introduced, cloud technology was not readily accepted in the healthcare industry. We stuck with it because we could see the broader market trends and knew hospitals would soon seek out cloud solutions. Today, cloud is expected, and it is now a competitive advantage for us.
- Know that “service” is exactly that! Many organizations create unbelievable SaaS software or cloud services but forget that service is an essential part of their product. We are fortunate that we were not always a software company — we were a managed service company first. When MedSitter took us down the path of being a software company, it was imperative not only to create the best software solutions in our market, but also keep in mind the service we were providing. Today, we ensure premium service plays a role in our solution. That focus has directly impacted customer success.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Creating a technology that helps people allows me to sleep well at night. I know that I am leaving the world a better place than I found it. This pursuit has allowed me to build a wonderful life for my family, and it has helped me to support people I will never know — it is a wonderful feeling.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to break bread with Elon Musk. To me and our development team, he is the ultimate forward-thinker when it comes to technology that improves the well-being of our world.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please connect with me on LinkedIn and follow MedSitter updates at www.MedSitter.com.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.