By Todd Miller
“In business, time is money. In health care, time is life.” So said Chris Johnson, the new President of TeleTracking Technologies, a Downtown Pittsburgh-based provider of world-class patient flow command centers for hospitals and health systems. Johnson was recently promoted to the position after serving as the company’s chief solutions officer for several years, following a stint at GE Healthcare.
Inefficiency at hospitals leads to delayed care, or no care, worsening a patient’s condition or leading to premature death. The U.S. spends $4 trillion on health care annually (half the global total), $2 trillion of which is for labor, and 70% of which Johnson said is wasted. TeleTracking combats labor waste by creating command centers in hospitals or at offsite locations. Those facilities, which use software and best practices to “bend the cost curve” by quickly matching patients with beds in hospitals, health systems or regions, are similar to setups in the aviation, power generation and transportation sectors.
According to Johnson, “There is a direct correlation between the amount of time a patient waits for care in the emergency room and mortality rates. Our systems create visibility between patients and the status of available beds. Where whiteboards and phone calls were once the norm, TeleTracking created the electronic bedboard to make the admissions process more efficient so the halls are amazingly clear and the emergency rooms amazingly calm.”
A typical TeleTracking client can increase the number of transferred patients into its system by 30% without increasing staffing levels or beds while also increasing patient satisfaction. ROI ranges from hundreds of percentage points to 1,000%. The effectiveness of TeleTracking’s solutions is exemplified by winning KLAS Research Awards for patient flow in each of the past seven years.
Johnson, who holds an MBA from the University of Virginia and did undergraduate work at George Mason University, believes that such success results from the company being laser-focused on improving hospital and health care system operational efficiency. In contrast, many of its competitors are electronic health record companies offering solutions initially designed for billing purposes.
TeleTracking has almost 900 clients throughout the United States (including UPMC and Allegheny Health Network), Canada and the UK, and plans expansions to continental Europe, the Pacific Rim and Africa. The company was established 26 years ago by entrepreneur Michael Zamagias, who serves as chairman and CEO. TeleTracking employs 450 people, including 50 clinicians who have worked in hospital settings. Half of the workforce is in Pittsburgh and the other half is dispersed among offices in Minneapolis, Nashville, Raleigh, London and various field locations.
As a company in “the greatest country in the history of the world,” Johnson believes that TeleTracking should do its part to help the U.S. health care system, and others worldwide, maximize efficiency.
Under Johnson’s leadership, the company will transform its offerings from an operational platform to one that emphasizes data analytics, allowing clients access to information related to hindsight, insight and foresight, and to make better decisions faster. He also foresees extending TeleTracking’s capabilities beyond hospitals to “work inside the Medicare margin” and improve process flow across the continuum of care, starting at home, and extending the company’s reach to include working with national health care systems overseas. “The scale may be different, but the problems and solutions are the same.”
Regarding outreach and philanthropy, Johnson is committed to strengthening partnerships with Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh by expanding internship opportunities that result in employment offers, mostly for software engineers. He is also enthusiastic about remaining active in charitable activities, including Mission of Mercy, a free, two-day dental clinic for under-served people living in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, many of whom are from working families that cannot afford to pay for dental care out-of-pocket or through insurance.
“It fits naturally with our mission,” said Johnson. “If dental problems go untreated, they often result in larger health problems for the patient, and higher treatment costs for providers.”