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April 14, 2020 Rapidly Building a Telemedicine App with On-Demand Talent

DREAMING OF THE PERFECT SLEEP APNEA APP 

Dr. Dan Rifkin, Medical Director of The Sleep Medicine Centers of WNY, had long wanted to develop a telemedicine platform for sleep apnea, a potentially life threatening sleep-related breathing disorder. But the challenges of handling office logistics—appointment scheduling, doctors visits, testing etc.—through telemedicine had always been a roadblock. While it’s not uncommon for doctors to offer video calls to patients, or to have a telemedicine overlay on top of their electronic medical records, Dr. Rifkin wanted to do more. 

Sleep apnea affects millions of people worldwide, and 80% of patients in the US alone remain undiagnosed. Given this haunting statistic, he dreamt of a fully integrated app where a patient could schedule a visit, pay for a visit, and be treated for their condition without ever leaving the comfort of their home. The app eliminates the need for brick-and-mortar sleep centers and opens up sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment to patients all over the world.

From Dream to Design

With the help of Sam Marrazzo, Chief Innovation Officer at Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), Dr. Rifkin’s vision for the Ognomy app began to take shape. He envisioned an enterprise-level, patient first, HIPAA compliant application, and in design meetings over two days, ideas became storyboards. From there, Sam took the storyboards to Topcoder to get them canvassed out in design. This was Dr. Rifkin’s first experience using crowdsourced design and Topcoder’s platform. He was impressed, saying, “It really went very smoothly and quickly, I loved the process.”

Here are some designs from the Ognomy application:

APP, INTERRUPTED

Then, things stalled. After attempting to go outside of Topcoder for the development process, the Ognomy app hit a speed bump. Or rather, a stop sign. When the outside group made little progress after three months, Sam suggested returning to Topcoder to jumpstart the process. This was December of 2019, just before the COVID-19 crisis would make worldwide headlines. Now, with orders to “stay home” and cities on lockdown across the country, telemedicine has the potential to offer critical, much-needed medical care to millions who are quarantined in their homes. Even in the face of the Covid-19 emergency, with the Ognomy app, a patient never has to leave their home for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea.

Through the months of January and February 2020, Dr. Rifkin, Sam, and the Topcoder team focused on some key functionalities for the Ognomy application, namely:

  • Virtual doctor’s visits
  • Scheduling
  • Payment

The development team started with a simple proof-of-concept that consisted of the HIPAA-compliant teleconferencing SDK working in the mobile app. As the most important integration, it was critical to ensure that it would work for users before moving on to the rest of the application. Next, the team developed the registration and scheduling workflow, and made sure the calls were available only when scheduled. By completing these core integrations first, 50% of the MVP was effectively finished in a matter of weeks. From there, it was building additional user screens, refining workflow logic, and securing the application so that it is HIPAA compliant. 

INGENUITY AMIDST UNCERTAINTY 

An early version of the Ognomy telemedicine application was just launched. We’re extremely proud to have been able to help Dr. Rifkin and his practice bring this innovation to market as rapidly as they did. As the world comes to terms with the COVID-19 crisis, there’s an opportunity to meet new challenges with new ways of doing things. The Ognomy telemedicine app is a wonderful example of this. 

To learn more about Ognomy, visit here.

“Just to see what we’ve accomplished in a month and half (with Topcoder) compared to three months of almost nothing… The impact is having an app vs. not having an app.

Dr. Daniel Rifkin

Alexa Baray



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