Xerox Innovation Day at Palo Alto Research Center

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The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox, opened their doors for an inside look at innovation this week.

Some of us (until Wednesday, myself included) might think of Xerox as “that copy machine company,” but we’d be sorely mistaken. Xerox has capitalized on their position as a pioneering service company by expanding upon their copy and printing research capabilities to support and develop a new generation of services. These services revolve around data, and in the future Xerox intends to help their clients take advantage of this data. Xerox has stepped into transportation, education, energy, and, of course, health care.

Xerox has set the lofty goal of “using data to make life simple.” Given their position as a leader in process and document management, they certainly have the data flow to make this happen. In health care alone, they process nearly 900 million claims annually and serve 3,500 hospitals in the United States, including 20 managed care plan clients. That all adds to up to Xerox having a hand in about two-thirds of health insurance transactions in the US each year.

So how does Xerox, and PARC for that matter, make the jump from data processing to innovation? The key lies in their ethnographic approach. PARC sends teams out into the field to observe human behavior and discover our unspoken needs and desires. This bottom up analysis allows them to uncover answers to questions we didn’t even know to ask. Once a research team believes they’ve uncovered the hidden obvious, the challenge lies in discovering the technological design implications for that “truism.”

Take their digital nurse assistant project, for example. PARC initially wanted to help nurses plan and schedule tasks. Hours of observation later, PARC researchers realized nurses know exactly what they need to do, but have trouble executing tasks that require coordination. Armed with their observations, the PARC team shifted their focus and developed the Digital Nurse Assistant.

Optimized-DigitalNurseAssistantThe Digital Nurse Assistant provides nurses with relevant information (tablets, screens etc.) and uses alerts to help them track and complete activities that require coordination. We have seen similar products (see Rubbermaid Healthcare’s CareLink), so we will have to wait and see what new innovative features will be added to a commercial version of Digital Nurse Assistant in the future.

PARC demoed several other projects including a medication adherence service that utilizes smart packaging, a remote non-contact sensing system, and a tech education program that trains health care providers in EMR systems much like pilots train with flight simulators.

The remote, non-contact sensing project is particularly exciting because non-contact sensors have huge commercial potential for remote home monitoring, home health care, and acute care settings in the future. The system PARC is developing uses a webcam, IR light, and complicated algorithms to monitor heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and other vitals. This system is being piloted in India and has been particularly useful with babies and burn victims.

The EMR education system, called PromisePoint, was also intriguing as it is easy to imagine its ability to contribute to accelerating and easing the adoption of EMRs and additional health IT capabilities (through training) as providers meet MU and ICD requirements. The system, developed by an airline pilot, trains health care providers to use their EMR systems with simulation, again, like flight simulators for pilots. The system teaches, tests, and can be used to track proficiency.

Xerox and PARC have been on the cutting edge of innovation since the beginning: ethernet and laser printing are just two of their achievements. Now, they are well positioned to take advantage of their data handling services and analytics to develop and deploy a new set of value-added services. If Wednesday’s peek inside was any indication, we can expect to see the tradition of innovation continue at PARC and Xerox.

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