Keri Jones spends her work days helping people rehabilitate their speaking abilities after strokes or other disorders, not coding smartphone apps.

But Jones (’98, ’00 MA), a speech language pathologist at Pullman Regional Hospital (PRH), realized that the speech assistance apps out there were mostly for kids, with cartoonish graphics. She saw plenty of adults who could really benefit from a smartphone practice tool, especially one with moving x-ray images of mouth positions.

“We use this technology for diagnosing and treating swallowing disorders. One day, I thought, ‘Why don’t we use that technology to demonstrate how speech sounds are formed?’”

Using her expertise, the x-rays, recording and playback, and other features, Jones hired a developer to build the SPEECH SOUNDS VISUALIZED app.

Jones accomplished the technology feat with assistance from PRH’s Center for Learning and Innovation, which partners with WSU faculty, such as Marie Mayes (’87, ’04 MBA) from the WSU Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Influenced by the Mayo Clinic and other hospitals, PRH spokeswoman Megan Guido says, “The center was created to facilitate those ideas that our employees might come up with to help improve the patient experience.”

Technology and apps made by nurses, therapists, doctors, and others tap into their knowledge, and enable self-monitoring and self-care for patients. They can also help health-care workers themselves, says Zach Smith ’09.

As a nurse in Portland, Oregon, Smith says coordinating complicated schedules seemed hopelessly outdated and added to the stress of the occupation: “Hospitals just weren’t fulfilling that need with the technology that they were rolling out.”

Previously, he texted his wife Larissa ’08, also a nurse, about shift changes rather than using scheduling programs, which was very inefficient, Smith explains.

Frustrated, he joined with fellow nurse Joe Novello to create a mobile tool called NURSEGRID. The free app simplifies the process of scheduling shifts for nursing staff, and it’s been a hit. It’s the number one nurse app with almost a million downloads, used in every hospital in the country.

Smith tested the app as a nurse until joining NurseGrid full-time. He says health-care practitioners “can empathize and build tools that solve problems they identify,” but they need to bring the ideas to fruition. “What distinguishes true entrepreneurs from people who have good ideas is taking that first step,” he says.


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