Startup receives $270,000 from NSF, Google, Digital Sandbox

Wed, 07/29/2015

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS — PatientsVoices, a startup company located in the Bioscience & Technology Business Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center, started with a question: How can we improve the patient experience in hospitals across the nation?

That question quickly turned into an idea. Today, the company’s software is being beta-tested as a new way to promote patient-centered care — in other words, to use technology to analyze and disseminate information about the patient experience. Along the way, PatientsVoices has received several major awards, including support from the National Science Foundation, Google and Digital Sandbox.

“PatientsVoices allows patients to verbally share details about recent and important health care experience,” said Mary Kay O’Connor, founder of PatientsVoices. “The company is developing software that automatically sorts feedback into improvement priorities from the patient’s perspective. It shows administrators how to move the needle on patient satisfaction at their hospital.”

PatientsVoices recently received a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The startup recruited experts in the area of machine learning and linguistics affiliated with KU to assist in developing the company’s application for mining patient data. Based on the findings, hospital clients take action that improves patient experiences, clinical outcomes and financial results.

In March, the company also received a $100,000 credit from Google. Today, PatientsVoices’ information technology infrastructure is up and running in Google Cloud. The solution is HIPPA-secure, and Google absorbs the cost associated with processing and storing the data.

“It gives us the ability to build and evaluate different versions of our software to see what works best,” O’Connor said. “The development team can test different software configurations without having to worry about processing costs and storage capacity.”

Digital Sandbox provided one final and critical funding source. The award is being used to design and deploy a customized dashboard application that provides clients with ready access to patient priorities on how to improve their health care experiences.

PatientsVoices is one of more than 30 companies located in the Bioscience & Technology Business Center, a KU-based business incubator network that comprises three facilities — two in Lawrence and one at the KU Medical Center. The BTBC provides tenant companies with state-of-the art lab and office space, as well as business development resources and expertise in fundraising and consulting.

In order to receive the Google credit, PatientsVoices had to be nominated by a qualified incubator. The BTBC took the necessary steps to become a registered incubator and nominated the startup.

“We wouldn’t have gotten the Google credit if not for the BTBC nomination,” O’Connor said. “This is a terrific example of why companies like mine benefit from being part of the BTBC community.”

“Mary Kay’s unique business model improves patient satisfaction through a process that actually lowers costs and improves information capture and flow,” said Frank Kruse, vice president of the BTBC. “The company’s technology dramatically and measurably improves a hospital’s ability to improve operations and patient outcomes on the fly. This is unheard of in the current environment.”

As a result of these funds, PatientsVoices now has a working prototype of its software. Refinement of the prototype will continue as the company grows its client base and builds its commercial application.

For more information, contact Mary Kay O’Connor at

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