Nicholas Orlowski, Founder and President, Ankhos
Let’s face it: Behind every great medical advance, there’s a great engineer.
While doctors are always looking for better ways to treat patients, engineers are on a quest to push technological boundaries. Collaboration between the two brings in the promise of delivering innovative and value-based solutions. That’s the story of Ankhos.
"Oncology is in our blood"
Rather than following the footsteps of his father, who is an oncologist, Nicholas Orlowski was drawn toward computer science and pursued a degree in the subject from NC State University, North Carolina. Despite landing a job right out of the grad school at a defense contractor in DC, Orlowski was discontented for not being able to “help someone directly.” Soon, an opportunity presented itself, and Orlowski was ready to seize it.
“My father is both an oncologist and a technologist. We had a conversation one night where he complained about the software used by him and his employees at his oncology clinic, being off the mark. Time didn’t permit him to write his own computer code and made the job of the clinicians less productive and efficient. That conversation drove the inception of our family business to put an end to the challenges faced by medical practices, with a software solution designed for the entire medical team,” recalls Orlowski, founder and president, Ankhos. The rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward to today, Ankhos has evolved as a web-based EMR System squarely focused on clinical oncology and other practices that have recurring treatments and visits. The endto-end software covers everything from patient ordering, pharmacy management patient safety, treatment transcripts, to patient scheduling—all in a single place. “Oncology is in our blood. From a very young age, I have known the ins and outs of how doctors work and the frustration they have with technology. Ankhos was founded to alleviate these problems faced by the doctors,” says Orlowski. Much of modern cancer treatment involves many planned doses of chemotherapy over regular periods of time. However, doses are assumed to change at any time, given a patient’s response to the medicine. Medication doses may be altered mid-treatment or completely scrapped, and a new treatment plan initiated. The old oncology-specific software does not allow medical teams to change chemo treatments midstream. They cannot hold the treatment for a week or discontinue the treatment to start a new regimen. Also, there isn’t any way to increase or decrease the dose. This is what Ankhos Clinical Infusion Software intends to change.
Ankhos was built with the assumption that plans will change; doses will be modified, treatments will be held, entire treatment regimens might be changed. Its interface has been optimized to support those actions with ease. While these rapid and irregular changes in dosing can be troublesome for a pharmacist trying to keep the right drugs in stock, Ankhos allows forecasting drug needs, thereby preventing drug shortages and over-ordering by knowing projected drug usage. The software also enables users to view historical drug usage, which can help optimize pharmacy inventory management with reports of past infusions. Every time there is a modification in the dose, the software does not necessitate rewriting the entire order from scratch.
Orlowski emphasizes that Ankhos is built as patient-focused software, instead of an encounter-based.
Evidently, the uniqueness of Ankhos stems from its longitudinal patient-focused view that allows the company to focus on long-term patient care, not piecemeal encounters. From a patient-centered perspective, oncology teams can automatically calculate chemotherapy doses, and then tailor those doses to quickly create patient-specific regimens. They can add recurring lab orders and follow up appointments. By leveraging its automatic visit documentation feature, patients can leave a trail of documentation in every visit with an intuitive interface for minimal work interruption. Oncology teams can also easily review past visit records for billing verification and adherence to guidelines and can automatically populate electronic encounters to support easier billing.
Ankhos was built with the assumption that plans will change; doses will be modified, treatments will be held, entire treatment regimens might be changed
Interestingly, the software works like Facebook feed and registers all the information one needs to know about the patients on their calendar walls, and clinicians can find all the records in one place. This integration is the result of a seamless collaboration between the clinicians and the software engineers. Orlowski developed Ankhos as a company that would imbibe the culture of listening to its customers. This culture allowed the software writers to accept their ignorance about the subject of medicine and develop the EMR system as suggested by the clinicians. Orlowski mentions, “As software writers, we let the medical teams concentrate on their job while we supervise the technical aspects ourselves. At Ankhos, our entire goal is to enhance the medical teams’ tasks and help them communicate their orders effectively and accurately.”
Having developed the EMR system with inputs from people working in the field, Orlowski could ensure that Ankhos adheres to various medical guidelines and standardizations. For every drug ingested by a patient, the software necessitates the clinic/hospital to follow the NCCN baseline fundamental requirements and ensures the presence of a doctor and a nurse at the place. “In chemotherapy, there are specific nursing guidelines where the clinicians have to denote the arm or the joint, and the needle gauge to be used, and there are specific timings to start and to stop. So, everyone using our software needs to follow a specific pipeline from a physician through infusion such that, if they require any additional check mechanisms, we can build it on top of the baseline check that satisfies NCCN guidelines,” adds Orlowski. As a part of its solution titled infusion nursing, Ankhos also provides its clients with firm documentation enforcement, including double checks on dosing and drug mixing, which makes it easier for the medical service providers to deal with the insurance companies.
In an instance, one of Ankhos’ clients wanted to introduce an additional layer of safety, despite having the baseline NCCN requirements in check, as they were about to be monitored by the Joint Commission. Evidently, the hospital needed to incorporate a more efficient documentation process than relying on paperwork. After multiple discussions with the hospital’s physician committee, Ankhos deployed its solution. It added one pharmacy check mechanism over another, which enabled the regulatory body to view the hospital’s documentation in a click of a button. This customer success story also testifies Ankhos’ capability to deploy solutions on a large scale.
Besides the health-related safety measures, Ankhos has obtained an edge over its competitors by ensuring the protection of the patients’ data. Matter of fact, the company does not sell patients’ data in anonymized or any other form—a winning differentiator of the company as per Orlowski. Recently, the company massively flourished its infrastructure, and further plans to revamp its key strategies in days to come. Moving ahead, the company will be laser-focused on helping private oncologists as a potential technology vendor and a partner in providing IT guidance.