Forget Pagers, Philly Startup Seratis Wants To Bring Hospital Communication Into The 21st Century

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We get it: there’s a silly number of mobile messaging apps out there, and a great many of them are meant for you to share your banalities more easily. But a Philadelphia-based startup called Seratis is different.

Before Divya Dhar founded Seratis earlier this year, she was a practicing physician who had to use a work-issued pager to try to keep tabs on her patients and colleagues. That didn’t stop her fellow doctors from using smartphones to do the same thing – it’s the 21st century for heaven’s sake – but it turns out sharing that kind of information over insecure protocols isn’t exactly lawful.

Enter Seratis, a secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging app that may finally kill medical pagers dead.

Frankly, it’s sort of a surprise to hear that pagers are still widely used since they’ve all but disappeared from the public vernacular, but Dhar told me at Dreamit Ventures’ Philadelphia Health Demo Day that “90 percent of hospital communications still flows through pagers.” Turns out they’re pretty expensive, too.

“Everyone knows pagers need to go, and everyone is moving towards that,” she added.

Here’s how Seratis works: you log into the service as you would any other mobile messaging app, but the app organizes messages based on the patient they pertain to, so the entire team can see exactly what’s been going on with a particular person before they even check in for their shift. Even better, the app gives physicians direct access to colleagues they may rarely see, which makes for a much more fluid transfer of patient information.

After all, if you need clarification about a patient’s condition from a fellow doctor you haven’t run into before, imagine how long it would take to track down their contact info, reach out to them (assuming they’re not knee-deep in other work), and respond accordingly? That’s time that could be much better spent, and Dhar is frankly pretty sick of wasting it. Throw in support for read receipts and a quick, at-a-glance view of a patient’s entire medical team, and you’ve got a solid little smartphone app.

Turns out, the app is only part of the solution (data nerds may like where this is going). Hospitals and wards inside them will have access to important analytics from those conversations – some of the metrics like messaging volume and response time are pretty straightforward, but Seratis can also track specific words as they’re thrown around. Think of it as a lexicological early-warning system. If a slew of doctors working with multiple patients all repeatedly use the word “infection” on the same floor, something bad may be brewing. Seratis will be able to flag this so staffers and administrators can prepare and respond accordingly.

Of course, Seratis’ model isn’t exactly without its drawbacks. If you’re going to implement a crucial smartphone-centric messaging system in a hospital, you need to make sure every doctor who needs to use it actually has a smartphone. Considering smartphone penetration rates, there’s a solid chance that most physicians already have one, but Dhar conceded that some hospitals may need to offer incentives like data plan reimbursement to coax doctors into joining the BYOD bandwagon.

The team is also still trying to figure out the sweet spot, but Seratis plans to charge users per month so it can fit into small hospitals, as well as sprawling ones. Right now an alpha version of the iOS app (an Android version is in the pipeline, too) is being tested by Penn Medicine, but here’s hoping my doctors can more easily communicate about all my terrible miscellaneous ailments sooner rather than later.

The iblazr Flash Illuminates Your Smartphone And Tablet Photos, Preventing Black Square Syndrome

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A new Kickstarter project wants to let a little light shine in on your mobile photos – much more than the built-in flash on devices like the iPhone 5 can provide alone. The iblazr is an external flash that uses four high-output CREE LED lights to provide a whole lot of illumination via a small piece of hardware that plugs into your gadget’s headphone jack, easily outgunning the iPhone’s flash, and giving the flash-less iPad something to shine on photographic subjects.

The iblazr is entirely synchronized with your device’s camera shutter, too, thanks to a proprietary free app for iOS and Android. It has a number of different features, including photo and video modes, a constant light mode, changeable brightness, and a built-in, USB rechargeable battery that lasts up to 1,000 flashes. The iblazr recharges via a flexible USB cable, and it even works without a smartphone or connected device at all, providing you a tiny pocket flashlight as well.

If you’re serious about your Instagrams, or about not carrying a dedicated camera around and still getting good shots, the iblazr looks to be a smart option, as it offers less chance to result in red-eye than the built-in flash, more than doubles the brightness possible and can even act as a fill flash for daylight outdoor shots to prevent exposure from becoming unbalanced between light and dark background and foreground.

The iblazr includes its own free app, but its creators also made it open source, and are offering SDK access before its general release to backers. Already a number of apps are signed up on both Android and iOS to take advantage of the accessory, so it’s possible your favourite mobile photography app will be able to take advantage, too.

iblazr is the product of a team based in Kiev, Ukraine, which includes a number of designers and engineers who have worked on hardware and software projects related to camera and photography gear before. Two of the team members were the first to solve flash synchronization issues with external devices on the iPhone, making the iblazr’s tricks possible.

The startup is looking for $58,000 in funding, and has raised nearly half so far. $39 is the price of admission for a pre-order pledge, which gets you one white or black iblazr with charger, with an expected ship date of December, 2013.

Amazon Replies To Author’s Reply To Amazon Founder’s Wife’s Criticism Of Book About Amazon

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Early this morning, author Brad Stone replied to a one-star review given his book The Everything Store, about the meteoric rise of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Why an entire article to reply to one review? Because the review was written by none other than MacKenzie Bezos, Jeff’s wife.

The review called out inaccuracies in Stone’s book, claimed that he didn’t fact check things that he should have and took issue with the characterization of Bezos as cold. She also said that there were many positive things about Bezos and the company that Stone left out of the book because it didn’t support his hypothesis.

In Stone’s response article today, he addresses the topic.

“Bezos said that he married MacKenzie after searching for someone tenacious enough to break him out of a Third World prison. By that standard, I got off easy,” says Stone. “Mrs. Bezos mostly took me to task for what she perceived were subtle biases in my story.”

Stone also addresses the factual errors that MacKenzie’s review of the book appeared to call out:

Mrs. Bezos also suggests that there are a handful of factual errors in my account. As a journalist with a two-decade record of accuracy, that troubles me a great deal more. I spoke to more than 300 people for my book-among them current and former Amazon employees, rivals, partners, and customers. They gave generously of their time, memories, and documents to help me fill in the gaps in Amazon’s history that, as my sources pointed out, were sometimes left intentionally.

Still, I’m not so high on my own authority to ignore the obvious: there are details of this story that only Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos can know. If they point to errors, I’ll gladly correct them

Today, Amazon VP of Global Communications Craig Berman gave TechCrunch a statement about Stone’s reply in Businessweek. In the statement, he takes issue with a passage in Stone’s piece:

In the rebuttal Mr. Stone published in Bloomberg Businessweek today, he writes:

“Bezos said that he married MacKenzie after searching for someone tenacious enough to break him out of a Third World prison. By that standard, I got off easy.”

Entertaining, and inaccurate.

Mr. Bezos says “resourceful” – not “tenacious.” Mr. Stone knows that. He also knows that the correct word doesn’t work quite as well for his purpose. “Resourceful” and “tenacious” mean different things. They also have subtle connotations. You might or might not like a tenacious person. It’s easy to imagine someone tenacious that you find a little exhausting and unpleasant. On the other hand, resourceful is hard to dislike. But no matter how well the word choice works for his purpose, it is not Mr. Stone’s choice to make. By beginning with “Bezos said,” he obligates himself to get it right.

It is ironic that he has done this in a rebuttal to a one-star review that comments on the combination of inaccuracy and slanted characterization in his book.

Yesterday, Berman reached out to us to specifically call out Stone’s fact checking opportunities, of which he says there were many.

“Over the course of [Stone's] reporting, Amazon facilitated meetings for him with more than half a dozen senior Amazon executives, during which he had every opportunity to inquire about or fact-check claims made by former employees,” Berman told us. “He chose not to. I met in person with him on at least three occasions and exchanged dozens of emails where he only checked a few specific quotes. He had every opportunity to thoroughly fact check and bring a more balanced viewpoint to his narrative, but he was very secretive about the book and simply chose not to.”

Stone’s reply today also notes that there have not been any issues with the ‘major revelations’ of the book including “Bezos’s Amazon.Love memo, the Cheetah and Gazelle negotiations with book publishers, the MilliRavi press release, the fight with Diapers.com and LoveFilm, and on and on.”

And that’s true, MacKenzie’s review of the book focuses on the tonality and details that she says she feels paint Bezos in the wrong light. As Stone notes, first-hand participation is likely to trump investigative reporting in many instances. But there is also something to be said for distance and perspective. Yes, it’s likely that Stone’s book has incorrect details, and it certainly has a narrative path that it chooses to follow. The accounts that Stone chose to include in the book are likely chosen to bolster that path, which is called writing.

Still, Bezos (and Amazon via Berman at this point) has a right to reply however it chooses. And, in the specific instances where MacKenzie Bezos and other reviewers have first-hand knowledge, I don’t blame them a bit for wanting the details – no matter how small – to be correct. And whether you view MacKenzie as ‘tenacious’ or ‘resourceful’ or both, her taking to Amazon’s own – ostensibly democratic – review site to voice her opposition to her husband’s characterization fits the bill.

And, whether either side of this debate realizes it, it enforces the way that Stone portrays Amazon’s decision (laughed at by other retailers) to allow negative reviews of products that it sells. Namely: aggressive, forward thinking and willing to bet big. Sound like a familiar founder (or his wife)?

Apply Now For The San Diego Meetup + Pitch-Off

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The time has come. TechCrunch is coming to San Diego for a night of pitches, drinks and general tomfoolery. And we’re looking for the area’s best undiscovered startups to pitch their revolutionary ideas on our stage. Apply within.

On August 22, TechCrunch is taking over Block 16. Josh Constine, Jordan Crook, Greg Kumparak, and myself are stoked to see San Diego’s best up and coming startups. We’re only in town for a few days, so we’re looking to make this night huge.

General admission tickets are $5 and including drinks. 21 and over only, please.

But this is more than just a meet and drink affair. This is a pitch-off. And as the attendees of our Austin and Seattle’s pitch-offs will likely attest, this is an event you’re not going to want to miss.

We’re looking for the area’s best and brightest young startups to pitch their company or idea to a few TechCrunch editors and local VCs. It’s free to register, and the 30 companies selected will get free admission to the event, as well as some one-on-one time with TC editors earlier in the day.

Best yet, the winners of the pitch-off get a Disrupt SF Startup Alley package that puts them in front of the masses of Silicon Valley’s elite. The runners-up get two tickets to Disrupt SF.

Apply here or in the form below. We’re reviewing applications on a rolling basis so it’s best to apply early. Registration closes on August 16.

San Diego is our latest stop in TechCrunch’s nationwide Meetup + Pitch-Off tour. We were just in Seattle last week and found a bevy of amazing startups nestled in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. In May, we visited Austin, Texas, and before that, we held the first Pitch-Off of 2013 in front of 1,200 people in New York. We’ll be visiting Boston in November.

Our sponsors help make events happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team at sponsors@techcrunch.com.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo Will Take The Stage At Disrupt SF

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Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wears many hats. Not only is he helping lead Twitter into its possible future as a public company, Costolo is a master at improv from his days as a professional comedian, and is a serial entrepreneurs who has sold companies to Google (Feedburner) and others. Which is why we are thrilled to announce that Costolo will join us for a discussion at Disrupt SF.

As Twitter heads down a path towards an eventual IPO, Costolo has been steering the company towards profitability via new ad products, with Twitter potentially hitting $1 billion in ad revenue in the coming year. Beyond supercharging the financials, Costolo has a unique approach to managing his fleet of over one thousand employees, and creating a distinct culture at a company that has been growing by leaps and bounds.

We’re excited to have Costolo take the stage along with other notable CEOs like Marc Benioff, Marissa Mayer, and Jeff Weiner. Much has changed for both Costolo and Twitter since hespoke at TC50 in 2009.

Disrupt SF takes over The San Francisco Design Concourse from September 7 to 11. Tickets are currently on sale here. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, opportunities can be found here.


Dick Costolo
Twitter, CEO

Since October 2010, Dick has been the Chief Executive Officer of Twitter, where he is responsible for the growth and management of the overall business. Previously, as Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer, he oversaw monetization and day to day operations.

Before joining Twitter, Dick was co-founder and CEO of FeedBurner, a digital content syndication platform that was acquired by Google in 2007. While at Google, Dick was Group Product Manager on the Ads team responsible for social media ads.

Previously, Dick lived and worked in Chicago, where he founded and ran two digital media companies: SpyOnIt, a web page monitoring service, and Burning Door Networked Media, a web design and development consulting company. Dick was also an improv performer with the acclaimed Annoyance Theater.

He graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Computer Science. He is @dickc on Twitter.

[image Scott Beale / Laughing Squid]