Alumnus-Developed App Improves Communications, Eases Anxiety During Hospital Stays

The long, anxious wait for news about the outcome of a loved one’s surgery just got a little shorter thanks to the ingenuity of a UCF alumnus.

The “Ease” app, short for “Electronic Access to Surgical Events,” allows clinicians to send secure texts, photos and video updates to patients’ families in real time during a procedure or hospital stay.  Founded in 2013, the app’s use really grew during visitor restrictions put in place at hospitals across the country because of the pandemic.

“It is never acceptable to leave families of patients in the dark,” said Matthew Kanagy ’08 ‘14MBA, a double-graduate of UCF’s digital media and professional business program. “If I can track my Amazon package down to the second it reaches my door, I should be able to get notifications on whether or not a family member in the hospital is doing OK.”

Kanagy started as the company’s chief operating officer. He shared the vision of CEO Patrick de la Roza, who developed the app in collaboration with three doctors at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital. Kanagy’s original career plans centered around video production and multimedia, but his experiences in healthcare revealed gaps in patient care he wanted to address.

“I kept asking myself, ‘how can I make an impact and take the technology used in other industries and translate them into healthcare?’,” said Kanagy. “There can be a real lag in technology adoption in the healthcare industry and I saw the opportunity to be a technology advocate for patients and families.”

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 742,000 messages were sent via the application. Clinicians send updates on the status of patients via text, photos and videos through a HIPAA compliant and secure interface. Kanagy said customers and media have called Ease the “Snapchat for hospitals.”  Updates from the Ease app disappear after 60 seconds, and nothing is stored on the recipient’s mobile device.

Vocera Ease is used in more than 100 hospitals across the country and has a 4.9 out of 5 star rating in the iOS App Store, with over 7,000 reviews. Survey comments about the application give hospital leaders and Vocera employees a sense of the appreciation, seeing what family members and patients gained from using the app.

“We found that the application became even more relevant during this frightening and unprecedented time,” said Kanagy. “COVID brought a lot of darkness, but Ease was a way for people to communicate and to shed a bit of light.”

In August 2020, Ease was acquired by a publicly traded healthcare company, Vocera Communications. Kanagy serves as the vice president of operations at Vocera Ease, and oversees operations, product development, marketing, and security/compliance for the Ease solution.

“It has been a joy to see this idea come to life and really make a positive impact on patients and families at hospitals,” said Kanagy. “We have quotes from family members hanging on our office walls that motivate us everyday, things like ‘This is BIG! The kind of innovation that only the private sector can deliver. From parents and spouses everywhere. Thank you.’ Or… ‘Amazing application Ease allowed our family to receive updates during a family member’s major medical procedure. Amazing app that reduces a lot of stress and wondering.’”

Kanagy’s goal for the future is to make technology like Ease the standard of care at hospitals around the U.S. and to develop other technologies that improve the lives of those directly impacted by the healthcare system.








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