The experience of “sensory overload” is something hospital workers know all too well. Every day, those charged with the tasks of caring for sick and injured people have to perform in hectic environments. They provide critical care while processing lots of information, sometimes in the throes of life-or-death situations. With such high stakes in a hospital setting, a worker overlooking even the smallest detail can create terrible consequences for their patients, including infections from unsterilized equipment and surfaces.
“Making sense of clinical objects and processes in a real-time, geospatial context” is what Darvis does. According to their website, “Darvis transforms hospitals into an intelligent autonomous environment through delivering of efficiency in operations and hygiene, the ultimate in patient-centric care.”
Darvis is a mobile-based software that triggers an instant, prompted action after an image is processed. The company was originally established in 2015, and was known as the San Francisco-based “Hashplay.” At that time, it was a livestreaming and virtual reality company, meant to rival Twitch but in VR. The market didn’t support Hashplay’s original intentions. However, with several successful virtual reality projects under their belt that employed artificial intelligence, the co-founders knew that they had something special. Rebranding as “Darvis,” the company moved into the healthcare industry in 2017, and relocated to Nashville to be close to other healthcare companies and to demo Darvis’s applications face-to-face.
With the example of their “Bed Logistics” application used for cleaning hospital beds to promote good patient hygiene, a hospital worker may take a photo using Darvis. The software can detect whether or not the bed is clean during inspection, and may register the bed for use—or alert staff that the bed needs to be cleaned.
Co-founder & COO Jan Schlueter
Co-founder and COO of Darvis Jan Schlueter unpacks what Darvis is, saying it’s based in the spirit of augmented reality (AR). However, Jan seems to think of it more as a distant cousin to AR.
“We give rooms a voice. We put dots on a map,” he says, referring to the extracted meta-information that can be collected from a single photo processed by Darvis’s system.
Jan clarifies his statement by stressing that the Bed Logistics application isn’t just for bed hygiene. Many hospitals are currently using RFID systems to show locations of their beds in a hospital, and Darvis’s system can provide location results that are 20 times more accurate than comparable RFID systems. Tracking where the bed is, “Bed Logistics” can map a bed’s location within inches of its listed space.
“It’s very interesting because to document all that is known about the condition of the bed would be interesting to correlate with other systems that are already there, like scheduling systems or even documentation of the status of a bed in-between a patient’s check-in and checkout,” Jan says. “There are so many more possibilities now available to get information.”
The actions triggered by Darvis save the staff from having to enter or deliver information manually. With the example of the Bed Logistics application, a nurse no longer has to notify a worker to come get a bed. Darvis sends that notification to the worker automatically.
Couldn’t the effect of the Bed Logistics app be achieved with other systems? Perhaps—but the alternative would be clunkier, more costly, and less desirable for hospitals. Jan explains, “So we are using just one sensor that is, let’s say, positioned strategically in a hospital in a neurologic hotspot, if you will. So we are not advising hospitals to put more electronics in a bed, because that has limits… If you put everything in one bed, that makes that really a techno-overkill from our perspective. Just having a computer vision that mimics the eyes… it’s much easier to work with.”
Moving outside of the Bed Logistics app example shows why Darvis would be preferred by hospitals as a tool for automating manual processes, documenting their completion, and confirming compliance for industry standards. The “Medical Inventory” application performs the same function as Bed Logistics, but for medical equipment. Likewise, the “Sterile Equipment Completeness” app can track surgical equipment before a procedure.
“That’s one part of a huge cycle we are working on. It starts with the packaging or with the receipt, and it’s a process of putting the right number of the right items of a surgery kit into a box,” Jan says, referring to the Sterile Equipment Completeness application. Once the surgical equipment kit is moved, the items must be unpacked for surgery, where they can be scanned with the Sterile Equipment Completeness application to confirm that they’re available and fit for use. After surgery, the contaminated items can be scanned again to register them for sterilization. Then the app can track the items for their safe return, confirming that they’re not misplaced or unthinkably left inside of the patient, which occasionally happens.
COVID-19 gave Darvis a chance to shine, when the company engineered its “Rapid Hygiene Check” to scan personnel in the operating room for missing or incorrectly worn personal protective equipment or for not adhering to hygiene protocols during the “high tide” of the pandemic.
“We were thinking about how we can support [hospitals] with what we have with our tech, what we are capable of to create something spontaneously,” Jan recalls.
Revenue is about to triple for Darvis again this year. Since Jan handles the front of the business and engages the company’s clientele for feedback, he explains that the customers are frequently excited by the prospects of what Darvis can do. He jokes that with such promising software, the customers are like people shopping when they’re hungry. He says, “We’re always very eager to listen to what the client is saying about user experience, functionality, or features… Because when you’re talking to all sorts of clients, they say, ‘Oh! I want this and that!’”
The features are just as exciting to Darvis’s team as they are to their clients. The company of 60 employees—two-thirds of whom actually build the Darvis tech—work between the Nashville location and international offices in Hamburg, London, and Islamabad to impact the cutting edge technology. Jan says that because of the novelty of what Darvis does, every work day is a chase to the unknown. They’ve almost tripled their staff in the last two years, and are shooting for the goal of 90 employees before the end of 2021, with on the plan of hiring front and back-end artificial intelligence developers, computer vision developers, machine learning developers, engineers, experts in optical sensory technology, and other roles with which to build their pipeline.
Future plans for Darvis include continuing to build their library of recognizable objects so that the company can create more apps to address hospital needs. One project that is presently in development is a hygiene check to sanitize shoes before entering sensitive areas for hospitals.