Arrowsight’s RVA Technology Improves Safety in the Meat & Healthcare Industries

Arrowsight’s RVA Technology Improves Safety in the Meat & Healthcare Industries
August 05 07:18 2016 Print This Article

Arrowsight employs remote video auditing technology to monitor and improve safety and performance in both the meat industry as well as the healthcare industry. I had the idea over 20 years ago when I thought to myself, why isn’t there game film for business, similar to what sports teams use to improve their performance? So I took some of my own money together with some investors and started ParentWatch which was a web based video system that child care centers could install so parents could keep connected with their kids during the day. Initially, everyone was hesitant. The centers didn’t want to end up with a lawsuit, teachers didn’t want parents complaining and it seemed like we couldn’t get off the ground. Later that year we met with someone in North Jersey who owned a group of childcare centers and his idea completely transformed our product.
He suggested adding the slogan “Keeping families connected”.  To many people, the thought of being watched was threatening, but with the positive spin of providing the opportunity to keep families connected, people started developing a real appreciation for the service.  What used to be a cause for worry now became an exciting and powerful tool for parents to feel more comforted about sending their kids to school.

While this simple but wise change certainly started attracting more child care centers towards our service, at that point we hit a major crossroads. On the one hand we had uncovered a great way to market the product which made it welcoming, but on the other hand funding the business became very difficult when the Internet Bubble burst in 2000 & 2001.  Without being able to raise additional capital to support a high growth business we decided to exit the childcare industry and reallocate our remaining capital to another opportunity leveraging our core competency in web based video services.

Giving up on a great idea is not something I do easily and I knew there had be a better way to get remote video auditing into the right industry, we just needed to find the one that fit best. To me, it always made sense to create a way for businesses to increase production and the best way to do that would be to increase productivity and eliminate wasted time and effort. While we began researching our next step, I asked a friend of mine who owned a chain of laundromats if we could have the permission to install our cameras in his locations.

Much to our surprise even simple things like leaving the door open allowing hot air to flow into the laundromat in the summer with the air conditioning on can damage the machines. By installing our RVA system we’d be able to monitor and send alerts to make sure that didn’t happen. There were also the basic needs of sending alerts to the repair team as soon as a machine wasn’t working properly. There are so many basic functions that can be so much more efficient when monitored properly.

At this point we needed to take what we saw was working and take that to the next level with the right strategy. Many times when companies expand, mishandled growth can bring about their downfall, and that’s exactly what we were trying to avoid. Because we had initially raised over $30 Million for Parentwatch we had enough money left to give ourselves a second chance at bringing the Parentwatch or RVA technology into the business sector. We hired a consulting firm in LA to look at 30 different industries and tell us which industries our technology would help to increase production and drive the most value.

The results were absolutely shocking. The firm presented a comprehensive PowerPoint of- the meat industry! According to their results the meat market generated revenues of a whopping $170 Billion a year. The most intriguing part was that half of the market was controlled by just 5 companies and 80% by just 20 companies. This was particularly exciting because if we came with the right approach we could capture a very large share of the market with a very small sales team. Looking back, we had just 2 sales people and we cover 50%-70% of the meat supply chain.

While it was clearly a smart recommended choice for us, our challenge was uncovering the right combination of RVA services to offer the highly regulated meat industry.  We quickly learned that food safety and animal welfare are the two most important focal points of all meat companies.  With a high turnover workforce, it is very difficult to ensure proper employee safety practices in extremely large facilities, some with over 2,000 workers.   Lastly, many parts on the supply chain in the meat industry have an extremely low profit margin, and if our monitoring services could make things a little better from an efficiency standpoint it would help to increase their profits.

With all those facts in hand we were confident we’d be able to sell our services.

Understanding where we’d add value was only half the battle, now it was up to us to do our homework and understand everything there is to know with the meat industry and come up with a way to develop a relationship with the companies we hoped to work with. We met up with a great guy from Chicago named Arnie Mikelberg who was former meat industry CEO.  Arnie knew a tremendous amount about the ins and outs of the meat industry and had direct connections with many of the big players. Between 2003 and 2006, Arnie secured several important early stage pilots with meat companies he had strong relationships with that all showed positive food safety and productivity results using RVA.  In 2006 we achieved a major milestone in selling our services to the world renowned OSI Industries which is a world leader in providing quality products and custom solutions for the food industry. OSI has 60 plants in the U.S. and around the world producing a wide range of products including beef, pork, and chicken and pizza dough.  On the back of several successful deployments of our services with OSI, we were able to establish credibility with a highly regarded top meat company which began to open other doors in the industry.

In 2010, we were hired by JBS, which is a leading processor of beef, pork and lamb in the U.S., a leading processor of beef in Canada and the largest meat company in the world. While they had a very strong existing food safety program for their beef slaughter plants, they wanted to use Arrowsight’s remote video auditing (RVA) program to elevate their food safety performance.  When we put RVA to work their compliance rose to 99.7% and they lowered their e- coli and salmonella rates by 60%! That was a huge accomplishment and validated everything we stood for.

During the earlier years of our work in the meat industry, I was home for a family holiday and provided an update on the success of our food safety applications to my Dad who is a well-known doctor in Boston and who is still practicing at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  After hearing about our progress, he immediately responded, “there are over 100,000 people a year who are dying because of hospital acquired infections and you have a social obligation to bring your technology into healthcare”. Although I was happy with our success and hesitant to get myself involved with the complicated healthcare industry I agreed to give it a shot.

Although my dad had connections to some of the top hospitals in the Northeast and I had the ability to provide free technology to try it out, we had absolutely no luck. Not a single facility wanted to even try it. They were concerned about privacy, malpractice, unions etc. They would have absolutely nothing to do with it. While it was discouraging because I knew from the meat industry what type of value our systems provided, I felt I had made my effort. When it didn’t work out, I could get back to business knowing we had given it a very strong effort.

Less than a year after I refocused all our efforts on the meat industry, my Mom and sister developed horrible hospital acquired infections (HAI’s) that were extremely dangerous. All of a sudden I was very irritated that they had been harmed and I said to myself it is time to “take the gloves off” –  I’m going to make this happen. This time instead of going to a big name hospital, one of our employees had an uncle who owned a small surgery center in Macon, GA who agreed to test RVA in a healthcare setting to improve hand hygiene compliance.   We installed our RVA system and saw compliance rates rise up to 90%!

A short time after that we received an introduction to North Shore LIJ which is one of the largest hospital chains in NY State. They are now known as Northwell Health System.  I can’t tell you how accommodating they were and their attitude of “let’s do this”. Again we started small with monitoring hand hygiene compliance for care givers going in and out of ICU rooms. While they thought their compliance was high, after our results came in our data showed that their compliance was shockingly below 10%! Within 4 weeks of remote video auditing, compliance shot up to 90% and they’ve been able to sustain it for four years.

At this point we knew we were on to something and we needed to come up with a way to keep the cost low and put up the least amount of cameras in a way that would give us the biggest impact. After a great deal of research we found that the majority of revenue for a hospital comes from the operating room, so if we could improve efficiency and safety at the same time, we would have delivered a service that effectively paid for itself. With doctors hesitant about malpractice, HIPPA and other complications, we came up with a way to blur the video enough so that you could not make out any faces or body parts, but would still be able to improve compliance on key safety processes that can prevent wrong site surgeries, retained foreign bodies, and surgical site infections, and at the same time significantly reduce turnover times (i.e. the amount of wait time in between cases).  In late 2015, Northwell Health published a study in BMJ Quality & Safety that showcased our results in the surgery department of one of their largest hospitals.  A top patient safety expert from Johns Hopkins also wrote an editorial in the same medical journal in early 2016 that called it a “landmark study”.  We’re proud of our progress and hope to help facilities across the world increase safety, productivity and provide overall better healthcare services for all their patients.

Adam Aronson headshot 6.16.16Adam is the founder of Arrowsight Inc., and its predecessor company, ParentWatch Inc., in 1998. He’s also the former Managing Director and founder of two hedge funds in the 1990’s. Earlier in his career, Adam worked at Credit Suisse First Boston as foreign currency trader. He received a Bachelor of Arts in History and Economics from the University of Vermont.