Technology I Like – Trello – 3/9/12

I work out of various office locations, both home and shared, but all thankfully free. I work on several different projects, though this is changing, and with several different teams, this too is changing thankfully. Professionally, the people I work with are based in multiple states and countries. A few people that I work with are face-to-face but not everyday and others I only see face-to-face for periodic meetings. My wife works at the hospital everyday so we rarely run errands or take care of things together, instead spending our time doing family stuff as much as we can. I also post to several blogs.

I’ve written before about my thoughts on personal organization and management. In the post, I mentioned Trello as something I use for project planning, blog posts, goals, and other random collaboration needs. I love Trello for this and evangelize it whenever I can.

In Trello’s words, Trello is a “collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards”. Boards, or projects, are made up of lists, or stages in a process, and lists are made up of cards. Cards are used to track things, such as tasks. Board members can be assigned to cards. Cards can be dragged to different lists. Cards can be voted up or down and can have comments, checklists, due dates, attachments, and embedded video. All changes are made in real-time for all users. Of course Trello has mobile apps. I only use the one for iOS but that one is very good.

Notifications are also real-time and you have the ability mention users (@travis) but one addition I’d like to see is more messaging features. For some reason the Notification stream just isn’t enough for me and I still end up having to use iChat or HipChat for messaging, which I realize is not ideal.

So what do I use Trello for? I use it individually to organize and plan blog posts for HIStalk Mobile and other blogs I contribute to. I use it to collaborate on projects for work. I use it for high level business planning. I also use with my wife to organize and pick meals and outings for the family. My wife uses it, which I’m not sure is her appeasing me or because she actually likes it.

Either way, I find it to be very effective for lots of different things. It’s also free and has a nice mobile app, which doesn’t really hurt. Seeing how good this is at collaboratively moving things through stages, I’ve always thought it would work well in healthcare. I think the sweet spot would likely be ambulatory offices, where multiple people push people through the process, the ED, and maybe the discharge process, which always seems to be a cluster.

The challenge for Trello in healthcare, like anything new and different, is likely getting people to use one more tool. But, if you made each Trello card a patient, you could easily create checklists for each station, attach forms or multimedia or questionnaires, and make comments that all users could see for that patient. You could also easily shuffle resources by dragging and dropping them to address bottlenecks. You could also prioritize patients based on acuity.

Another problem for Trello might be HIPAA, though Trello does have some security built into it by default. Trello has opened its API so some customization, around security or integration with PM systems, might be possible. I’d be really curious to hear if anybody had looked at Trello for healthcare and why it did or didn’t work?

Even if you don’t use it to streamline patient flow or anything else in healthcare, check it out for personal or other professional uses. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.


  • Hi Travis, I’m in healthcare, but in marketing and development, not patient care. I love Trello and am just now getting my team on it.

    The HIPAA thing is always such a huge issue. Right now, I keep all patient info (even names) away from Trello just in case, despite the existing security measures in place.

    While I understand the value of HIPAA I think it’s become so big that it’s stifling innovation. Like you said, Trello would be amazing for patient flow, but I can’t imagine many people using for fear of HIPAA.

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