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Nurse Disrupted

February 1, 2023
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A white trailer.

Nurse Disrupted provides initial health screening via video

Bringing telehealth to people experiencing homelessness

Bre Loughlin and her daughter Clementine, then age 9, were bringing donations to the Porchlight Men’s Emergency Shelter in Madison, back in March 2020, when they struck up a conversation with Executive Director Karla Thennes and learned of her dilemma. The COVID-19 pandemic had just begun and the Thennes shared how the shelter had no immediate way to screen its guests for the rapidly spreading virus—and thus no way to keep them safe from the disease. Few COVID tests were available yet, let alone a vaccine. Loughlin, a registered nurse who was working at electronic health systems powerhouse Epic, in Verona, hit on telehealth as a way to provide a first look and flag potential patients for closer medical attention.

Rapid response, bare-bones start

While telehealth seemed to be an elegant (even obvious) solution, the shelter did not have internet access and the project had no budget. Within 48 hours of Loughlin’s visit to the shelter, she returned with a basic system that could connect a patient with a nurse, and the first screenings began. She drew help from Epic, which donated the first tablets and technology. Using these tools, she set up shop in Porchlight’s utility trailer, plugged into a lamppost. Nursing students were recruited to handle the screenings; in return, they received credits toward graduation. “We were in crisis mode. It was truly a response to an urgent need,” Loughlin says.

Building on this initial experience with Porchlight, Loughlin established her company, Nurse Disrupted, in April 2020. The goal was to use telehealth as a way to keep people safe and avert visits to hospital emergency departments, which were already beyond overcrowded and also financially out of reach for some. At first, with little known about COVID, the nurses using the platform asked telehealth patients simply: Do you have a fever or chills, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath? With guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Health, the list of questions grew, over time, as scientists learned more about the illness.

Meanwhile, grants helped support Nurse Disrupted:

  • $60,000 from the Wisconsin Partnership Program of the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health to Porchlight in May 2020
  • $12,000 from WEDC’s We’re All Innovating Contest in November 2020
  • $30,000 from the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate Quickfire Challenge for Mental Health in April 2021

The company—whose four employees are all Epic alumni—operates on three main principles: simple, affordable, and quick. Today, Nurse Disrupted provides a video station mounted on its own stand, equipped with internet access and programmed to help a nurse quickly analyze a patient’s symptoms. For the patient, with one touch on the screen, a registered nurse appears for a virtual visit.

“We were in crisis mode. It was truly a response to an urgent need.”

Bre Loughlin

Nurse Disrupted CEO and Co-founder

Expanding telehealth, disrupting nursing norms

Within a month, Nurse Disrupted expanded to the Salvation Army Women’s Emergency Shelter and then the Salvation Army Emergency Family Shelter. Today, it also serves its first rural site, in New Richmond, and provides mental health services to City on a Hill, Milwaukee; several additional contracts are in the works for 2023. Investors chimed in, raising $700,000 for Nurse Disrupted in November 2021.

Now, Conduit Health Partners provides the registered nurses and Anesis Therapy provides mental health services. The telehealth service conducted 42,000 screenings in two years, preventing 1,200 emergency department visits and saving $2.5 million in health care costs, Loughlin says, and preventing massive COVID outbreaks in homeless shelters. She foresees use of the video stations at other community sites, where patients will be able to meet with a nurse, virtually, to ask a wide range of health questions.

Nurse Disrupted also offers new options for nursing care. “The U.S. will be 1 million nurses short before 2030, putting anyone who needs health care at risk. Nurse Disrupted has built on its community solution, attracting nurses back to the profession through telehealth and lifting crushing workloads at the bedside,” Loughlin says.


Business Owner Idea

Use telehealth for COVID-19 screening of people experiencing homelessness

State Support

$12,000 from WEDC’s We’re All Innovating Contest in November 2020


Nurse Disrupted raised $700,000 from investors and now serves several shelters in Madison, as well as one in Milwaukee and one in New Richmond.

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