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  • Writer's pictureDavid Lukauskas

AmbiFi brings just-in-time digital training and support to physicians and clinicians during pandemic

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

4/22/2020 Chicago

This is the story that led to a remarkable digital solution for physicians and clinicians trying to adopt Helmet Ventilation (NIV) to treat COVID-19 patients globally - a Mobile Digital Smart Procedure for Helmet Ventilation (NIV).


When James Sharpe saw a segment on the Today Show about helmet-based ventilation systems, his first thought was it was going to be a hard sell to physicians.

“Physicians aren’t going to use it because it’s new and they’re not comfortable or even familiar with using a helmet. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, some will be risk-averse – they are going to go with what they know.” Sharpe recalled telling his wife. “You know what, we could create, an AmbiFi, a smart procedure, that could get them comfortable, confident – and then competent in actually using the helmet,” he told her.

Once the wheels started turning, not only did they not stop, they went into high gear. AmbiFi is an advanced software as a service (SaaS) solutions company founded by Jeff Bonasso, who has worked with Sharpe for more than 25 years, first at IBM (15+ years), then together at a silicon valley startup, all the time focused on a mission to transform the way people learn and perform.

For example, the first client that ignited their mission was Caterpillar. They pioneered the technology for developing learning and empowering subject matter experts. As union craftsmen retired – or passed away, their skills and knowledge would fade away as well. So, they taught these craftsmen how to create interactive programs to teach the next generation. That became a model they called “The Knowledge Factory,” interactive eLearning studios shared throughout the world and the United States. “And then we sold that same capability to customers, so we created Knowledge Factories in some of the largest corporations in the world where they could create their own content,” Sharpe said. “It was an insatiable appetite for content, and we’ve been doing that model over and over and over.”

“What you see today, fast forwarding through all the brilliant technology that Jeff has created to tackle this one mission is absolutely incredible” Sharpe said.

AmbiFi allows users to build procedures as you go, “take pictures and record videos to enhance the experience, making knowledge transfers and many hours dedicated to training a thing of the past,” according to the company’s website. The name of the company is derived from the philosophy of ambient intelligence – putting the computer in the background – wherever the user is at, the computer is at, providing real-time input and support.

“In the last 10 years, I would say, as mobile technology became more prominent and the Internet was really everywhere, now the focus was how do we get this so that people can do this right on their phones, right on their tablets, and also get all the content that we create working on every one of these devices, so the content is as accessible as possible, at the instant of need, right in the user's workflow” Bonasso said.

As a trained pilot, Bonasso said checklists were ingrained into his methodology since day one. Bonasso and Sharpe take much inspiration from the book, “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande.

“With that book, (The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande) and all the experience we had building these types of platforms, the vision was to build what AmbiFi’s has become -- and that is this platform to be able to have subject matter experts – or anyone with knowledge to share -- to create the content and deliver it to anyone, anywhere, as well and follow it with this checklist manifesto methodology behind it,” Bonasso said.

After seeing the helmet-based ventilation segment on the Today show, Sharpe knew AmbiFi could help medical personnel. They have already been working on many use cases in the hospital setting which Bonasso covers in one of the cases about sterile processing in an article - Workflow Learning & Performance Support: Get Things Right. Sharpe started researching and found the website.

“That’s when – before we contacted (Aurika Savickaite of we met as a leadership team and decided to invest in taking the University of Chicago’s content in creating the prototype,” he said.

Sharpe knew they would need to be able to show what the power of AmbiFi could do in the capacity of understanding the procedures of the helmet-based ventilation systems – and how that could benefit those needing to use the systems – physicians and clinicians -- in the high-risk, high-consequence situations of COVID-19.

“That’s where we felt pretty passionate, we saw a need, and we created a functional prototype,” Sharpe said.

Together, after many hours of meticulous work and with help from Aurika Savickaite and physicians from the University of Chicago Medicine the app was developed and is now being used by physicians from around the world.

Ambifi - Aurika, James Sharpe, Jeff Bonasso.

Savickaite shared their enthusiasm.

“I personally feel much better now suggesting to the clinicians to use the helmet,” she said. “AmbiFi is like software for the helmet; this is what is going to bring more success in its application.”

Bonasso agreed, again returning to his pilot experience.

“AmbiFi is a co-pilot for your clinicians. There is even a hands-free component where all procedures can be navigated with your voice, and each step is read back verbally,” he said. The technology is like having COVID-19 physicians from around the country or even the world, sitting next to you, they said.

More about the Mobile Digital Smart Procedure for Helmet Ventilation (NIV)

“Depending on the procedure – their knowledge is being passed to you in a way that works at a really, really interesting level,” he said.

The men said clinicians seeing the technology have been enthusiastic – using the term “giddy.”

“This was built with clinicians for clinicians,” Sharpe said. “They love it, they’re excited about it and they’re engaged as they’ve never been before.

“We really think this is a great way to help them be productive without making mistakes,” he said.

Another great capability of AmbiFi is that at any point in a procedure, the user can provide feedback and questions – exactly at the instant they need it – and those notes, whether typed, recorded – are instantly transmitted. Those notes get sent to the expert who wrote the procedure, and they can get their questions or concerns clarified – in real-time.

Sharpe and Bonasso believe their vision for technology can change the future for the medical field throughout the world. The technology used in other industries needs to transcend into the health field.

“We know how to do it and we want to help the physicians and clinicians,” Sharpe said.

“This pandemic is going to teach us all that we need to figure out a way to work better together.”

“What we’d like to do is create global standards for medical procedures, for protocols; go to World Health Organization and have an interoperability standard, that hospitals can share procedures like these, globally, so that as you build and really become good at one of these procedures, you’re able to publish those, translate those, into any number of languages, so physicians and clinicians all over the world can share these next best practices,” he said.

“With all of the technology that is available to other industries, for some reason, the health industry is still stuck in paper and just very, very slow at adopting ways of creating better performance, in the most stressful, high consequence industry there is, which is life.”

To learn more about AmbiFi, check out



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