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Innovating Medical Trauma Software

April 2013

JohnwithSoftwareA trauma registry is a collection of comprehensive data used by experts for rigorous analysis. Evolving along with the Quality Assurance (QA) movement and Total Quality Management (TQM), trauma registries aim to provide the information that will prevent defects in care due to failures in the systems.

1985. A man in the U.K. makes the world’s first mobile phone call and Nintendo launches the first home video game console. Microsoft releases the first version of its Windows computer operating system and a company called Symbolics registers the first .com domain name.

That same year, a college kid named John Kutcher began developing trauma database software technology under the trade name Digital Innovation, Inc. A bold move for a young man, but he backed the venture with years of computer programming experience garnered during his high school years. Impressive, considering that in 1985, the nation had just 106 personal computers per 1,000 people.

As a high school junior, Kutcher began working for Tri-Analytics, Inc., a Bel Air based medical data management, software and research company co-founded by William J. Sacco, Ph.D.

In July 2011, John Kutcher, Ph.D., Ron Dove, J.D., and Mark Stega, M.D. organized the William J. Sacco Critical Thinking Foundation to honor the internationally recognized trauma research expert who lived his life – and touched countless lives – in Harford County. Kutcher and Dove credit Sacco with taking notice of their mathematics potential and, while still in high school, putting them to work, literally, at his medical data management, software and research company, Tri-Analytics.In its first year, the foundation presented scholarships to an outstanding mathematics student at their alma mater, C. Milton Wright High School, and at Bel Air High School. They used the awards banquet to raise $30,000 for the expansion of the scholarship program and the introduction of mathematics teacher awards.The second annual William J. Sacco Awards Banquet was held March 11, and outstanding mathematics students from every Harford County public high school as well as The John Carroll School received scholarships of at least $500, with the top student receiving $3,000. The Foundation presented outstanding mathematics teacher awards from each of these high schools, including a debit card to support their classrooms, with the top teacher receiving $1,000.“Dr. Sacco saw what someone at a young age could achieve. He gave me the opportunity as a high school junior to work on building software to compile national trauma databases. This led to the ultimate focus of Digital Innovation,” Kutcher says. “This was in the early days of personal computers.

There was only one computer in the Harford County public school system, and it happened to be at my classroom. I did all my math independently so I could work on the computer and Dr. Sacco found me.”

Dove tells a similar tale about how Sacco sought him out and, through his mentorship, changed his life.
“I was working at McDonald’s and he saw a project of mine at a fair. He gave me a call and asked if I wanted to work for him,” Dove says. “I got to work on a personal computer in the very early days. The Foundation is, for me, an opportunity to honor Dr. Sacco and the work that he did by giving scholarships to the best and the brightest students and math teachers in the county.”

Dove’s life path took him away from programming and into a Washington, D.C. law practice. Dr. Sacco’s influence led Kutcher to his life’s calling.
“He was a selfless person,” Kutcher says. “He took more joy in seeing somebody achieve than his own success. As I get older, I realize that was pretty unique. I started the scholarship at C. Milton Wright and Bel Air high schools in 2004 to recognize him while he was alive. When he passed, we wanted to keep his legacy alive.”
To learn more about the William J. Sacco Critical Thinking Foundation as well as the man who inspired it, go to

A retired biophysics division chief from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Sacco is known for co-developing the first trauma severity scores and helping to build the nation’s first trauma database system.

“Dr. Sacco would go to the high school math teachers to find students. It was my math teacher, Ron Dove, Sr., who introduced me to him and to computers,” Kutcher says. “As a 16-year-old kid, to use my intellect instead of flipping burgers, to develop software that pioneered a new product … Dr. Sacco saw the potential of what someone at a young age could do.”


John Kucher (r) with his mentor Dr. William Sacco (l)

Sacco also was a visiting professor at a few medical schools, an associate in the department of health policy at Johns Hopkins University and chief consultant for the American College of Surgeons Trauma Outcome Study. Sacco was perfectly positioned to pioneer.

“Digital Innovation was contracted by Tri-Analytics, Inc. to help build software to compile national trauma databases,” Kutcher says, explaining that, in the early 1980s, hospitals kept written records. “These were sent to a centralized location to be keypunched into a database for analysis.

“Digital Innovation was founded to develop software technology to assist organizations in building sophisticated data collection and systems analysis. We were early partners with leaders in the trauma community, researchers, medical staff and accrediting organizations,” he says.

In Digital Innovation, Kutcher, now 47, has built an effective dynasty from the foundation formed from those early relationships and the parallel evolution of trauma registries and personal computers.

“We used the emerging personal computer industry to empower individual trauma centers to collect and analyze data locally. Our competition would be physicians or people with nursing backgrounds, and they would bring in programmers. Digital Innovation was unique, coming to the market with a technology foundation,” Kutcher says.

“When the industry moved from DOS to Windows, we made the transition more successfully. When Y2K came, we made the transition more successfully. When the Internet came, we made the transition more successfully,” Kutcher says, noting his company purchased Tri-Analytics, Inc. in 2001 and later in 2001, purchased its chief competitor, Cales & Associates.

“Our approach has allowed us to use developing technologies in the evolution of the trauma system,” he says.

What does it all mean?

DoDAwardDigital Innovation is the trauma registry software technology partner for the U.S. military worldwide. “Digital Innovation was instrumental in the development of the Department of Defense Trauma Registry, formerly known as the Joint Theater Trauma Registry, the first ever DoD trauma registry that captured trauma data during a combat,” says Mary Ann Spott, joint trauma system deputy director for the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research. “This allows for near real-time performance improvement initiatives, which directly impacts care on the battlefield through development and use of clinical practice guidelines, tourniquets and other medical devices that save lives. Previously, data were captured after medical records were sent back to the United States for abstraction and data entry.”

Digital Innovation customizes database management systems for state, regional and single site clients, including 1,700 hospitals – software that will upload to and permit searches of data aggregated internally, systemically, regionally, statewide and nationally.

This is particularly useful to accrediting organizations, notes Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation Executive Director Juliet Geiger. The organization develops standards for trauma center operation and maintains a statewide trauma registry, among other duties.

“We have been with John since the beginning of the foundation, 1985,” Geiger says. “We’ve got not just one product but four or five that connect with one another and to each hospital’s trauma registry. The long-standing partnership has allowed Pennsylvania’s system to remain a model for the nation.”

In 2005, Digital Innovation and the American College of Surgeons announced a 10-year agreement through which Digital Innovation would be the exclusive provider of technology, software and operational support for the College’s National Trauma Data Bank.

Kutcher notes, “Oversight organizations can measure performance, determine which trauma centers are statistically saving more lives and then, looking at the data, determine whether they are doing something different.”

Digital Innovation operates from its six-acre campus in Forest Hill, out of its new 13,000-square-foot headquarters building, I95