Innovations drive change. Only through innovation can physicians keep pace with a churning regulatory environment, and help patients connect with health care in more personal, effective ways.
To spark innovation sharing, in 2011, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) sought innovations among members and practices throughout Pennsylvania. Innovations were submitted in the categories of clinical care, health care teams, patient communication and engagement, and technology. Submitted innovations were then shared on PAMED’s website so that physicians and practices across Pennsylvania could learn from one another.
But a lot can change in just four years—and especially in health care. The summer edition of Pennsylvania Physician revisited these innovations to see how they fared, and whether the innovations of yesterday continue to improve patient care today.
Below are three examples. Read the entire list of innovations on the online version of Pennsylvania Physician.
Innovations: FreeMyEHR, software that allows simple, encrypted transfer of medical records, and PreMD Tracker, an app for pre-med students applying to schools. Both were created by students at The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) in Scranton, Pa.
Implementation: Parth Dalal, a PAMED member and third-year student at TCMC, created FreeMyEHR after seeing secretaries and doctors spend long hours scanning and faxing medical records to other offices that used incompatible systems. The HIPPA-compliant, fully encrypted FreeMyEHR (www.freemyehr.com) allows users to drag and drop files for easy electronic transmission.
David Eisenberg, a PAMED member and second-year student at TCMC, created PreMD Tracker with fellow student Peter Malamas during his first year at NYU School of Medicine. They based the app on experiences as pre-med students and their challenges in keeping track of information needed for medical school applications.
Students use the app to document courses taken, letters of recommendation, work hours, and other necessities. Sections include tips on factors such as activities typically expected from applicants. “It’s more about [the] exposure that the medical field wants,” says Eisenberg. The app generates reports that can be e-mailed to the student’s advisor for review.
Update: With his background in medicine and technology, Dalal believes he’s found a niche for creating products that use technology to simplify workloads while meeting stringent medical requirements. “The No. 1 thing is that you have to make it user-friendly,” he says. “Otherwise, people don’t use it.” PreMD Tracker, available for Android OS devices, has been downloaded about 200 times since its March 2014 launch. Dalal and Eisenberg are now working together on apps for patient education and physician education. Eisenberg believes physicians must be leaders in technology, “even if it’s outside their comfort zone. We have to keep ourselves competitive, or somebody else is going to do it for us.”
Category: Patient Communication & Engagement
Innovation: Providing discharge instructions before and after surgery.
PAMED Member: Danae Powers, MD, Brook Park Surgery Center, Lewisburg, Pa.
Implementation: A Brook Park Surgery Center nurse suggested providing discharge instructions during pre-op, before anesthesia and sedation. Patients still receive post-surgery discharge instructions, but Brook Park staff found two distinct benefits when offering patients the same instructions before surgery: First, patients given the chance to focus on recovery are calmer as they head into the procedure, and second, post-op compliance improve, perhaps because the post-surgery guidelines are refreshers that cut down on confusion. “It engages patients at a different level, where emotionally, they’re thinking, ‘I’m going to be going home,’” Powers says. “You can just see people calm down. They’re over that hump.”
Update: The success of a simple idea has shown staff that their suggestions are welcome, says Powers. “We’re really focused on the individual patients and what their needs are, and we’re flexible in how we communicate. We’re all frontline people. There’s no such thing as a person who’s allowed to have new ideas and one who’s not.”
Category: Patient Communication & Engagement
Innovation: A disease-management iPhone app, EoE Tracker, for patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).
PAMED Member: F. Wilson Jackson, MD, Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology, Camp Hill, Pa.
Implementation: With the increasing frequency of EoE, an allergic reaction of the esophagus, Dr. Jackson designed an app that helps patients conduct elimination diets to learn about the disease. Like a paper-and-pen log, the app allows patients to track symptoms as they test the elimination of specific food groups, but enhances efficiency by prompting patients to make entries every night. At the end of the six-week process, the app automatically produces and e-mails an analysis that the physician can use to develop a management plan. The app also includes educational videos on EoE and elimination diets.
Update: Because EoE typically strikes adolescents and young adults, use of the app has been strong among Jackson’s patients, and is spreading worldwide. “If nothing else, it provides educational information,” says Jackson. “If you can achieve management and symptom controls without pharmaceuticals, it’s better for the patient.” Jackson is sketching out apps for other GI conditions and hopes to get them coded.
While it is important to share information on the many health care innovations in Pennsylvania, PAMED does not endorse the products and services featured in this article.