Penn Medicine

February 2021

Month in Review February 2021

Each month, we round up news stories and publications about work happening at the Acceleration Lab, Center for Digital Health, Nudge Unit, and Way to Health. Want to stay in the know? Subscribe to have the Month in Review sent directly to your inbox.

Top Stories

Leveraging innovation methods to reduce avoidable ED visits

In Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation, members of our team and the CMIO team described their journey to apply innovation principles to develop and operationalize a telemedicine-based solution to reduce avoidable emergency department visits among employees. The final product, Penn Medicine OnDemand, offers proactive, high-value care to Penn Medicine employees, dependents, and the general public. It is also one of the primary tools our health system is using to keep patients and providers safe amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Can we nudge COVID-19 vaccination rates higher?

In a piece for Nature, Mitesh Patel shared nudges that public health agencies can incorporate into their COVID-19 vaccine-rollout to increase uptake. Examples included framing vaccination as the default, providing peer-comparisons, and making choices active and time-bound. Patel says testing approaches like these will help institutions identify what kind of outreach yields the best results.

Additionally, the Behavior Change for Good Initiative and the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit unveiled findings from two of the largest-ever research studies aimed at increasing vaccine adoption. Conducted with patients from Walmart Pharmacy, Penn Medicine, and Geisinger Health, the studies revealed that text messages that reminded individuals that a flu shot was “waiting” or “reserved” for them proved most effective - boosting vaccination rates by up to eleven percent. The researchers believe that insights from this study can be leveraged to "nudge COVID-19 vaccination rates higher and help us end this pandemic faster."


Innovation Accelerator teams tell their stories of innovation

This year's Innovation Accelerator teams sought to bring safe, efficient, and life-saving cancer care into the comfort of home, accelerate and enhance care for fertility patients, and optimize precision care for patients with ovarian cancer. Despite the many challenges 2020 threw at them, they made incredible strides - revealing new insights and meaningfully improving care for our patients in a time of heightened uncertainty. Check out their Stories of Innovation below to learn more.

Ensuring equitable access at community vaccination sites

On February 13, Penn Medicine partnered with Mercy Catholic Medical Center and faith leaders in West Philadelphia to administer more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to high-priority groups in the community. In an interview with WHYY, Kathleen Lee explained the low-tech and no-tech approaches the team employed to ensure equitable access to the clinic

An automated program to monitor opioid use in real-time

A research team led by Anish Agarwal and Kit Delgado built and deployed a text messaging program to engage patients to self-report pain intensity and opioid use after orthopaedic surgery. The program had high patient uptake. Among the more than 1,100 patients who participated, roughly 61 percent of the opioids prescribed went unused after three weeks. The results were published in NEJM Catalyst. The researchers believe that tools like this that provide clinicians with real-time feedback could enable health systems to better match post-operative opioid prescriptions to patient needs, thereby reducing the chance of there being leftover pills that could be misused.

Defaulting take-at-home tests boosts cancer screening rates

Colorectal cancer screening rates increased by more than 1,000 percent when a research team, led by Shivan Mehta and Sarah Huf, implemented a screening trial at a community health center that predominantly serves people of color. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, defaulted patients who were overdue for screening to receive take-at-home tests unless they opted out via text message. The team then followed up with behaviorally informed text messages, reminding participants to complete and return the tests. The intervention was performed at a low cost - making it an accessible and sustainable solution for community health clinics to implement.

Collaborate with Us

Secure funding and support for your innovation project

We are currently accepting applications for our Innovation Accelerator and Health-Tech Design and Development programs. Teams receive seed funding, staff allocation, mentorship, and training in innovation methodology. The deadline to apply to the Innovation Accelerator Program is this Friday, March 5. Applications for the Health-Tech Design Program must be submitted by April 6. 

Register to attend the Nudges in Health Care Symposium

Save the date for the Nudges in Health Care Symposium on May 20. The symposium will be virtual, and registration is free. Individuals interested in participating should complete this form to be notified when registration and other symposium information are made available.

Additional Coverage

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