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Latest News

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. Read the latest issue of our Month in Review newsletter and subscribe to have it sent directly to your inbox.

April 2021 Month in Review

Each month, we round up news stories and publications about work happening across CHCI. Read the latest issue and subscribe to have the Month in Review sent directly to your inbox.

CHCI
How text-based nudges can boost flu vaccination rates

Many Americans fail to get life-saving vaccines each year. A multidisciplinary team including staff from the Nudge Unit conducted a megastudy to explore the effect of text-based nudges on flu vaccination rates. The top-performing intervention reminded patients twice to get their flu shot at an upcoming doctor's appointment and indicated that it was reserved for them. Insights from this study, published in PNAS, could be leveraged in future campaigns to encourage vaccine adoption, including against COVID-19.

PNAS
Risks and rewards of at-home cancer treatments

In a three-part docuseries, Medscape profiles Cancer Care @ Home (CC@H), an alum of our Innovation Accelerator Program. CC@H brings cancer treatments, including injection and IV drug administration, into patients' homes. The program increases clinic capacity while maintaining timely and effective care. CC@H patients report dramatically increased satisfaction, enhanced convenience and comfort, and a better overall health care experience.

Medscape
New emergency department program enables patients to recover at home

In Penn Medicine News Blog, staff from the Acceleration Lab discuss the feasibility of an intervention that offers emergency department clinicians a practical alternative pathway for patients initially designated for admission or observation. 

Penn Medicine News Blog
Can incentives motivate COVID-19 vaccinations?

Businesses have been offering incentives for employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but it doesn't seem to be driving vaccination uptake.

In an interview with AAMC, David Asch shared his thoughts on whether financial incentives work, how minor messaging tweaks can make a big difference, and some surprising factors that often drive our health behaviors.

AAMC
A how-to guide for equitable COVID-19 vaccination

We partnered with community leaders to launch highly effective COVID-19 vaccine clinics to rapidly increase the pace of vaccinations in communities of color in Philadelphia. Learn about the novel no/low-tech strategy we employed to ensure equitable care delivery in NEJM Catalyst.

NEJM Catalyst
Did the COVID-19 pandemic change activity among patients most at risk for heart disease?

A study led by researchers at the Nudge Unit revealed that stay-at-home orders put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic were associated with a significant decline in physical activity among adults with elevated risk for major adverse cardiovascular events.

The study's findings suggest that the pandemic could disproportionately reduce physical activity among minority and urban patients, further increasing disparities in preventative health behaviors.

Journal of General Internal Medicine
Study shows 60 percent of opioids go unused after common procedures

A study led by researchers at the Center for Digital Health showed that more than half of the opioids prescribed to patients undergoing orthopaedic and urologic surgeries went unused.

The team collected patient-reported data on pain and opioid use through an automated text messaging system and found that most opioids are taken in the first few days and may not be necessary to manage pain even just a week after a procedure.

The results of this study suggest that opportunities exist to tailor opioid prescriptions and reduce excess quantities of opioids prescribed.

JAMA Network Open
How Penn Medicine reimagined breast reconstruction

Penn Medicine's CARe program shifts care for autologous breast reconstruction from a high-touch clinic-based model to a digitally-enabled home-based strategy that ensures a more patient-centric return to independence.

In NEJM Catalyst, CARe's multidisciplinary team describes the iterative design approach they used to transform the recovery process to improve outcomes and quality of life.

NEJM Catalyst
Rapid implementation of a saliva-based COVID-19 screening program

Regular COVID-19 testing is a critical component for safe reopening. In a piece for NEJM Catalyst, members of the Nudge Unit team describe the design and implementation of Covid SAFE, a saliva-based SARS-CoV-2 surveillance testing program with automated screening and reporting.

NEJM Catalyst
March 2021 Month in Review

Each month, we round up news stories and publications about work happening across CHCI. Read the latest issue and subscribe to have the Month in Review sent directly to your inbox.

CHCI
Messaging can have a huge impact on vaccination rates

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 a flu shot was “waiting” or “reserved” for them proved most effective - boosting vaccination rates by up to eleven percent.

Penn Today
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 explains the low-tech and no-tech approaches the team employed to ensure equitable access to the clinic.

WHYY News
Can we nudge COVID-19 vaccination rates higher?

In a viewpoint for Nature, Mitesh Patel shares suggestions for nudges that public health agencies can incorporate into COVID-19 vaccine-rollout to encourage uptake.

Examples include framing vaccination as the default, providing peer-comparisons, and making choices active and time-bound. Patel says testing approaches like these will enable institutions to identify successful strategies and suss out efforts that perform poorly so that processes can be optimized.

Nature
February 2021 Month in Review

Each month, we round up news stories and publications about work happening across CHCI. Read the latest issue and subscribe to have the Month in Review sent directly to your inbox.

CHCI
Leveraging innovation methods to reduce avoidable ED visits

In Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation, members of our team describe a 3-year journey to apply innovation principles to understand drivers of avoidable emergency department use, develop a telemedicine-based solution, and operationalize the service.

The final product, Penn Medicine OnDemand, is now available to over 60,000 Penn Medicine employees and their family members.

Healthcare
Default opt-out of cardiac rehabilitation increases referrals

Cardiac rehabilitation can be life-saving but is historically underused across the country. Researchers from the Nudge Unit have devised a way to fix that.

In a new study, the team found that making doctors opt-out from prescribing cardiac rehabilitation instead of opting in increased referrals by roughly 70 percent.

Penn Medicine
Public health messaging in an era of social media

Raina Merchant, Eugenia South, and Nicole Lurie share four strategies to advance public health messaging amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The experts advise deploying countermeasures for misinformation, surveillance of digital data to inform messaging, partnering with trusted messengers, and promoting equity through messaging.

JAMA
Monitoring patients leads to a fourfold decline in rehospitalizations
Enrolling hip and knee replacement patients in HomeConnect+, an automated hovering program that remotely monitored their recovery, led to a fourfold decline in rehospitalizations.
 
The program used wearable step counters and conversational text messaging powered by Way to Health to keep tabs on patients after surgery. Just three percent of HomeConnect+ patients returned to the hospital after surgery, compared to 12 percent of patients not enrolled in the program. 
Penn Medicine
Secure funding and support for your innovative project

Have an idea to transform health care? Need help getting it off the ground? We are currently accepting applications for our Innovation Accelerator Program and Health-Tech Design and Development programs.

Visit the Acceleration Lab website to learn more about the support we offer teams and start your application today.

Acceleration Lab
You're more likely to die of COVID if your hospital is crowded and stressed

According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, COVID-19 mortality in hospitals seems to be lower when the prevalence of COVID-19 in the surrounding community is lower.

David Asch and Rachel Werner discuss the study's findings and call for citizens to do their part to keep case rates down in this opinion piece for USA Today.

USA TODAY
Study uncovers inequity in access to telemedicine

A study published in JAMA Network Open found that older people, minorities, non-English speakers, and those with lower incomes face inequities in accessing telemedicine for primary care and specialty ambulatory care during COVID-19.

The authors urge that as health systems develop and refine their telemedicine practice, they prioritize those who have been historically marginalized.

JAMA Network Open
How health systems can build a culture of anti-racism

In Penn Today, Eugenia South, Paris Butler, and Raina Merchant discuss how health systems can use their power, might, and resources to foster racial equality. 

Penn Today
Digital health tools offer new opportunities for personalized care

Digital health interventions often fail to create sustained behavior change for patients. A key reason for this is that many programs offer a one-size-fits-all approach to diverse populations with different motivations and values.

In Harvard Business Review, Mitesh Patel and Shirley Chen explain how behavioral phenotyping could be applied to make digital health solutions more personalized and effective. The piece references several Nudge Unit studies as examples.

Harvard Business Review
Sneak preview of what's in store for the Nudge Unit in 2021

It's a new year, and the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit has a lot in store for 2021.

In a recent blog post, Mitesh Patel previewed studies the team will be releasing results from soon, including the largest-ever communication research study aimed at increasing flu vaccinations. The team hopes the results of the study will be well-timed to assist with encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations.

Mitesh Patel Blog
PCORI approves $23 million for seven COVID-19 research studies

Funding has been awarded from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to evaluate the use of COVID Watch, focusing on whether it reduces disparities in care among Black and Latino patients. The study will assess COVID Watch with and without the use of fingertip pulse oximetry. 

Penn Medicine
Mining social media to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic

Social media platforms can be leveraged to identify trends across the country. With this in mind, researchers from the Center for Digital Health have launched a tool to track self-reported COVID-19 symptoms and real-time sentiment trends on Twitter.

The dashboard, created in partnership with the World Well-Being Project, pulls between four and five million coronavirus-related tweets a day using the Twitter API. Users can view confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita, top symptom mentions, changes in language about stress, anxiety, and overall sentiment of the pandemic, and more. 

Twitter Developer
Insights and outcomes from the first 3,000 patients on COVID Watch

In a piece for NEJM Catalyst, our team members discuss how COVID Watch, an automated text messaging system powered by Way to Health, remotely monitors patients with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 at home and quickly supports worsening patients with human care.

NEJM Catalyst
Increased demand for advanced care planning

It is estimated that one in five adults who develops COVID-19 symptoms will end up in a hospital, and one in 20 may experience respiratory failure requiring a mechanical ventilator.

While many Americans put off or forgo filing advanced directives altogether, COVID-19 has pushed the need for these essential documents to the forefront. In a study published in JAMA Network Open, our team members discuss how directive completion on Penn Medicine's homegrown platform, Our Care Wishes, has increased fivefold since the pandemic hit.

Penn LDI
Five lessons from Penn Medicine's crisis response

Investment in innovation enabled Penn Medicine to respond quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leveraging an iterative process, we worked with clinical and operational teams from across the health system to design, validate, and scale much-needed services with urgency, decreasing deployment time from months to days or hours.

In Harvard Business Review, members of our team share lessons from Penn Medicine's crisis response.

Harvard Business Review