Penn Medicine’s Information Services (IS) department provides information technology support to the entire health system. Comprised of many different groups, IS has been particularly successful in improving clinicians’ use of the electronic health record and leveraging health records to improve disease treatment and enhance clinician workflows. All of these efforts are grounded in careful data analysis and collaboration: it takes a combination of clinical and technical expertise to drive improvements in health care across the health system.
Not only are IS teams responsible for managing tremendous amounts of health data that gets entered into electronic systems each day, they are also charged with finding ways to leverage that data to advance clinical care and research.
Collaborations on health system initiatives, including with the Office of the Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) and many of the other groups involved in the Center for Applied Health Informatics, are a key part of the work done by IS teams each day.
For example, the Penn Medicine OnDemand Virtual Urgent Care program was developed to address the health care needs of Penn Medicine employees. Because visits were virtual, the Penn Medicine OnDemand practice made it easy for Penn Medicine staff to set up a telemedicine appointment that fit with their busy work schedule, sometimes even saving them a trip to the emergency room. Additionally, because Penn Medicine OnDemand visits did not require a copay, employees could seek care before health problems became more serious. The program saw dramatic results, including increased employee satisfaction and morale, and a reduction of more than $1.5 million in employee health care costs in 2019. The Penn Medicine OnDemand program has since expanded to care for patients who are not Penn Medicine employees, as well.
Four groups under the IS umbrella at Penn Medicine have been actively involved in the applied health informatics work that is driving major improvements in health care at Penn Medicine.
The PennChart team works within Penn Medicine’s enterprise electronic health record system. PennChart is Penn Medicine’s customized version of the EPIC electronic health record platform.
The PennChart team handles the day-to-day operation of the EHR, tracks and manages enhancement requests, and partners with health system teams on special projects, such as the integration of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania-Cedar Avenue campus in a mere six months following the announcement of the integration plan, and the unprecedented testing and vaccination initiatives that were required for Penn Medicine to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Data Analytics Center (DAC) is an enterprise-wide group focused on data warehousing, decision support, data exploration, and data presentation.
The DAC team is responsible for helping customers navigate through the challenges of requirements gathering and decision making, allowing them to arrive at the end-product —whether it is a complete dashboard solution, additions to the data warehouses, self-service tools, or an ad-hoc report request.
PennSeek is one of the data analytics tools that the DAC team has created. This award-winning search tool allows users to do a targeted search through a trove of medical data including patient demographics, outpatient encounters, pathology reports, and prescribed medications.
The Data Analytics Center leverages the health system’s massive stores of data to help everyone from corporate administration to researchers access data to make informed decisions in support of Penn Medicine’s mission.
The Application Development team does custom application development for Penn Medicine wherever there is a need that a vendor product cannot meet. The team has a long track record of creativity and ingenuity in developing solutions for health system needs.
The Application Development team collaborated with the Center for Health Care Innovation (CHCI) to create the ICU Board — a custom application that helps Intensive Care Unit (ICU) staff efficiently manage patients in the ICU. As part of the ICU board, the team created an algorithm that ingests 20 clinical data points and predicts when a patient can safely discontinue mechanical ventilation, sending a secure text message notification to ICU doctors.
Application Development also designed the footwall monitor display that will keep patients hospitalized in the HUP Pavilion up-to-date on their care by providing information such as the names of the clinicians caring for them and key goals for the day.
Predictive Healthcare is a cross-functional team that solves problems in health care using artificial intelligence.
With access to historical and current data and advanced technologies, the team designs and deploys advanced algorithms to analyze data and reveal previously unseen patterns.
One such project was Conversation Connect, which identified cancer patients at a high risk of dying in the next six months. After identifying these patients, the Conversation Connect system sent a message to the patient’s doctor just before the next appointment urging them to initiate an end-of-life conversation with that patient.
Remarkably, doctors notified about these patients were almost four times as likely to have an end-of-life care conversation as those doctors received no such notification. Having those end-of-life conversations in a timely way can help the patient and their loved ones make better informed decisions about their care. It can also save patients from the pain and suffering associated with unnecessary medical interventions, and can help the health system avoid the significant costs of those interventions.