Innovation Competition Aims to Improve Patient Engagement, Provider Communication

A hospital-led innovation competition aims to engage both the external tech community and hospital staff in a collaborative effort to think outside the box.

When New York-Presbyterian Hospital launched InnovateNYP Open Challenge, a 10-week challenge to develop innovative technology solutions aimed at enhancing patient care and provider communication, it did so to engage both its external tech community and its hospital staff in a collaborative effort to think outside the box.

But it was also aware of the bigger picture.

“I think this relates a little to the state of healthcare information technology,” said Aurelia Boyer, MSN, MBA, chief information officer at NYP. “The industry has been busy rolling out electronic medical records. But that’s just an electronic version of a medical record, and doesn’t solve all of the problems we have in healthcare.”

Communicate, Not Just Document

Boyer says that looking back in healthcare history, the first written medical record was created as a communication tool between caregivers. Today, however, the EMR is much more about compliance and other aspects of meeting regulatory requirements.

“If you’re the poor physician sitting in front of the patient, it’s pretty easy to say this isn’t helping me,” Boyer says. “And he’s correct. It isn’t helping him. It’s helping other things, but it isn’t helping him a lot.”

InnovateNYP is designed to change that. Boyer explains that collaboration and workflow are two key elements of the competition. She says much of what is being done in other industries, technology-wise, centers on fast workflow tools. And instead of designing one large workflow tool for the hospital that weaves in and out of an entire patient stay, it might be more effective to design a bunch of little workflow tools that focus on specific areas.

“I think as consumers we’re used to going in and out of multiple mini-apps,” Boyer says. “There is an opportunity to find that solution in healthcare right now.”

Successful Venture

InnovateNYP, which will award up to $25,000 in prizes for patient engagement and provider communication solutions, follows on the heels of last year’s successful hackathon. The weekend event invited developers to experience the hospital’s patient engagement tool, and then asked: What would you build around this if you had the opportunity to do so?

“Most of the patient engagement work up until that time had been very post discharge focused,” Boyer explains. “You can go to a portal and look at your record. We did that … did that change the world? Not really. It’s good you can see the record, and we’re all for giving people their records and allowing people to move their records, but how can you benefit from that while you’re an inpatient?”

The hackathon event produced many new ideas for using the patient engagement tool while in the hospital. The ideas included finding mentors who had the same medical experience, and earning points for complying with a plan of care, which have since been added to the hospital’s inpatient tablets.

Boyer is excited about the potential ideas that InnovateNYP will produce. Eighty-two submissions had been received during the first two weeks of the competition, and the hospital’s website challenge page had received more than 1,000 hits. Participants will work in teams to develop new ideas, an approach Boyer believes is essential to success.

“We want to bring in some of the NYP employees themselves who have ideas,” she explains. “But they need help hooking up with developers and designers and stuff so that together they can really make something useful for our institution as opposed to completely external. So I think in most cases, even if you don’t have an internal NYP person, you do need both developers and designers, and probably someone with a little healthcare knowledge.”

Financial Impact

Boyer says that in the present environment physicians often collaborate in an asynchronous manner, wasting a great deal of time getting back to one another. Making that process more efficient gives time back to physicians; time they can better utilize interacting with patients. That benefits both the physician and the patient.

“In healthcare we’re not making good use of that,” Boyer says. “Taking all of that waste out of the entire system can only benefit everybody financially. If we don’t find ways to do that, society is just going to keep looking at us and saying we’re going to decrease your reimbursement over and over. Well, that doesn’t help us. That will hurt in the long run.”

Will changing that cycle be a benefit? Absolutely, Boyer says.

“Medicine will be a more rewarding place and more effective,” she says. “We’ve been on a downward trend. I think we have to turn this around. There will be more satisfaction, and there will be more money in the system to be divided up in a better way.”