Penn Medicine has found a digital workflow solution that departments have eagerly adopted

Penn Medicine created a custom digital workflow platform designed to improve care and break down silos to improve patient care. a vast majority of departments voluntarily adopted the platform.

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Continuity of care can prove challenging, from shift to shift, not to mention when a variety of specialists are involved. Even with traditional EHRs to document updates for each patient, issues arise since EHRs contain siloed information. Penn Medicine sought to address this by designing a digital workflow system. Four years after its implementation, 94% of available departments are now using it, according to a study detailing the system’s design, implementation, and efficacy.

In other words, 159 of a possible 169 primary inpatient services across Penn Medicine’s city hospitals had voluntarily adopted this digital workflow tool by 2020. Its success resulted in CareAlign to be spun out of Penn Medicine to become a standalone company. [In the study, the digital workflow tool is referred to as carelign.]

“What we needed to do was create a workflow tool that was designed well enough that not only was it easy to use, but people would want to use it,” said Roy Rosin, chief innovation officer in the Center for Health Care Innovation and a co-author on the research paper, in a statement. “This can be hard in health care, where staff have so many priorities to attend to. But we believe that these numbers show that we succeeded.”

Philadelphia-based CareAlign’s system updates in real time, allowing for disparate care teams to collaborate in one place, without information being siloed. In practice, CareAlign works as a project management system for doctors, clinicians, and nurses from all departments to collaborate on a given patient’s health and care plan. Historically such care coordination “to do” items would rely on paper, emails, texts, or even potentially faxes. As a result, certain items and care tasks could be overlooked, or lost in error.

“There are over 5,000 clinicians using CareAlign. And when we survey them, 75% can point to at least one occasion where they would have made an error if it were not for CareAlign,” said Dr. Subha Airan-Javia, CEO of CareAlign, in an email provided by a representative. “There is also evidence that CareAlign reduces readmissions by capturing more information as it unfolds. Every clinician’s goal is to provide better care and make less mistakes, which is our goal as well.”

CareAlign sees itself as the unification of EHRs, secure communication platforms, and population health software. EHRs (like Epic, Cerner, Allscripts) account for the fee-for-service space to ensure patient care is managed and then billed. The communications platforms — such as Vocera, TigerConnect, Halo — have real time communication between parties, but not always in a way that is organized. The third component, population health software (think Arcadia, Lightbeam Health Solutions, Innovaccer), flags groups of people and patterns requiring care, according to Airan-Javia.

“CareAlign unifies all of these thoughts and voices in an actionable, progressive way,” Airan-Javia said. “We don’t overlap with the other big players in the space, but rather they are our partners.”

CareAlign plans to move into both post-acute and ambulatory care markets, according to Airan-Javia.

“Unless [the digital workflow solution] is designed with the end user in mind, technology can make a clinician’s job harder or more cumbersome. That’s why it is often hard to get people to adopt,” commented Airan-Javia. “In contrast, CareAlign is designed to automate tasks that were previously manual and it encourages information sharing among teams. It reduces cognitive load instead of increasing it, so the data shows us people want to use it. Unlike most healthcare technology, we did not have to convince people to use it; the majority of usage has been organic growth.”

Photo: nito100, Getty Images