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April 16, 2013 // By Kim Menard // Comments

Gadgets to Seamlessly Integrate Health Apps Into Daily Life

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In early April, Penn Medicine hosted a fast-paced lightning round of presentations highlighting new and emerging technology being used inside and outside the Health System that may help patients and medical professionals alike. “Connected health” is about continuous sensing and monitoring to enable early detection, diagnosis and intervention, and improving outcomes at lower cost.  Alternating between internal and external projects, the presenters brought their best ideas and applications to share, explaining how these new devices fit within the existing health care system and, in some cases, how they stretch the boundaries and may change the way healthcare is delivered.

David Asch and Bill Hanson interact with the latest health innovations at Penn Medicine's Connected Health Symposium.

"We wanted a chance to bring some of the best innovations from industry and from within Penn Medicine together, to share ideas, connect like-minded groups, and explore new ways we can use technology now and in the future to improve patient care and convenience and lower costs," said Bill Hanson, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer for the University of Pennsylvania Health System and professor of Anesthesiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsyvania. The event was organized by the Penn Medicine Center for Innovation and moderated by David Asch, MD, MBA, Professor of Health Care Management and Executive Director of Penn Medicine's Center for Innovation, as well as Roy Rosin, MBA, Chief Innovation Officer at Penn Medicine's Center for Innovation and former Vice President for Innovation at the software company Intuit.

From a GPS-enabled inhaler gadget and app that can trace asthma triggers, to a cell phone app to help diabetes patients manage their disease, the latest apps were on display. Telemedical robots meandered down the exhibit space in the Smilow Center for Translational Research while hundreds of attendees bounced between the 10-minute lectures and the exhibit area

A handful of Penn Medicine innovations were on display, including Penn's AccessDerm and Telestroke programs:

New App Brings Dermatology Consults to City Health Clinics

Penn Dermatologists are assisting health clinics across the city by using a new app to help diagnosis skin conditions. Just last week, a case of invasive melanoma was identified through the AccessDerm program at one of the city health clinics.

For the last five years, Penn's Carrie Kovarik, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, has led efforts to connect doctors from around the world (e.g. Botswana, Egypt, Uganda and Guatemala) with Penn Dermatologists, to assist physicians in diagnosing and providing treatment recommendations for various skin conditions. Now, the AccessDerm program has been rolled out at more than 25 clinics throughout the city. Patients who come with dermatologic conditions to many of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health clinics, Sayre Health Center, and Jonathan Lax Center can now get a second opinion seamlessly.

The Penn team is working with local partners to study the impact of teledermatology on patients with dermatologic conditions seen in the primary care setting, and on patient access to specialty care. In addition to urban efforts, work is also being done to see how rural patients may be able to better served through a teledermatology program like this.

Telestroke Program Increases "Golden Hour" Access to Stroke Care by 40 Percent

Telestroke programs substantially improve access to life-saving stroke care, extending coverage to less populated areas in an effort to reduce disparities in stroke care access. A new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that telemedicine programs in Oregon pushed stroke coverage into previously uncovered, less populated areas and expanded coverage by approximately 40 percent.

The telestroke component of the Penn Neuro Rescue program provides Penn’s comprehensive neurovascular expertise to affiliated hospitals throughout the region through live, remote consults, enabling the Penn neurological emergency team to diagnose and treat strokes 24/7 in affiliated hospitals and transferring those who need surgery and/or specialized neurointensive critical care to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), the Philadelphia region's first and only Joint Commission-certified Comprehensive Stroke Center.

Innovators and leaders discussed ways technology can improve and extend the care provided to patients - like Penn's eICU program which provides an extra set of eyes to help apply best practices and improve outcomes in complex cases. Some novel emerging projects generated quick buzz, including a physical therapy program under development that uses Microsoft Kinect to help physical therapists get instant feedback on their patients' mobility, strength and balance.

Video game-enabled applications may provide instant feedback to medical professionals.


To end the day, Ralph Muller, CEO of Penn Medicine, encouraged attendees "to think about promoting health as well as advancing the technologies available to people when they are sick. We know that humans don't like being hovered over all the time, and how are they going to react to more continuous and powerful information? In medicine, people want a human touch as well as all this information, so one of the things we have to think about is how to translate this to people."

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