Given the size of Pittsburgh-based UPMC, it had become increasingly challenging to effectively communicate consistent education messages, particularly around the topic of childbirth, to all patients across the health system.
By handing patients a large folder of printed materials that were not necessarily targeted to their needs, UPMC ran the risk of driving them away from approved information and onto the Internet, where the information they find may not be accurate.
The U.S. Department of Labor found that mothers make approximately 80% of healthcare decisions for their families, so engaging them is key for health systems to retain and grow patient populations.
UPMC had several different sources of information for pregnant patients, creating a confusing landscape. Staff knew their maternity patients were highly engaged with MyUPMC, the patient portal, so they wanted to leverage that engagement to have a one-stop shop for information and educational resources.
UPMC did not want to have to onboard providers or patients to multiple different systems. So the health system looked at digital health platform vendor Xealth, which said it would provide UPMC with a single point of entry for both groups to prescribe and use educational materials.
“Xealth offered the ability to integrate with our Epic EHR, sending content seamlessly from the platform, where providers already are used to working,” said Dr. Glenn Updike, medical director of clinical informatics for the women’s health service line at UPMC. “Providers would feel like they are sending materials from Epic, but Xealth would actually be collating information from vendors and UPMC alike into one streamlined package.”
“Do a deep dive with education experts, providers and patients to understand their needs and continuously monitor engagement, and adjust content accordingly, based on what patients like.”
Dr. Glenn Updike, UPMC
On the patient side, Xealth could integrate with MyUPMC, and patients could use a familiar platform to access best-in-class content that UPMC’s education experts review and approve, he added. This would provide staff with a way to make sure a patient in Pittsburgh receives the same information as a patient in Williamsport.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
In 2020, patients expect to use digital health tools to interact with their providers, and the use of an innovative educational platform during pregnancy is one of the ways UPMC engages women in their care and creates lasting relationships with them and their families, Updike said.
“There is no shortage of information on the Internet related to pregnancy. But as healthcare providers, we want to be good stewards of information for our patients, providing timely, accurate content that is of value to them personally, while avoiding information overload,” he added.
UPMC has a foundation of three bundles of information that all pregnant patients receive, one for each trimester, and at any point during pregnancy, the provider can search the Xealth library via the EHR for additional content that is relevant to their patient’s specific needs. Updike said there is content from vendors readily available when he has needed to provide supplemental, expanded information for his patients.
“All digital content and services are delivered via MyUPMC, which most women already are using to interact with their providers throughout pregnancy,” Updike explained. “They do not have to download any additional applications to access the information prescribed to them, which reduces confusion.
“While patients are not required to download additional apps to access their educational information, one of the successes of our Xealth implementation is our ability to prescribe monitoring apps for patients to better track their individual pregnancy experience,” he continued. “Xealth has allowed us to rapidly scale the prescription of this type of content because of the integration into the EHR.”
For providers, the patient education technology helps to avoid the burnout they experience when they are required to switch between multiple applications. Beyond normal processes for sharing the trimester bundles, the staff has used Xealth during the COVID-19 pandemic to rapidly onboard patients to telemedicine. The platform allowed staff to share instructions for virtual visits with patients automatically at the time they scheduled. The staff continues to do a lot of prenatal care through video visits.
“In the last three years, we have been continuously working with the Xealth team to make the most of our partnership,” Updike said. “The technology has been used across UPMC by thousands of providers to make 1.1 million digital health prescriptions to patients. More than 40% of those patients have engaged with at least one content item. Throughout the health system, about 60,000 unique patients a month are prescribed content through the platform.”
One of the most extensive ways UPMC is using the patient education technology is for digital health prescriptions of bundles of trimester-specific educational materials for pregnant women. Staff have achieved a 39.3% engagement rate on more than 75,000 maternity bundles prescribed.
“Since the Xealth integration with the MyUPMC app, the health system has experienced a significant increase in patients engaging with content,” he added. “These connections are leading to strengthened ties between doctors and patients, creating a better overall experience.”
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
“Other health systems looking to implement this type of technology should first assemble their content experts to make sure they are providing patients with timely and relevant information,” Updike advised. “Do a deep dive with education experts, providers and patients to understand their needs, and continuously monitor engagement and adjust content accordingly based on what patients like.”
For UPMC, patients seem to engage with succinct, shorter content compared to long, detailed videos. They also seem to be more likely to engage with content that is specific to UPMC and its service lines.
“My other piece of advice is to look for any opportunities possible to take the human element out of the equation and automate the delivery of the content,” he concluded. “Look for tools that allow you to implement automatic triggers, such as appointment type and gestational age, to prescribe content without the provider needing to do so manually.”