A natural language processing (NLP) technology from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) helps to deliver an after-visit summary for virtual and telehealth visits, all with the aim of improving patient activation, education, and engagement in care.
The technology, developed in partnership between the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh and with investments from UPMC, sets to improve a patient’s understanding of her own medical care.
Previous data indicates that, without prompting, patients remember only about half of what they hear during medical appointments. This could be attributable to a number of factors. The medical information presented to patients may be overly complex, and when patients don’t understand it to begin with, they may be likely to forget.
Patient emotions in the medical setting are heightened, while the clinic itself is host to several distractions, both also contributing to poor patient retention of medical information.
This trend is also true for telehealth, which can come with its own set of challenges, according to Shiv Rao, MD, a UPMC cardiologist, one of the co-founders of the technology, titled Abridge.
“When you’re stressed and anxious — as many of us are during the coronavirus pandemic — it’s easy to forget the many small details that are crucial to maintaining our health and well-being,” Rao said in a statement. “We hope that Abridge will help people stay on top of their health, from home to hospital.”
This comes as UPMC and healthcare organizations across the country are ramping up their telehealth visits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth has helped medical professionals address patient needs remotely, reducing the risk that both patient and provider contract the illness.
At UPMC specifically, telehealth visits have increased by 3,700 percent in recent weeks, increasing from 250 virtual visits each day in March to nearly 9,500 daily in May.
And while that increase in remote patient access has been a good thing both for capping the virus spread and delivering convenient patient care, it has also presented some challenges. As noted above, it can be difficult for a patient to remember content from a medical appointment, especially via telehealth.
The NLP technology helps address that issue by recording the patient-provider interaction, after first obtaining consent from both the patient and the provider. Using the NLP technology, the tool transcribes any of the medically relevant parts of the visit and provides a summary for the patient and provider to access afterwards.
The technology automatically initiates recordings when providers conduct a phone visit using a number generated from Abridge. When patients access a video visit, they themselves may initiate the recording.
The tool also provides links to patients to follow-up with after the visit and pushes the after-visit summary to patients via text message. In the future, the tool’s developers plan to integrate the technology with UPMC’s EHR, allowing patients to access the after-visit summaries via the patient portal.
This after-visit summary technology is just another way technology has helped fill in the gaps during the medical emergency, UPMC experts said.
“Living through this crisis, we understood we needed a new way to communicate with our patients,” Suresh Mulukutla, MD, a cardiologist at UPMC who also analyzes clinical data across the system to identify opportunities to improve care, explained. “Abridge allows us a unique mechanism to stay connected with patients even beyond the actual visit.”
Ensuring patient access to an adequate after-visit summary is essential to drumming up patient engagement in the long-term. Patient education is vital to several key engagement strategies, as patients who understand their own health better are more likely to be able to take control of their own health.
Shared decision-making, for example, is challenging to practice when the patient is unable to recall some of her prior appointments. In addition to certain decision aids and patient education tools, after-visit summaries play a hand in arming patients with the knowledge needed to make their own medical decisions with clinician input and guidance.
As the industry begins to embrace telehealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — and increased use is slated to continue after experts have put a lid on the virus — these automated technologies for generating after-visit summaries may see an added role.