AGA Tech Summit

Adoption rates high for smartphone tool that prepares patients for procedures



SAN FRANCISCO – Patients are being better prepared for medical procedures, such as screening colonoscopy, through a new service based on smartphone texts that remind patients of steps to take prior to their procedure, according to a description at the 2019 AGA Tech Summit, sponsored by the AGA Center for GI Innovation and Technology.

“The reminders mean fewer no shows and fewer cancellations, but in the case of colonoscopy we are also seeing better rates of adequate bowel prep and lower rates of aborted procedures,” reported Andy Pfau, chief operating officer, RxHealth, New York.

The texts are based on a patient-care pathway integrated with the electronic medical record (EMR) system. In the case of colonoscopy, once a physician creates an appointment in the EMR for a colonoscopy and selects the bowel prep, the system takes over, automatically obtaining access to the patient’s cell phone number in order to send reminder texts at intervals relevant to their appointment.

“The texts provide links to additional information so that patients are not only reminded to begin their bowel prep but can access instructions and supportive educational material,” Mr. Pfau explained.

“The messaging is not just limited to reminders. We can provide driving and parking instructions. We have also partnered with ride sharing companies to make it easier for patients to get to the facility. We can adjust the platform in a variety of ways to help patients show up prepared for the procedure,” he added.

The commercial tool, known as RxUniverse, was a spin off of a program developed at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The problem of no shows and the importance of bowel prep makes this service particularly attractive in colonoscopy, according to Mr. Pfau, who cited data associating this tool with a 34% improvement in bowel preps and a more than 90% rate of patient satisfaction.

The same approach can and already is being employed in other procedures in GI, such as guiding patients scheduled for an upper endoscopy.

“We see a large role for this tool in comprehensive care plans because it is versatile and could be applied to a variety of care pathways, including forms of telemedicine, where timely communication through smartphone messaging could help patients adhere to goals of treatment,” Mr. Pfau said.

The tool can already be integrated with four EMR systems, including EPIC, but Mr. Pfau said the tool will ultimately be EMR agonistic according to current plans. While the company spun out of Mount Sinai in late 2016, RxHealth began marketing the RxUniverse prescription platform in earnest in 2018.

“In the last eight or so months, growth has been exponential,” Mr. Pfau said. In addition to growth in the U.S., the program is now being marketed overseas. He named several large medical systems that have already adopted the technology, including the Arizona Centers for Digestive Health and Yale New Haven Health. The American Gastroenterological Association, recognizing the value of this innovation for GI, has also partnered with RxHealth to help bring this product to its members.

As the automated pathway is integrated into existing EMR systems, the per-patient cost of the pathway is relatively low, according to Mr. Pfau. In situations in which the service increases the proportion of procedures completed successfully, it is reasonable to expect a highly favorable return on investment.

“There is a lot of interest in the potential of mobile devices to be employed in various ways to communicate and inform patients. This is part of that, and we think it is just the beginning. We are looking at a number of ways in which we can expand the platform and make it even more valuable,” Mr. Pfau said.

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