BUFFALO, N.Y. – A team of University at Buffalo
engineering students won $25,000 for designing a mobile app that
aims to reduce hospital readmission rates by ensuring that patients
receive appropriate care upon being discharged.
The students took part in a contest, sponsored by GE Healthcare
in partnership with Ochsner Health System, which asked participants
to develop an app which improved patient and family experiences
during hospital visits.
The UB team included seven Industrial and Systems Engineering
doctoral candidates who are studying health systems and how people
interact with computers.
The students focused on readmission rates because studies show
that miscommunication between hospitals, patients (especially
elderly patients) and their post-hospital caregivers too often
result in patients being readmitted for the same condition days
after their initial discharge.
“This has become a very big issue for hospitals and
patients,” said Sabrina Casucci, leader of the UB team, which
included Dapeng Cao, Theresa Guarrera, David LaVergne, Nicolette
McGeorge, Judith Tiferes-Wang and Yuan Zhou.
For example, 18 percent of Medicare hospital admissions in 2008
resulted in a subsequent readmission within 30 days costing $15
million, according to a 2008 report to Congress by the Medical
Payment Advisory Commission. The report states that 80 percent of
the readmissions could have been avoided with better post discharge
Seeing an opportunity to reduce the readmission rate, the UB
team conceived the app, called “Discharge Roadmap,”
after the competition was announced in November.
The app allows patients and their caregivers to fully
participate in the discharge planning process, Casucci said. It
provides a convenient and stress free way to learn about proper
health management, assess personal health care needs, and
communicate care preferences to hospital and community-based care
providers, she said.
The goal is to ultimately improve the hospital discharge
planning process by reducing patient readmissions, she said.
The team’s submission to the contest’s first round
was selected as the first place winner out of more than 100 entries
from around the world. It earned the team a $5,000 prize. Judges
congratulated the team’s “strong recognition of the
problem and its impact” on patients and their families.
Noting that the competition was open to professionals –
not just students – the UB team was surprised and motivated
to build upon their success, Casucci said.
The team refined the app for the next competition rounds,
researching hospital readmissions and designing app features that
could reduce the problem.
“The idea is to have an app that will improve the patient
experience and, ultimately, reduce the operating costs of hospitals
and insurance companies,” Li Lin, UB professor of industrial
and systems engineering, who advised the students.
Judges awarded the team second prize, which carried a $20,000
“I was really surprised that we got into the finals
– I wasn’t expecting that,” said Tiferes-Wang,
who plans to use some of the prize money to pay for a plane ticket
to see her family in Argentina.
Casucci said team members are continuing to work on the app and
may attempt to commercialize it.