BUFFALO, N.Y. – Listen to your mother.
The age-old advice helps explain why seven University at Buffalo
doctoral candidates, at the request of Rep. Chris Collins,
R-Clarence, will speak to members of Congress about an
award-winning smartphone app they are developing.
Dubbed “Discharge Roadmap,” the app is a mobile
platform designed to help patients and their caregivers more
effectively navigate the health care system upon being discharged
from a hospital. While still a work in progress, it could help
reduce avoidable hospital readmissions, which cost Medicare more
than $17 billion annually, according to the Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services.
Sabrina Casucci, leader of the UB team, realized such an app was
needed after talking to her mother, who, as the caregiver for two
elderly family members, found the hospital discharge system
inefficient and time-consuming.
“My mom really struggled navigating the health care
system. And I know she isn’t the only one,” said
Casucci, who will travel to the District of Columbia with Dapeng
Cao, Theresa Guarrera, David LaVergne, Nicolette McGeorge, Judith
Tiferes-Wang and Yuan Zhou.
All are PhD candidates in Industrial and Systems Engineering, a
department of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who
study health systems and how people interact with computers.
Their work caught the attention of Collins, who has long
advocated for government reform, particularly ways to curb
unnecessary spending. Discharge Roadmap’s promise, combined
with the team’s entrepreneurial zeal, led the congressman to
invite the team to appear before the House of
Representatives’ Small Business Subcommittee on Health and
Technology, of which Collins serves as chairman, on June 27.
“Unnecessary hospital readmission is a major problem for
patients, caregivers and federal taxpayers,” Collins said.
“The UB team is an example of how entrepreneurs are changing
and improving health care through innovations in mobile medical
applications or apps. I am proud the talent of these UB students
will be on display in Washington and I look forward to welcoming
them to subcommittee hearing.”
The UB team is expected to be one of several groups testifying
before the subcommittee, which examines how health care policies
inhibit or promote economic growth and job creation by small
businesses. The students will give a brief overview of Discharge
Roadmap and then show the subcommittee members how it would work. A
question-and-answer session will follow.
The team began work on Discharge Roadmap last November after GE
Healthcare in partnership with Ochsner Health System launched a
contest calling for apps that improve patient and family
experiences during hospital visits.
Students focused on readmission rates because studies show that
poor communication between hospitals, patients (especially elderly
patients) and their post-hospital caregivers too often result in
patients being readmitted for the same condition within 30 days of
their initial discharge.
“This is a nationwide problem that hospitals are working
to remedy,” said Li Lin, UB professor of industrial and
systems engineering and an advisor to the team. “Discharge
Roadmap and similar tools could potentially help save billions of
dollars annually in avoidable health care costs.”
The app would give users access via their smartphone to
post-hospital care instructions, educational materials and other
important information. It could also be used to coordinate plans
between doctors, the patient and their caretaker.
The idea impressed the competition’s judges, who awarded
the team second prize and $25,000. Emboldened by their success, the
team continues to refine Discharge Roadmap with the possibility of
launching it as a commercial product.