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Allegheny Health Network Launches Leadership in Digital Health Initiative to Improve Patient Safety, Convenience and Personalized Care

A patient arrives in a hospital emergency room badly injured and unconscious. The Emergency Department team must work quickly to save the patient’s life, often while knowing nothing about his or her medical history. Is the patient diabetic? On blood-thinning medication? Have heart disease?

The Leadership in Digital Health Initiative at Allegheny Health Network (AHN), funded by a $133,000 Innovation Grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, aims to create a wearable technology or application that would securely hold elements of a patient’s personal health history. It could be quickly accessed by AHN clinicians, to streamline and improve patients’ healthcare experience and outcome.

Application developers, students, IT professionals and others are invited to participate in the AHN Chip Challenge beginning February 24, 2017 and concluding on September 15, 2017. The top ten final teams will present their ideas for design, with the winner receiving a $10,000 cash prize.

Information on entering the contest is available at:

“We need to make accessing medical care as simple and convenient as possible,” said Paul Porter, MD, MBA, emergency medicine physician and Department Director at AHN’s Allegheny General Hospital. “The chip that we envision would improve patient care quality and safety by providing critical personal health information in an emergency when patients are not able to do so themselves. Similar to other innovative retail experiences, patients may one day be able, just by arriving at an emergency department, have their medical information immediately accessible to the care team. The chip could also access patient information similar to the secure storage offered by Apple Health Kit.”

The Leadership in Digital Health Initiative also aims to advance AHN’s leadership in telemedicine by developing a digital health and informatics education program for Emergency Medicine residents. This includes the establishment of a Graduate Medical Education course for residents, physicians and midlevel providers.

“The goal of the educational program is to ensure AHN clinicians understand the safe practice, regulations, promise, and application of telemedicine,” Dr. Porter said. “With the AHN Chip Challenge, we hope to engage the tech community in designing the most state-of-the-art technology for our providers and patients.”

Participants will be invited to design a wearable device or app that allows patients’ to seamlessly scan updated information into AHN’s electronic health records system. The app could also include ways to engage patients who have difficulty reading or need a translation service.

In addition to Dr. Porter, the Digital Health Initiative is led by AHN emergency medicine physicians and staff including Matthew Bauer, David Chuirazzi, MD; Shiv Dau MD; John O’Neill, MD; and Julia Ryan. In addition to serving as director and vice chair of the department of emergency medicine at AHN, Dr. Porter was formerly director of special projects and telemedicine at Brown University and began using telemedicine while serving with the U.S. Army in Baghdad.

The Leadership in Digital Health Initiative builds on existing successful telehealth initiatives at AHN, including the AGH Telestroke Service and eVisits, in which patients can receive care for non-urgent health problems without leaving their homes. The Digital Health Initiative would further improve patient safety, convenience and personalized care, and help keep patients in their communities by virtually bringing AHN specialists to their bedsides.

“Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is pleased to support Allegheny Health Network through this grant, which aims to find new ways to simplify and enhance the patient health care experience,” said Neil Parham, director of community affairs, Highmark Health. “We share the same mission of ensuring access to quality health care for the people in our communities, and this initiative will help patients get the best and safest care possible.”

“Telemedicine is an increasingly important part of healthcare access, and enables healthcare providers to improve their patients’ health and access to care by providing remote diagnosis, disease management and consumer outreach over secure networks,” Dr. Porter said. “This grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield advances AHN’s leadership in telemedicine and improving patient safety and access to quality health care.”

About the Allegheny Health Network:
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.ORG), part of Highmark Health, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is comprised of eight hospitals, including its flagship academic medical center Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Valley Hospital, Canonsburg Hospital, Forbes Hospital, Jefferson Hospital, Saint Vincent Hospital, Westfield Memorial Hospital and West Penn Hospital; an employed physician organization, a research institute, health + wellness pavilions, home and community-based health services and a group purchasing organization. The Network employs approximately 17,500 people, and has more than 2,100 physicians on its medical staff. The Network also serves as a clinical campus for Temple University School of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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