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New App Helps Patients Capture Telehealth Visits

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Wendy Zellner
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PITTSBURGH – A growing number of UPMC patients are able to revisit their physician’s instructions after a telehealth visit through a new collaboration with Abridge, a Pittsburgh-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to generate a “smart” after-visit summary for patients. The goal is to give patients a clearer and more complete understanding of their health — from diagnosis to next steps — while empowering them to take a more active role in their own care. 


Quickly responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, UPMC shifted much of its care delivery from in-person to virtual, ensuring the safety of both patients and clinicians. Telemedicine visits have increased 3,700% in a matter of weeks, going from about 250 encounters per day in March to as many as 9,500 per day by the end of April. 


With care rapidly shifting to smartphones, tablets and telephones, patients face new challenges in recalling doctors’ orders — particularly if they are distracted by the technology or activities in their homes. “Living through this crisis, we understood we needed a new way to communicate with our patients,” says Suresh Mulukutla, M.D., a cardiologist at UPMC who also analyzes clinical data across the system to identify opportunities to improve care. “Abridge allows us a unique mechanism to stay connected with patients even beyond the actual visit.”


UPMC’s partnership with Abridge addresses this potential communication gap. Abridge’s technology records each doctor’s visit and uses groundbreaking clinical natural-language processing to highlight key medical terms and next steps, enabling users to review important details.


“We’ve always prided ourselves on adopting innovative ways to provide patient-centered care — even in times of crisis,” said Tami Minnier, UPMC's chief quality officer. “Abridge helps us enhance the patient experience while also increasing health literacy and patient outcomes.” 


When used for some telephone visits at UPMC, Abridge allows doctors to simply call their patients through an Abridge-enabled phone number, without any special downloads by clinicians or complex technology integrations. With consent from both patient and physician, the calls are recorded, and medically relevant sections are automatically transcribed by Abridge for easy review and with helpful links to additional information. After the call is over, Abridge users receive a text message with information on how to access their summary via the Abridge app. For in-person or video appointments, patients can access the Abridge app on their smartphones or tablets to record the physician visit.


Based on UPMC’s experience with Abridge during COVID-19, UPMC and Abridge plan to soon move the summaries from phone visits into the electronic health record to better facilitate care coordination. 


Shivdev Rao release2Abridge, in which UPMC is an early investor, emerged from the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance, a collaboration between UPMC, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh that seeks to apply machine learning to health care challenges. Co-founded by Shiv Rao, M.D., a UPMC cardiologist, as well as Sandeep Konam and Florian Metze of Carnegie Mellon, the company aims to bring context and understanding to every medical conversation. 


Rao notes that the company was partially inspired by his own family experience with a rare disease, as well as his experiences as a physician. “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. We hope that Abridge will help people stay on top of their health, from home to hospital.”


Clinicians interested in learning more about Abridge can visit Patients can download Abridge for free on the App Store or Play Store.

IMAGE INFO: (click for high-res version)


CAPTION: Shiv Rao, M.D.