Way to Health

News and Press

Articles and news about our leadership, Way to Health and most importantly, projects powered by Way to Health.

Jun 28, 2021
Anatomy of a health conundrum: The racial gap in vaccinations

A retrospective on vaccination related disparities and the vaccination clinics W2H empowered from the perspective of a clinician. While we made things low / no-tech, it took a lot of tech in the background to make it seem as such. Perhaps that is the key learning, tech should be invisible and be there to support the process, not change it.

Apr 18, 2021
Philly clinic gives out more than 1,000 vaccine doses, bridging ‘digital divide’ with low-tech sign-up process, neighborhood locations

More coverage of the Community vaccination clinic efforts being undertaken at Penn Medicine in collaboration with Mercy Health and community organizations - faith based, schools and more. #intentionaleffort.

Mar 23, 2021
During the pandemic, text messaging has become a life-saving health-care service | Opinion

Great article on Watch specfically and texting programs in general that have helped keep patients safe and out of the hospital. Patients appreciate the ability to stay home but still monitored and connected to care teams, while the clinicians are comfortable that issues can be identified and addressed quickly and efficiently. Automation also saves the health system serious money, reducing the need for additional staffing. While some technology worsens disparities, simple texting programs appear to close the gap.

Mar 20, 2021
Mitesh Patel on Full Frontal by Samantha Bee

Quoting from the site - Despite more and more people becoming eligible for vaccination, it seems like vaccine distribution is operating way below “warp speed.” Sam talked to an independent pharmacist and the Director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit to see how the government could step up their game.

Feb 20, 2021
Wharton researchers think a specific text message could be key to getting more people vaccinated

Further coverage on the Flu vaccination mega study in Forbes. Here's a quote from the article - The researchers are optimistic that that what they've learned about the flu will help with COVID. "Our results suggest a promising way to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations at scale—we can potentially help save lives for less than 10¢ per person,” said Katy Milkman, Wharton professor, BCFG Co-Director, and lead author on the study. In the end, said Mitesh Patel, Penn Medicine Professor and PMNU Director, such seemingly small tweaks could "nudge vaccination rates higher and help us end this pandemic faster.”

Feb 19, 2021
Behavior Change for Good unveils effective strategies to boost vaccination rates

At Penn Medicine and Geisinger, BCFG conducted its study in collaboration with Christopher Chabris and Michelle Meyer (co-directors of the Geisinger Behavioral Insights Team). In the fall of 2020, close to 50,000 patients received one of 19 different messages prior to a healthy visit to their primary care provider. In the new study, roughly a third of the messages BCFG tested significantly increased flu shot uptake. The Penn and Geisinger studies were fully powered by Way to Health including integrations with the respective Epic based EHRs.

Feb 18, 2021
Penn Medicine Marks One Millionth Telemedicine Visit Since Start of COVID-19 Pandemic

After a rapid mobilization of its telemedicine infrastructure to ensure continuity of care for patients of all kinds during the hectic days of March 2020, Penn Medicine marked telemedicine visit number one million this week. COVID Watch has contributed in it's own small way by taking care of over 15,000 patients remotely.

Feb 14, 2021
Hospitals, churches partner for West Philly COVID-19 vaccine clinic to help vulnerable

Philadelphia data says African-Americans have the highest infection, hospitalization, and death rates in the city but only account for about 18% of vaccinations. Penn Medicine and the entire team partnered around this. Way to Health enabled the low tech / no-tech approach to try and insure maximum uptake.

Feb 13, 2021
Black church leaders, health systems organize mass vaccination site in West Philadelphia

More than 500 people registered to get vaccinated at a West Philadelphia church on Saturday, the first of three planned mass vaccination sites created by area hospitals in partnership with neighborhood faith leaders. This was done in partnership with multiple faith based and health care organizations - including Penn Medicine and Mercy Health. “We set forth on creating a clinic that would promote accessibility while using novel principles of no/low tech to ensure we would provide an environment in a day when anyone and everyone would have access to it,” said Dr, Kathleen Lee. “And use this concept to inform additional clinics.” W2H is proud to have supported this low tech / no-tech effort.

Dec 21, 2020
Monitoring Patients Remotely Leads to a Fourfold Decline in Returns to Hospital After Joint Replacements

Researchers saw a fourfold decline in the rate of patients who needed to go back to the hospital after total hip or knee replacements if they were enrolled in a program that used wearable step counters and conversational text messaging to keep tabs on recovery. The study was published in JAMA Network Open

Nov 16, 2020
Some COVID-19 patients aren’t getting better. Major medical centers are trying to figure out how to help.

Dr. Jessica Dine, a lung doctor at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, said she began noticing a subset of COVID-19 patients whose symptoms lingered long after their diagnoses thanks to a hospital program called COVID Watch, a texting service that does daily check-ins with COVID-19 patients at home.

Sep 23, 2020
Passionate Pioneers with Mike Biselli: Expert Coronavirus Updates with Dr. David Asch | Session 21

As we continue our fight against COVID-19, healthcare leaders and innovators are at the forefront of this battle to ensure we are equipped with the right arsenal to overcome one of the biggest public health crises of our lifetimes. Dr. David Asch, Executive Director of the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, and his team are among the leaders creating and implementing game-changing innovations during this pandemic. In this podcast, he dives deeply into Penn Medicine’s COVID Watch technology and their COBALT program.

Aug 20, 2020
$2.5 Million Grant Supports Penn Medicine Study of COVID Watch’s Impact on Health Disparities

Penn Medicine ’s COVID Watch team has received a $2.5 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the program’s impact, particularly among Black and Latinx patients whose communities have endured significant disparities during the pandemic.

Jun 1, 2020
How Innovation Helped Prepare for Pandemic

A write up on all the ways in which the Center for Health Care Innovation partnered with multiple groups across the health system to address pressing needs around remote monitoring, ED contactless registration, text-ins and more. Way to Health played a central role in multiple of these efforts.

May 22, 2020
Going to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms can be a tough call. This Penn text program makes it easier.

Patients can refrain from seeking care because of worries of contracting COVID-19. Penn developed a series of programs including COVID Watch to help alleviate this concern for both patients as well as physicians.

May 16, 2020
Rolling out COVID Watch to monitor patients At home (Podcast)

PennHealthX interviews medical director Anna U. Morgan MD about the challenges of implementing COVID Watch, and how patients have been responding.

Apr 29, 2020
Penn Medicine checks on self-isolated patients via daily texts

Penn Medicine’s COVID Watch system lets the health care team check up on a patient with just a couple of text messages each day. Two texts are sent out daily with a couple of questions designed to assess the patient’s medical condition.

Apr 15, 2020
Text-Based Platform Helps Penn Medicine Watch Over COVID-19 Patients Safe at Home

“We are going to have a lot of patients with coronavirus sheltering in place, and we need to give them the reassurance that Penn Medicine is watching over them,” said David Asch, MD, executive director of the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, reflecting on the thought process behind the tool’s development beginning in early March.

Feb 11, 2020
Patients Stick with Smartphone Activity Trackers Longer Than Wearable Devices

According to a new Penn Medicine Study, doctors who track their patients’ physical activity might have more luck doing it with smartphones than wearable fitness devices. “Most people with smartphones take them everywhere they go. Since carrying the phone is already a built-in habit, it makes it much easier to use the device to track activity levels,” says Mitesh Patel, the director of Penn Medicine’s Nudge Unit. Read on to find out how this improves remotely monitoring patient behaviors.

Dec 19, 2019
How can the science of motivation help transform care delivery?

What is the role of human behavior in healthcare? Looking at both patients and physicians, David Asch discussed at the Siemens Healthineers Executive Summit 2019 the science of motivation and the role played by education, rewards (including financial incentives), and simple design changes in technology in transforming care delivery.

Dec 19, 2019
Texting to the rescue

A team at Penn Medicine may have found a way to save hundreds of new moms’ lives with a simple—but incredibly effective—tool. A write-up of the success of the Heart Safe Motherhood program powered by Way to Health which goes into a lot more detail about the program, its origins, success to date and future plans

Oct 30, 2019
3 ways healthcare leaders can encourage experimental innovation

"Successful innovation requires experimentation," the article's authors concluded. "But healthcare change requires we tinker with the healthcare system we depend on, affecting critical resources organizations understandably protect. To support the people determined to drive change quickly, we need to find ways to bend institutional norms safely." Authors include David Asch, Roy Rosin and Kevin Mahoney. Several of the programs referenced use Way to Health.

Oct 2, 2019
Adding fun and competition to wearable device may improve exercise results, finds JAMA study

Another reference the JAMA study using Way to Health. “Most interventions are designed as one-size-fits-all, in which a single intervention is deployed to a large population,” said Patel. “Even if the program works on average, many participants may not benefit. Our next step will be to use data from this trial to develop behavioral profiles that could be used in the future to match the right intervention to the right person.”

Sep 17, 2019
Philadelphia, Camden groups win grants to fight maternal mortality

The Health Federation of Philadelphia and its partners plan to increase women’s access to childbirth coaches called doulas. Another piece of the plan involves sending new mothers who have cardiovascular disease home with a blood pressure monitor and phone app, called Heart Safe Motherhood, developed at the University of Pennsylvania.

Sep 11, 2019

“We found that a behaviorally designed gamification program led to significant increases in physical activity compared to a control group that used wearable devices alone. During the nine-month trial, the average person in the competition arm walked about 100 miles more than the average person in control.” says Mitesh Patel, the director of Penn Medicine’s Nudge Unit and an assistant professor of medicine and health care management.

Sep 3, 2019
ColoPrep: Interview on JAMA Network Open

Interview by lead author - Shivan Mehta, on success of the ColoPrep study.

Aug 1, 2019
Tackling Texting While Driving: ‘The Decision to Reach for That Phone Can Be Impulsive’

Years of treating people who have been hurt in distracted driving crashes is a big reason why Delgado is researching this topic. He’s heading up a multimillion-dollar grant, one of the largest ever funded by the federal government, to figure out the best ways to use technology to help drivers put down their phones. The research team includes experts from the fields of medicine, behavioral economics, psychology, insurance and technology. They hope their work leads to the development of more smartphone programs that can nudge drivers into the correct behavior, like apps that automatically switch on to prevent incoming notifications while in the car.

Jul 19, 2019
HiMSS: Learning from Patient Behavior to Improve Outcomes

Way to Health co-founder, Steering Committee member and executive director at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, Dr. David Asch is interviewed about behavioral economics, medication adherence, loss framing, patient and clinician behavior, and more.

Jul 1, 2019
Researchers helping underserved communities quit smoking

“We wanted to really focus on people for whom access to available smoking cessation interventions tends to be least, because that’s where the health consequences tend to be greatest.” said Dr. Scott Halpern. The Vitality study and an upcoming pragmatic trial both run on Way to Health.

Apr 17, 2019
Here’s how Penn Medicine is addressing innovation

As healthcare organizations strive to keep up with changes in the medical world, Penn Medicine in Philadelphia is taking its own approach to innovation with the help of a homegrown platforms that seek to help improve patient care such as Way To Health. The platform, Way to Health, can collect data from various sources, including scales, Fitbits, connected pill bottles and patient texting. Through it, Penn Medicine can stay connected to patients after they leave the premises. The name of the tool — Way to Health — is actually a nod to the history of Philadelphia, as Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay called “The Way to Wealth.”

Mar 2, 2019
Texting improves postpregnancy hypertension monitoring in black women

Another success of the Heart Safe Motherhood program powered by Way To Health. The text messaging system increased the compliance rate to 93%, compared with just 30% of those asked to return to the office after hospital discharge. Just as importantly, it completely erased racial disparity in compliance rates, compared with white women, with more than 90% of both groups complying.

Feb 17, 2019
Texting Succeeds for Remote HTN Care in Black Women

A texting-based intervention, where women texted in their blood pressure measurements versus coming in for a postpartum office visit, virtually eliminated racial disparities in postpartum care further highlighting the need to design interventions that are easily accessible by everyone.

Jan 25, 2019
Opioid use down for spine surgery patients with new Penn program

As opioid addiction has reached crisis proportions, surgeons in a variety of fields have worked to reduce the need for opioids after procedures, in the hope that fewer patients would become dependent on or addicted to pain pills.. A comprehensive program designed to improve the quality of care for spine and peripheral nerve surgery patients reduced patients' opioid use at one month after surgery without increasing pain.

Oct 18, 2018
Fitness trackers' accuracy varies widely for calories burned

Most research has shown that wearable devices and activity monitors are not that accurate for measuring energy expenditure

Oct 1, 2018
What's in a Wearable? Tracking Health and Performance

Only five percent of American adults actually use wearable and further, half of people who purchase wearables quickly stop using them.

Aug 28, 2018
How Firms Can Convince Employees to Quit Smoking

Wellness programs are increasing in popularity as companies grow more determined to curb the soaring costs of providing health insurance for employees. To encourage healthy behaviors, firms are offering everything from free yoga classes to weight-loss support groups. While there have been some positive results from these programs, smoking cessation remains a particular challenge. A recent study by Dr. Kevin Volpp and Dr. Scott Halpern - [Vitality Smoking](https://www.waytohealth.org/casestudies/vitality-smoking/) shows significant promise and was discussed in this Knowledge @ Wharton podcast.

Jun 18, 2018
Cash incentives and wearable step trackers increase physical activity in CVD patients

Combining financial incentives, personalized goal setting and wearable devices might be an effective way of encouraging heart disease patients to engage in more physical activity. During the 9 to 16-week period, patients in the intervention increased their steps by 1,368 more steps per day than patients in the control group. After financial incentives were stopped at 16 weeks, participants in the intervention still had an increase of 1,154 steps per day more than the control group over the ensuing eight weeks.

Jun 14, 2018
Cash and a fitness device could help motivate people to exercise, study finds

A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association said the trackers — when paired with a little cold, hard cash — might just give people that push to start a regular exercise routine. “Framing rewards as a loss — a technique from behavioral economics — led to a meaningful difference in behavior,” said Dr. Mitesh Patel, an assistant professor of medicine and health care management, and director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit. “During the six-month trial, the average patient in the intervention arm had step counts that totaled about 100 miles more than the average patient in control.”

Jun 14, 2018
CHIBE Combats the Opioid Crisis, One ‘Nudge’ at a Time

Given the urgency of the opioid epidemic, the latest round of connected health pilot programs run by CHIBE in conjunction with Penn’s Clinical and Translational Research Award (CTSA) – which is based at Penn’s Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics (ITMAT) – prioritized pilot projects focused on reducing harm from opioids. As Dr. Kevin Volpp noted, “If the ideas we test are sufficiently bold, some will likely be unsuccessful, but that’s okay if across projects we make progress.”

Jun 13, 2018
Cold, hard cash and a fitness device could help motivate people to exercise: Study

This is the Active Reward study. "Framing rewards as a loss -- a technique from behavioral economics -- led to a meaningful difference in behavior," said Dr. Mitesh Patel, an assistant professor of Medicine and Health Care Management, and director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit. "During the 6-month trial, the average patient in the intervention arm had step counts that totaled about 100 miles more than the average patient in control."

Jun 1, 2018
Looking to quit smoking? Here’s one way

This is the Vitality Smoking study. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at different strategies to quit smoking, and while it found that none of them work all that well, even in conjunction, a multi-faceted approach works best. The study found that offering a reward of $600 to quit for six months increased success rates two-fold, or three-fold in some sub-groups.

May 29, 2018
Money, Not E-Cigs May Be The Key To Helping People Quit Smoking

This is the Vitality Smoking study. E-cigarettes aren’t just hipster-y and cloying—they also may not actually help people quit smoking. That’s according to a new study that found that e-cigarettes weren’t any better than other methods of smoking cessation, and the only thing that really works is paying people to quit.

May 29, 2018
Quitting smoking is incredibly hard. Penn researchers find one thing that helps most

Summary of NEJM article re smoking cessation. The new Penn study enrolled more than 6,000 people from 54 U.S.-based companies. Offering free pharmacological therapy or ecigs did not increase tobacco cessation; financial incentives tripled rates of cessation. Study was run on Way To Health

May 23, 2018
E-cigarettes disappoint in a workplace quit-smoking study

In a large study of company wellness programs (The Vitality Smoking Cessation Program run on Way To Health) released on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, e-cigarettes worked no better than traditional stop-smoking tools, and the only thing that really helped was paying folks to kick the habit.

May 1, 2018
OARSI Keynote: Understanding human behavior improves patient outcomes

David Asch, MD gave a keynote address at the Osteoarthritis Research Society International World Congress (OARSI) about how understanding the incentives that drive human behavior may be useful in helping patients with osteoarthritis improve health-related habits. "Once you accept that people are irrational, it gives you better opportunities to help them".

Mar 21, 2018
How to put behavioral economics to work for more effective patient engagement

"Fitbits and pedometers don't make you walk more," said Asch. "Weight loss apps don't make you lose weight. They're just facilitators. Unless they're paired with some insight into human behavior, they're the sound of one hand clapping."

Mar 8, 2018
Taking steps to improve activity-tracking results

People don't use activity trackers as much as prior surveys indicate. Incenting people to do the right thing has always been a challenge. David Asch and Mitesh Patel discuss ways in which personalization, behavioral economics and gamification can perhaps be used to nudge individuals to pay more attention to their health.

Mar 7, 2018
Innovation is much more than just using new tech

David Asch, MD keynoted the HIMSS '19 Digital and Personal Connected Health Conference. Key quotes included - “Innovation is like research. It’s hypothesis-driven, it’s falsifiable and it’s highly disciplined.” “Often we are solving for the wrong problem, and if we solved for the right problem we might be in a better position to address our customers’ needs".

Feb 21, 2018
How Trump’s behind-the-scenes cuts to Medicare spending will hurt health care

Medicare spending accounted for 15% of federal spending in 2016. It is projected to reach 17.5% of federal spending by 2027. If we are to slow the rate of growth in Medicare spending over the longer term, it will likely require some unpopular limits on beneficiary access, convenience, and generosity of coverage.

Jan 31, 2018
Want To Prevent Heart Attacks? Perhaps Don't Try This Behavioral Economics Intervention

Highlights the importance of also sharing the losses along with the wins - "*In large part, I am happy because it got published in a leading medical journal: JAMA Internal Medicine. Kudos to the editors for publishing a “failed" trial. Trust me, there’s no failure in doing good science. The real failure would have been to allow this important study to go unpublished because the intervention didn’t work*".

Jan 28, 2018
END OF WATCH: What happens when you try to change behavior without behavioral science?

But there aren’t a lot of fitness trackers infused with legitimate behavioral science, says Patel. While plenty of apps use gamification strategies, those strategies tend to be ill-conceived, based on standard economics and the idea that people are rational. “They think about all the different possibilities, and ‘How much will this cake or this gym workout add to my overall life,’ and then make a decision,” Patel says. “But we know people don’t do that.”

Jan 22, 2018
Analyzing behavioral economics and psychology are key to engaging patients to make meaningful changes

"Fitbits and pedometers don't make you walk more," said Asch. “Weight loss apps don't make you lose weight. They're just facilitators. Unless they're paired with some insight into human behavior, they're the sound of one hand clapping."

Jan 18, 2018
Nudge Units to Improve the Delivery of Health Care

Opportunities for effective nudges abound in health care because choice architectures guide our behavior whether we know it or not. As more health care decisions are made within digital environments where they can be witnessed and their context can easily be reshaped, nudging opportunities expand. It doesn’t take much investment to support such expertise, and given the value of its applications, most health systems would be well served by insourcing it. We owe it to our patients to do the same for health care.

Nov 16, 2017
Commentary: How Can We Help People Quit Smoking? Pay Them.

Anti-smoking advocates need to disseminate advice about effective behavior change strategies and encourage health plan benefit designs that invest in preventing disease, as opposed to simply treating the health consequences of smoking.

Nov 13, 2017
How to Reduce Primary Care Doctors’ Workloads While Improving Care

A vision for the future casts the visit to the primary care doctor not as the solution but as a kind of failure—an inability to accommodate patient needs by any of the less-expensive levels of support.

Oct 19, 2017
A healthier population will lead to lower healthcare costs, healthcare pros tell Senate panel

Programs to improve health for employees focus on common-sense approaches such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

Oct 18, 2017
Maryland to offer online shopping tool for common medical procedures

The Maryland Health Care Commission, the state’s independent regulatory agency, is unveiling a website on which people scheduling a hip replacement, knee replacement, hysterectomy or vaginal delivery can see price differences among different providers for the same procedure.

Oct 11, 2017
Innovator Spotlight: Penn Medicine Links Smartphones, EHRs to Track New Moms’ Blood Pressure

A team at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine is harnessing the convenience of smartphones, wireless blood pressure monitoring technology, and electronic health records (EHRs) to more closely monitor the blood pressure of postpartum patients after they go home from the hospital.

Oct 10, 2017
The Rise of Behavioral Economics and Its Influence on Organizations

Smoking, savings, honesty, and healthy eating may not be items on your list of problems to address or areas where you’d like to see improvements in your own behavior or the actions of people you manage or lead. But no matter what concerns you, adopting a nudge, as Thaler and the many scholars who followed his approach to research tell us, may lead to a powerful change for the better. It just requires an acknowledgment that human behavior is full of anomalies.

Oct 2, 2017
Online Game Could Boost Family Fitness

The family that plays an online game together may get more exercise together, a new study suggests. But more research needed because study participants were all white, and wealthier than most Americans

Sep 26, 2017
Does Connectivity Help — or Hurt — the Doctor-Patient Relationship?

Christian Terwiesch, a Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions, has co-authored two new studies related to technology and health care. The first, which examined the impact of e-visits on primary care, found some surprisingly negative results about connectivity: E-visits can take up more of a physician’s time rather than making patient contacts simpler and more efficient. That has contributed to more physicians feeling overburdened and burnt out, with less ability to take on new patients. The second paper looked at how some of those negative effects could be turned around. Terwiesch sat down with Knowledge@Wharton to talk about these topics, which he describes as a “hot area” that sits at the intersection of medicine and management.

Aug 23, 2017
Putting Digital Health Monitoring Tools to the Test

Fitbits and smartphone apps can aid in managing chronic conditions — but only if people stay engaged.

Apr 14, 2017
Patient Engagement - Use social connections to boost patient, team engagement

Humans are social animals, and providers can use those social connections as a driving force for better patient engagement. Peer support and coaching programs can lead to better care management for patients with chronic conditions, for example, said David A. Asch, M.D., executive director of Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, and Michele E. Heisler, M.D., professor of internal medicine and health behavior at the University of Michigan, during an event hosted by NEJM Catalyst.

Apr 13, 2017
How Behavioral Economics Can Produce Better Health Care

A more complete view of human behavior seems necessary for more effective medicine. Health is fundamentally the product of myriad daily decisions made by doctors and patients, and by uncovering what truly motivates us, we may be able to nudge one another toward wiser decisions and healthier lives.

Feb 20, 2017
The Promise of Behavioral Economics for Health

The promise of behavioral economics for health is that many of the same messages, incentives, and choice structures used so effectively to lure people into situations where they may be exploited can be redirected to attract them to healthier choices that improve their well-being. Health programs are more likely to be successful if designed not based on how perfectly rational people ought to make health decisions but on how humans actually make them.

Jan 31, 2017
The Secret To Weight Loss (According To Behavioral Economics)

The real problem here is not economics or behavioral economics or psychology. It is obesity. Losing weight is insanely hard to do. And keeping weight off is even harder.

Dec 29, 2016
Engineering Social Incentives for Health

Health care organizations, newly focused on population outcomes, can develop and test social interventions for advancing health. Given the increasing evidence that behavior is contagious, there’s good reason to believe that such models could work. You are more likely to smoke if people close to you smoke — and more likely to quit if they quit. Yet most health care interventions are designed for the individual. For some time, doctors have recognized that some patients’ social connections have a beneficial effect on their health. Now, doctors and hospitals can develop new approaches to prescribe social engagement for everyone else.

Jun 7, 2016
Text Messaging Proves Successful in Monitoring Postpartum Hypertension

A team at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine is harnessing the convenience of smartphones, wireless blood pressure monitoring technology, and electronic health records (EHRs) to more closely monitor the blood pressure of postpartum patients after they go home from the hospital.