Penn Medicine’s Roy Rosin looks for innovation he can measure with better outcomes

Penn Medicine's chief innovation officer says the best interventions improve care for the most people.

After launching 90 pilot projects over the last five years, Penn Medicine’s chief innovation officer says the most satisfying innovations are those that actually improve health outcomes.

Identifying those measurable outcomes is a critical first step for any new approach, Roy Rosin told NEJM Catalyst.

“One of the things that I absolutely love to see are outcomes, measurable outcomes, where we’re defining, what is the needle we want to move,” he said. “We want to move 30-day readmissions or an infection rate or something that is important and that we’re able to do so. And we find that we can.”

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In a 20-minute Q/A, the former executive at Intuit, maker of TurboTax, highlighted several targeted technology-based interventions that made a measurable impact on specific patient populations. One pilot project, called Heart Safe Motherhood, focused on reducing 7-day readmissions and morbidity among pregnant women. The intervention, in which patients text-messaged blood pressure readings to a physician, combined with new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, dropped readmissions from 78 to zero.

That approach has been rolled out to other areas of the system, as well as other health systems, Rosin said.

“Real wins and real success for us are scale of impact, things that help lots and lots of people, millions or an entire population,” he said.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System has emerged as a leader when it comes to innovation and data analytics. The system recently inked a five-year deal with Independence Blue Cross in which it will bear the brunt of 30-day readmission costs. Researchers are also using analytics to predict emergency room visits and mining social media data that could offer clues to better patient care.

Beyond outcome measurement, Rosin emphasized the need for clinician driven innovation. In some cases, his department has supported new proposals with broad clinician support, even if it fell outside the scope of the system’s top priorities.