Three Penn Medicine Projects Receive $200,000 Grants


According to a July 8 press release, three projects from Penn Medicine are due to receive Independence Blue Cross grants. This is the second year that a trio of projects from the Center for Health Care Innovation were chosen to receive Clinical Care Innovation Grants from Independence Blue Cross—each project will receive up to $200,000 toward expanding its work.

The release states that “This year, the three Penn Medicine projects receiving grants are:

  • Healing at Home – A system that uses an artificial intelligence-guided chatbot to provide 24/7 assistance to new mothers with questions about infant care or their own needs during the “fourth trimester” after delivery. The project seeks to expand access to evidence-based guidance, including for mental health support, and evaluate measurable benefits. It’s led by Kirstin Leitner, MD, an assistant professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology; Lori Christ, MD, an assistant professor of Pediatrics; Laura Scalise, MSN, RN, a nurse manager; and Emily Seltzer, a senior innovation manager at the Center for Digital Health.
  • Pregnancy Early Access Center (PEACE) – A model for providing care for early pregnancy, including for miscarriages, which take place in one in every five pregnancies. A special focus is placed on equitable follow-up care for those who experience miscarriage, especially to offer an alternative for those who seek care at emergency departments, which many patients do. Currently, 95 percent of these patients do not receive any continuing care following their initial urgent miscarriage visit. This project is led by Courtney Schreiber, MD, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and chief of Family Planning.
  • Increasing access to buprenorphine and other substance use treatment services for people of color – A team formed to decrease barriers to rapid access to buprenorphine (a medication that soothes cravings for opioids in the brain) for communities in Philadelphia made up of a majority of people of color, building on earlier pilots that successfully connected more people to appropriate care. This includes a telemedicine-based outreach and navigation service that guides people through various aspects of substance use treatment. This effort is led by Jeanmarie Perrone, MD, a professor of Emergency Medicine and director of the Penn Medicine Center for Addiction Medicine and Policy.”

In 2021, the three projects from Penn Medicine that were chosen for these grants focused on patient engagement in remote cardiac rehabilitation, at-home chemotherapy regimens through a text messaging “chatbot, dubbed Penny,” and improving image-based cancer screenings through LiveAware.

“Since then, the cardiac rehabilitation project began a study comparing telemedicine-based cardiac rehabilitation to a traditional model, along with creating a dashboard to identify eligible patients across Penn Medicine for potential enrollment,” the release adds. “Penny, the at-home chemotherapy chatbot program, expanded to help more new patients with gastrointestinal cancers. And LiveAware started its expansion to primary care services across Penn Medicine so that patients with hepatocellular carincoma—the most common type of liver cancer—receive improved care through earlier identification and higher rates of follow up.”

Elissa Klinger, director of health equity for Penn Medicine’s Center for Digital Health was quoted in the release saying that “The funded projects this year also address areas in which some of our most vulnerable patients may see the greatest benefits. For example, black women in Philadelphia experience higher rates of severe pregnancy related health problems, particularly in the postpartum period, so programs like Healing at Home can enhance critical postpartum support that may ultimately help drive down rates of maternal morbidity. PEACE provides urgent and timely pregnancy care while promoting health equity. And increasing access to buprenorphine and other substance use treatment services targets the burdens of substance use and overdose striking in communities of color in Philadelphia.”

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