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Geisinger eHealth director to discuss mobile technology at HiMSS conference

CONTACT:  Mike Ferlazzo: 570-214-7410, 515-450-2908 (c),
Feb. 20, 2014


DANVILLE, Pa. – The future of more effective health care is coming to a smart phone near you. Just ask Chanin Wendling (right), director of eHealth, Geisinger Health System, who will be presenting on the success of Geisinger’s digital patient engagement – including case studies on cell phone text message appointment reminders and weight management program text messages – next week at the HiMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) 14 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.

Wendling will be making presentations on Tuesday, Feb. 25, and Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the conference in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

Text message appointment reminders
Wendling says Geisinger combined its directive to improve patient engagement with the organization’s need to significantly reduce costly patient appointment no-shows when it explored automated text messaging appointment reminders. The eHealth team began enrolling Geisinger Medical Center pediatric patients and their parents for a pilot program in September 2012. By early spring 2013, approximately 5,000 parents had enrolled in the pilot program to receive texts for their kids.

Analysis found that there were approximately 300 no-shows, or a 12 percent no-show rate, in a group of patients that received no text appointment reminders, compared to just 14 no-shows, or a 0.56 percent no-show rate, in the text message group. The pilot saved Geisinger over $50,000.

“The pilot was such a success that we rolled out this function to all departments in October 2013 and are now seeing good results,” Wendling said. “But it’s not all about the financial savings. A patient who comes to an appointment is a patient who is getting the care he or she needs.”

As of Feb. 14, 73,410 patients had enrolled to receive text message appointment reminders.

Weight management program text messages
The success of the text message appointment reminder program led Wendling to search for a text message patient engagement pilot that directly impacted clinical outcomes. She says Geisinger’s GI Nutrition staff, which includes the Center for Nutrition and Weight Management, identified a need to help their obese patients better adhere to their weight management plans. They noted that patients appeared enthusiastic discussing management plans while in the clinic, but forgot what to do after they left and lost motivation.

From November 2012 through January 2013, staff asked patients if they wanted to participate in a pilot program. It ran for 12 weeks with 223 patients enrolled. They received text messages that included nutrition tips, exercise tips, motivational messages, reminders to complete a food log and reminders to weigh themselves.

Patients who participated in the pilot program averaged a 0.5 greater body mass index (BMI) decrease than non-participants. Women and patients over the age of 40 achieved the most success.

Because the program met its goals, it became available to all patients in both the clinic and across the system in November 2013.

“Patient engagement using technology is a key initiative,” Wendling said. “We look at consumer trends to figure out how to get patients to better manage their health because the easiest way is to get them to use tools they already use today.”

As a result of the success of this pilot and a weight management text message pilot, Geisinger is testing and rolling out additional text message programs. Additional projects being developed include post-discharge follow-up, medication reminder and Hepatitis C treatment programs.

About Geisinger
Geisinger Health System is an integrated health services organization widely recognized for its innovative use of the electronic health record, and the development of innovative care models such as ProvenHealth Navigator® and ProvenCare®. As the nation’s largest rural health services organization, Geisinger serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. The physician-led system is comprised of more than 20,800 employees, including a 1,000-member multi-specialty group practice, eight hospital campuses, two research centers and a 450,000-member health plan, all of which leverage an estimated $6.1 billion positive impact on the Pennsylvania economy. The health system and the health plan have repeatedly garnered national accolades for integration, quality and service. In addition to fulfilling its patient care mission, Geisinger has a long-standing commitment to medical education, research and community service. For more information, visit, or follow the latest Geisinger news and more on Twitter and  Facebook.

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