PHILADELPHIA— 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.
“The overall goal of this work is to rigorously assess the outcomes of an innovative and scalable intervention to manage large populations of patients with COVID-19 at home, and quickly escalate care for patients who progress to worsening disease,” said the study’s principle investigator, M. Kit Delgado, MD, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology. “By extending automated, 24/7 care to all patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, this model has the potential to yield significant benefits to communities across the country.”
COVID Watch is a text message-based platform designed to check-in on patients recovering from COVID-19 at home. Twice-daily text messages make sure patients’ conditions aren’t worsening and, if they are, expedites contact with a team of nurses who assess the situation and elevate to higher levels of care, including a visit to the emergency department, if need be.
To date, COVID Watch has enrolled more than 5,000 patients since its launch in late March 2020, with a Spanish language version launched in May that has enrolled more than 140 patients. This project is a collaboration across many areas of Penn Medicine, including the Center for Health Care Innovation, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Informatics.
The PCORI study period will span 2020 -- when COVID Watch launched – through 2022, collecting health outcome data from the patients who enrolled. It will also explore new ways to implement this type of program.
“We’re glad that such an instrumental piece of our COVID-19 work here in Philadelphia is being evaluated for how it can be used to treat patients across the country now and in the future,” said Anna Morgan, MD, an assistant professor of Internal Medicine who serves as COVID Watch’s medical director. “We want to know the impact it has had on improving access and believe these research findings will guide us in the future.”
PCORI has granted $23 million for projects around the country to explore different approaches to optimizing care during a pandemic. Much of their focus is on reducing health disparities for those at disproportional risk from COVID-19, such as Black and Latinx communities, as is the case for the Penn study.
The analysis here will not just measure how COVID Watch as a whole has benefitted its enrollees, but how different versions of the program may improve care.
“By testing the different ways that we interact with patients and monitor them, we think we can optimize remote care delivery for today’s pandemic and how we deliver care in the future,” said Krisda Chaiyachati, MD, a co-principle investigator on the study and an assistant professor of Medicine. “This work will also be invaluable. We could help Black and Latinx populations prone to not getting the level of care they need. They deserve better.”
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.
The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.
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