Sep 252011

A technology challenge is looking for innovative ways to improve the quality of care transitions, reduce preventable hospital readmissions, and improve patient safety. Tech challenges are a popular tool in the technology community to encourage innovative development among software developers. In this case, the first prize is $25,000 (plus tons of free publicity) for the winning developer. Software developers have until November 16, 2011, to sign up for the challenge. I am one of the judges for the competition, and I hope we will have lots of useful applications to evaluate. For full details, visit the competition website, ”Ensuring Safe Transitions from Hospital to Home Challenge”, at

This tech challenge is sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC-HIT) in collaboration with the Partnership for Patients. The Partnership for Patients is a new nationwide public-private partnership launched by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to tackle all forms of harm to patients. Its aims include a 20% reduction in readmissions over a three year period and a 40% reduction in preventable hospital-acquired conditions.

Nearly one in five patients discharged from a hospital will be readmitted within 30 days. A large proportion of readmissions can be prevented by improving communications and coordinating care before and after discharge. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides a discharge checklist to help patients and their caregivers prepare to leave a hospital, nursing home, or other care setting. Research has shown that empowering patients and caregivers with information and tools to manage the next steps in their care more confidently is a very effective way to reduce errors, decrease complications, and prevent a return visit to the hospital.

The ideal application for this tech challenge will:

  • Incorporate the content of the CMS Discharge Checklist
  • Help patients and caregivers access the information and materials needed to answer the checklist’s questions about their condition, their medications and medical equipment, and their post-discharge plans
  • Share this information with doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other professionals in their next care setting (e.g., home, nursing home, hospice)
  • Identify community-based organizations or others who can provide valuable assistance
  • Leverage and extend NwHIN standards and services including, but not limited to, transport (Direct, web services), content (Transitions of Care, CCD/CCR), and standardized vocabularies