How Penn Medicine uses texts to save COVID-19 patients' lives

Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine's automated text messaging system for COVID-19 outpatients has proven to save two lives a week, according to a study published Nov. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Five details:

  1. Penn Medicine established the system, called COVID Watch, to monitor COVID-19 outpatients by sending them automated text messages twice a day. The messages ask questions like "How are you feeling compared to 12 hours ago?" and "Is it harder than usual for you to breathe?"

  2. Patients enrolled in the program have the option to report worsening symptoms at any time. All patient messages are managed 24/7 by telemedicine clinicians.

  3. If a patient communicates that their condition is worsening, the system sends follow-up messages and escalates the case to a clinician, who calls to assess the patient and recommend hospitalization if necessary.

  4. COVID Watch enrolled its first patient on March 23, 2020. Nearly 20,000 patients have been enrolled in the program, according to a news release.

  5. Patients enrolled in the system were 68 percent less likely to die than patients who were not enrolled. Study author Krisda Chaiyachati, MD said "a small team of five or six nurses staffing the program during some of the most hectic days of the pandemic directly saved a life every three to four days."

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