Penn Medicine has established a first-of-its-kind Women's Health Center for Clinical Innovation (WHCCI). Founded in 2021, the WHCCI was created to improve access and outcomes in women's health across their lifespan and drive improvements in patient health for high-value healthcare delivery — specifically by leveraging innovation, technologies, and approaches.
"The U.S. healthcare system is plagued with gaps, high costs and inefficiencies," WHCCI Executive Director Anuja Dokras, MD, PhD, explains. "The Center supports projects to create more coordinated, efficient, and effective patient experiences for women."
Dr. Dokras is an international expert in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), along with being an educator, translational researcher, clinical care expert, mentor, and director of two centers at Penn Medicine. One of those centers being the Penn PCOS Center where she leads related clinical trials testing therapies for PCOS.
Dr. Dokras and her team of three colleagues from across the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health support an impressive portfolio of nearly 20 ongoing projects and process innovations, all in service of more equitable, efficient, connected healthcare solutions.
"I think what's unique across all specialties is the condition. There's no PCOS in another field, there's no pregnancy in another field," she explains, "But the ways that patients interact with health systems, their experiences positive and negative, all of that is generalizable across all other departments".
Using Technology to Enhance Human Interactions
The Center, which is funded by the department, payers, medical professional societies, and the National Institutes of Health, uses strategic approaches for their projects. This includes rapid cycle iterations, digital health, and implementation science, which are all divided by specialty type (Obstetrics, Gynecology).
Dr. Dokras says the Center's projects use technology not to replace human interaction, but to enhance it. The efforts can improve follow-up and address disparities in patients who may have difficulty attending health care in person.
A great example of this is the HeartSafe Motherhood Program. Established four years ago, the program uses technology to monitor postpartum blood pressure without patients needing to make office visits. It helps mothers, especially those at risk for skipping postpartum care, to identify this health risk early to protect their health.
Another relevant example of this is a newer project in progress at the Center that uses a semi-automated artificial intelligence (AI) text-messaging platform to remind patients to pursue follow-up care or to submit health data, such as their blood glucose or blood pressure readings. Read More on the Women's Health Center for Clinical Innovation Projects webpage.