Researchers produce award-winning technology

Two NEOUCOM researchers were presented for designing new patient care technology “For Your Health: An Interactive Patient Education Computer Kiosk for the Medically Underserved.”

Associate Director for Administration Susan Labuda Schrop and Sociology researcher Brian Pendleton were honored with the 2006 Patient Care Award for Excellence in Patient Education, last year.

“The underserved are most intimidated by the white coats,” Pendleton said.

The kiosks were placed in about eight clinics for the underserved. The program was written in simple language, and focuses on four well-known behaviors: alcohol use, exercise, weight control and smoking.

Patients answer a series of questions similar to those asked on the forms at the doctor office, but in simpler language. The kiosk collects information on the patient habits, then determines his or her behavioral stage of change, and provides advice about what the patient can do to improve or maintain his or her health.

There are five messages for each different stage in each category, Shrop said. For example, an entry for an overweight woman not concerned with losing weight would prompt a message about illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure. It would advise the patient to make healthy food choices and eat smaller portions and to consult with a doctor about a weight-loss plan.

However, an entry for an overweight woman interested in losing weight would prompt a congratulatory response and offer positive reinforcements such as “this will take time, but I can do it” and “I can eat out less often.”

Both responses would be accompanied with contact information of local YMCA to encourage exercise. Similarly, responses under the drinking category provide information about local Alcoholics Anonymous groups.

Patients are answering more honestly when telling the machine about their risky behaviors, Pendleton said. The kiosk then provides a print out for the patient and doctor identifying the patient’s condition and stage of change so the doctor or nurse can immediately begin an intervention. They don’t have to spend 15 minutes interviewing the patient, Pendleton said.

With the movement to electronic medical files, this kind of technology may create almost a completely virtual office, Pendleton said.

If a patient can input information before getting to the office it saves time, money and increases accuracy.

“Of the thousands who use the kiosks there seems to be greater accuracy and greater movement through the stages of change,” Pendleton said.

Patients report greater satisfaction, he said.

Contact health trends reporter Priscilla D. Tasker at [email protected].