A select group of University of Florida Health pediatric oncology patients are being enrolled in a trial for HealthSteps — a smartphone-based digital care plan with clear patient care instructions, built-in reminders, a symptom tracker and the ability to share care plans between family members and medical teams. UF Health is the first in the nation to pilot the mobile application, which was created at the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida using UF resources.
“The Innovation Hub at UF’s mission is to build, drive and support the spirit of entrepreneurship in North Central Florida by providing top-notch facilities, programs and mentoring,” said Mark Long, director of incubation services at UF. “HealthSteps is a rising star resident client of the Innovation Hub, and we are extremely pleased with its progress.”
Benjamin King, CEO of HealthSteps, pondered ways to use digital resources in patient care when his mom received treatment for a brain tumor. While helping to manage her care, King noticed multiple breakdowns in communication among family members, which led to last-minute runs to the pharmacy and uncertainty regarding whether she took her medications. From this experience, he developed HealthSteps.
“The main goal of HealthSteps is to complement health care delivery by more effectively connecting patients with their caregivers. We developed a patient-centered mobile digital app that tracks a patient’s care plan success, helps to prevent medical errors and improves compliance through care plan synchronization,” said King. “Recent studies have indicated that a lack of communication between caregivers is the most frequent source of errors. We are hopeful that this app will provide patients and their caregivers a better pathway to improve their health.”
Patients enrolled in the pilot are undergoing maintenance treatment for leukemia. During this phase of treatment, most of the protocol and administering of medications happens at home. With HealthSteps, caregivers will receive medication reminders and be able to input the patients’ symptoms and medication intake. The patients’ physicians and care team at UF Health can then log into the HealthSteps clinical web platform to see updates and make important health care decisions.
“I can see how HealthSteps could be valuable for patients and their families,” said Shamani Moore, mother to Tionna, who spent 378 days battling leukemia at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. “After Tionna was finally discharged, we still had to keep up with her medications and IVs at home and manage her symptoms. Having a system where an app could track everything for us and communicate with Tionna’s providers would have been helpful.”
The patients enrolled in the pilot will use HealthSteps for approximately two months and will provide feedback in the middle and at the end of the program. Feedback will be submitted to HealthSteps so they can continue to update the app to make it as efficient and easy to use as possible.
“This app gives our providers access to our patients’ medication tracking logs in real-time,” said William Slayton, M.D., chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at UF Health. “We are looking forward to working with HealthSteps to determine whether or not using the app helps reduce readmissions and improve patient outcomes.”