Tech

Digital health startup Pip Care helps UPMC cut postsurgery readmissions in half

The startup creates customized perioperative care plans for patients.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

One of the most costly occurrences in healthcare is a postsurgical complication that forces a patient to be readmitted to the hospital. A single readmission cost an average of $15,200 in 2018, according to data from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Through a partnership with digital health startup Pip Care, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) reduced the length of postsurgical hospital stays by nearly a day and cut the risk of patient readmission within a week after surgery in half, according to a study published on April 4 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Pip Care—a portfolio company of the health system’s venture capital arm UPMC Enterprises—works via a smartphone app (compatible with both iOS and Android) to create pre- and postsurgery plans for patients, ultimately to improve surgical outcomes.

“Study after study has shown that patients are healthier and have better surgical outcomes when they adhere to a perioperative care plan, but ensuring that adherence is easier said than done,” Aman Mahajan, chair of the anesthesiology and perioperative medicine department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and SVP of health innovation at UPMC Enterprises, said in a statement.

How Pip Care works: Care plans are written in “easy-to-understand” language with simple lists of daily tasks to complete, according to the startup. Users are paired with healthcare “coaches” that check in with patients, answer any questions, and make sure patients adhere to care plans.

After surgery, health coaches walk patients through discharge instructions as well as things like proper wound care and pain management.

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The results, by the numbers: In the study—which researchers at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted between November 2022 and March 2023—128 patients used Pip Care, compared to 268 patients at the same hospitals who didn’t use the platform. The patients all received either elective abdominal, spine, or total joint replacement surgeries.

Pip Care patients used the platform for 2.5 to four weeks before surgery and four weeks after surgery, according to the study. They each attended 6.7 sessions with health coaches on average, and 82% of participants attended health coaching sessions at least once per week.

Patients using the platform stayed in the hospital for an average of 2.4 days after surgery, while nonusers stayed in the hospital for an average of 3.1 days, the study found. Pip Care patients also had a 49% lower risk of hospital readmission within a week after surgery, according to UPMC.

The digital health platform could help fill in perioperative care gaps caused by a shortage of clinical staff, per Mahajan.

“Many health systems are facing considerable staff shortages and one of the consequences is that clinical teams, who are dedicated to their patients’ success, have limited time to provide focused, patient-specific surgical optimization,” Mahajan said in a statement. “By partnering with health systems and hospitals, Pip Care is providing patients a sense of connection and a better understanding of their surgical journey, prompting them to actively engage in their health and those patients have better surgical outcomes.”

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.