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Muma College of Business Students Take First, Third places in the Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge

By Keith Morelli

Florida Blue and USF Center for Entrepreneurship

TAMPA (September 17, 2020) -- Two of the top three winners of the annual Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge were students from the Muma College of Business, including the overall winner of the competition. The competition included 10 teams made up of 23 student finalists from universities across the state.

Taking the top prize of $15,000 was a two-member team that included James Wallace, a doctoral candidate from the Muma College of Business. The third place winner was Srikrishna Srinivasan, a graduate student in the School of Information Systems and Management.

Reducing costly readmissions and lengthy hospital stays was the theme of this year’s competition, held on a virtual platform. Among the 23 finalists were nine from USF.

James Wallace

Wallace teamed up with Cory Feldman of Florida Atlantic University and their winning presentation unveiled Once, a readmission reduction program that employs readmission risk scoring to inform and engage patients for better health outcomes.

The innovation assembles data on 21 elements from patients’ electronic health records and compares it to national benchmarks to determine the likelihood of hospital readmission and what intervention steps need to be taken. Through a novel survey tool, Once also recommends actions for engagement in the course of care.

“Evidence suggests that patients’ sense of control has a meaningful effect on these outcomes,” said Wallace. “This innovation establishes a protocol of identification, assessment and engagement for clinicians, nurses and health care providers to move a patient to a more effective [position of control.”

The program addresses the problem of patient adherence and compliance and engagement of the patient fully in the care plan, thereby improving medical outcomes and reducing hospital readmissions.

“There are currently no providers of patient locus of control management in the clinical environment,” said Wallace. “Alternatives to the clinical application are social services organizations, clergy and faith-based groups, and mental health professionals who may provide services contributing to the patient locus of control.”

Srinivasan, who is pursuing a master’s degree in business analytics and information systems, took third place with his proposal, DoctorGenie Healthcare Analytics, which seeks to close the communication gap between patients and health care providers during treatments and after hospital discharges using chatbots to engage patients in their treatments and discharge procedures.

The solution addresses the case management automation using artificial intelligence integrated with a chatbot. Machine learning will provide a predictive decision on whether to discharge a patient. Srinivasan’s research has produced evidence that insufficient engagement of patients during and after discharge is one of the major reasons for readmission.

“The inspiration for my project,” he said, “is to use artificial intelligence, machine learning and chatbot technology to benefit the citizens as well as business in a significant manner.”

Preventable Hospital Readmissions Are Expensive

Hospital readmissions are becoming a prominent issue surrounding health care quality in the United States and around the world. Hospital readmissions happen after patients are discharged from an acute-care hospital—a hospital that provides patients short-term care for illness or other conditions— only to be readmitted within 30 days for the same condition or causes related to it. Preventable hospital readmissions costs about $25 billion a year.

In most cases, patients face readmission because of a lack of proper follow-up care, adverse drug event or the inability to understand the importance of their medications and diagnoses, leading to unidentified issues or misdiagnosis. Unnecessary readmissions are disruptive, increase the risk of infection and add a negative physical, emotional and psychological effect on the patient and relatives. Today, 20 percent of Medicare patients are readmitted within 30 days after hospital discharge.

The annual Florida Blue Health Innovation Challenge, a partnership between Florida Blue and the USF Center for Entrepreneurship. First place pitches receive $15,000. Second and third place winners took home $8,500 and $5,000, respectively.

Other USF students recognized during the challenge included:

  • Kayla Wilson, a master’s degree student of public health whose pitch, Connecting Care, took second place in the competition. Her innovation aims to reduce hospital readmissions through social determinants of health, ensuring that patients can recover in a safe and healthy environment after their hospital stay. The proposed solution of the innovation is to reduce the 30-day readmission rate, specifically on patients recovering from heart attacks and heart surgery, by assigning social workers to patients based on the needs assessments.
  • Oyindamola Teniola, paired with and Rebecca Oyetoro from the University of Florida, took one of two judges’ choices awards. They pitched LiveEDU, a data-driven, learning technique designed to enhance care delivery and aid patients and their families in hospital discharge training and exit programs. Teniola, a first-generation Nigerian-American, currently studies chemical engineering at USF. He is an intern at Medtronic, working on a project that helps assess the biocompatibility of medical devices.