Penn Medicine launches CareKit-based app for bariatric surgery patients

Penn Life Gained

The road to bariatric surgery is full of challenges as patients are required to track steps and exercise, record caloric and water intake, monitor sleep time, alter diet, and so on. Add clinic appointments, evaluations, and all the stress to the mix, and you get patients overwhelmed to move forward with their goals. So it is unsurprising that half of patients who seek a consultation about the surgery never wind up having the procedure. Penn Medicine is looking to tackle this problem with a new app, made specifically for bariatric surgery patients.

Called Penn Life Gained, it was developed by clinicians in the Bariatric Surgery Program and Penn’s Corporate Information Services team, in partnership with the app and analytics platform Medable.

Relying on Apple’s CareKit platform, the app will allow bariatric surgery patients to collate their health information from apps and devices, and then easily share them with the clinicians in Penn’s Bariatric Surgery Program.

“Most of our patients are already using fitness and calorie tracking tools on their own, many of which are HealthKit-enabled and can send data to the Health App on the iPhone,” Colleen Tewksbury, MPH, RD, LDN, program manager for the Penn Bariatric Surgery Program, said in a statement. “With patient’s permission, Penn Life Gained can then read this data from the Health App, provide our patients with a single place to review their daily and weekly goals, and track their progress throughout their journey. This gives clinicians the ability to give more personalized care that patients can bring wherever their phone goes.”

Patients in the Bariatric Surgery Program who have an iPhone will be able to download the app, and log in using a unique code that they receive from the clinical team. From there, they can sync information from any other app that they use, so all of their health information will be collected and organized in Penn Life Gained.

On the other hand, there’s a clinician-facing app which allows the care team to monitor the patients’ health data in real-time, by syncing the two applications.

Penn Life Gained can easily monitor the patient’s pre- and post-surgery progress, help personalize clinic visits based on data collected from the app, assign “to-do’s” and manage personalized care plans, as well as spot areas of concern very quickly. Also, the team is looking to use the app to reduce the program’s attrition rate and 30-day hospital readmissions after surgery, and increase the patients’ overall weight loss.

“If we can set our patients up with a resource that will break down the mountain of steps and tracking into easier to manage pieces, we believe they will be more likely to achieve their goals,” Noel Williams, MD, director of the Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program, said in a statement. “Since we cannot see our patients every day, we’ve created a platform where our clinicians can be there to support them even after they leave the clinic.”

As patients begin to engage with the app, the team plans to evaluate the impact as part of their research endeavors in the months and years to come. Penn Medicine is also continuing its collaboration with Apple and Medable to make enhancements to Penn Life Gained as it becomes more widely used, and to partner on projects within other clinical departments.