Northwell Health sees a $500,000 investment now in a digital healthcare startup by one of its own neurosurgeons as a pretty good insurance policy to prevent more expensive and complicated patient engagement problems later on.

Northwell Health sees a $500,000 investment now in a digital healthcare startup by one of its own neurosurgeons as a pretty good insurance policy to prevent more expensive and complicated patient engagement problems later on.

Northwell Health, a healthcare network that includes 21 hospitals, Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, is making the investment in Playback Health, a designer of software to improve communications between physicians and patients. Playback Health was co-founded in 2013 using digital health technology from David Langer, a physician and chair of the neurosurgery department at Lenox Hill Hospital.

While conducting patient visits before, after and during their stay in the hospital, Langer noticed that certain patients needed better ways to listen to providers, better ways to understand the dialogue between patients and providers and follow up more carefully on taking medications and following other recovery care instructions when they are home.

But studies show that some patients may remember only about 20% of a conversation between their doctor or another provider, and communication is especially important for neurosurgery, which can involve complicated surgeries and treatments for medical problems with the nervous system including the brainspinal cordperipheral nerves and extra-cranial cerebrovascular system.

The $500,000 is part of an overall round of $1.25 million Playback Health will use to expand its business operations.

When patients left the hospital after surgery, the stack of paper documentation and instructions they were given regarding wound care, medications and therapy were often not read, poorly understood and frequently misplaced. The result was patient misinformation, frustration and a lot of office phone calls.

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To improve patient communications with Lenox Hill providers and reduce readmissions, Langer developed technology that enabled patients to use their mobile device to record and film doctor visits, capture screen grabs of discharge and homecare instructions and have the opportunity to play back the sessions at any time.

Specifically, Playback Health’s mobile technology lets healthcare providers create, store and share highly personalized video, audio and digital documents to inform and educate patients about their specific diagnosis, treatment and discharge. Over the course of a three-year study conducted by Langer and other researchers, patients using the mobile technology gave it a 90% satisfaction rating compared with only 50% to 75% for more conventional forms of patient communications, such as static and hard-to-understand physician and treatment notes stored in electronic health records systems or on paper.

Northwell is investing $500,000 in Playback Health and plans to use the technology in more departments throughout its healthcare system, although so far Northwell hasn’t mentioned just where. “Northwell Health recognizes the value of Playback Health in further enhancing the patient experience and reducing hospital readmissions by using technology that is proactive, interactive, personalized and, most importantly, outcome-driven,” says Richard Mulry, senior vice president of operations at Northwell Ventures, which invests in startup companies such as Playback Health, pursues joint ventures and commercializes ideas that originate with Northwell physicians, researchers and other employees.

Northwell is looking to use Playback’s technology and help to develop the software and the company for wider business expansion to other healthcare systems as a means to help hospitals improve patient communications on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey, also known as Hospital CAHPS, standardized survey instrument and data collection methodology for measuring patients’ perspectives on hospital care.

Hospitals are required by Medicare to update HCAHPS results annually. Medicare also uses the results to determine penalties and payments for hospitals with too-high readmission rates for some chronic diseases.

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The $500,000 is part of an overall round of $1.25 million Playback Health will use to expand its business operations, says Playback Health CEO Gregory Odland.

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