Digital Health in the Time of COVID-19 with Dr. Kelley Wittbold

During our May speaker series, Kelley A. Wittbold, MD joined us to share her experience working in Digital Health and Care Delivery Innovation Platforms at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women's Hospital and her time at Keystone
By Megan Wilkins, KeystoneNext member and former Keystone Associate
December 1, 2020   /   3 Minute Read

As part of KeystoneNext Speaker Series, Kelley A. Wittbold, MD joined us in May 2020 to share her experience working in Digital Health and Care Delivery Innovation Platforms at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital and her time at Keystone.

Dr. Wittbold is an attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and is a faculty member at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School where she has developed a niche in digital health and operations management. She bridges her academic endeavors in Digital Health and the development novel care delivery platforms across both major Partners’ Healthcare (now Mass General Brigham (MGB)) institutions, using data to drive value-based healthcare initiatives at MGH & BWH in an increasingly complex and costly healthcare environment. She intermittently serves as a network consultant for certain healthcare-related cases at Keystone.

During her discussion, Dr. Wittbold described the complex challenges in patient flow in the Emergency Department as it relates to limited hospital capacity, even in one of Boston’s largest hospitals with 1000 beds—and how this impacts the ability to provide safe, high quality care. She illustrated how the capacity and operations challenges across the MGB enterprise became even more pressing during the pandemic surge in Boston in April, a time during which MGH transformed nearly half of its in-patient bed capacity to ICU-level of care to accommodate critically ill patients suffering from COVID-19.

Dr. Wittbold has worked closely with the MGH Medical Analytics team to analyze the flow of patient arrival, departure, and bed request times, and how using virtual care delivery platforms such as telemedicine can improve this supply and demand mismatch. She explained how digital health and telemedicine has improved pre-hospital triage capabilities during throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurse-staffed phone hotlines were augmented by automated branching logic algorithms using an interactive robotic process automation (RPA) chat-bot to facilitate population-level triage based on patients’ risk factors for severe disease, symptoms, exposure, and testing availability.

Dr. Wittbold also discussed other recent digital health initiatives she has engaged in, including the deployment of iPads for virtual examinations in the Emergency Department to reduce PPE usage and exposure risk for both patients and providers, the CovidPass app to screen hospital workers for COVID-19 symptoms, and telemedicine consults between patient-and-provider as well as provider-to-provider, enabling greater access, quality, and convenience of care. Dr. Wittbold has written about AI usage in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic along with fellow Brigham doctors and Keystone in a recent Harvard Business Review article. Dr. Wittbold also recently served as a panelist for the National Symposium on Virtual Care education and competency focusing on the education and training of the next generation of physicians to ensure high quality and safe care using novel care delivery tools and models as we embrace a new era of digital care delivery.

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