New firm works to reduce elderly readmissions

Posted: April 04, 2013

When Eric Heil was a senior systems engineering student at the University of Pennsylvania eight years ago, he volunteered to help a nursing-school professor with research aimed at helping doctors make better decisions about which elderly hospital patients needed additional care after discharge.

Now 30, Heil is chief executive and cofounder, along with Kathryn H. Bowles, the nursing professor he worked with, of RightCare Solutions Inc., a Fort Washington firm that has licensed the information technology that came out of Bowles' research.

"It evolved and improved since I was involved back in the early days," Heil, whose work with Bowles was the basis of his senior thesis, said this week.

In 2011, independent of each other, Bowles and Heil were inspired to commercialize Bowles' research when they learned of Medicare's intent to penalize hospitals for excessive rates of readmissions of patients within 30 days of discharge. Those penalties started Oct. 1.

"We both simultaneously had the idea" that the technology could help reduce readmissions, Bowles said.

Her system is called D2S2, which stands for Discharge Decision Support System.

"Our original intent was to help clinicians make better decisions on which hospitalized older adults need to be referred for care after hospitalization," she said.

The model calculates a risk score by weighing the following factors for each patient: ability to walk, age, number of illnesses, length of the hospitalization, how the patient rates his or her overall health, and depression.

RightCare's first two clients are Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, which started using it in January, and, since March 4, the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

RightCare, which raised $1.75 million in venture capital last year, charges for installation, plus a subscription fee based on the number of hospital beds, Heil said, but he declined to give specifics on the rates.

"It's too premature to say what that is at this point," said Heil, who reconnected with Bowles while he was pursuing an executive MBA at Penn's Wharton School.

It is also too soon to say whether the system is reducing readmissions at Jefferson, said Patrice Miller, the hospital's vice president for clinical-resource management, but she said it was helping identify high-risk patients.

Moreover, "it helps our case managers be more consistent with their discharge-management decisions," she said.

At Penn's health system, RightCare was an "easy pick," said chief medical officer Patrick J. Brennan.

"We were impressed by their demonstration. We had confidence in the people behind it," Brennan said. "We thought it had a good chance of benefiting us."

Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or


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