UTHealth faculty members develop epilepsy care management platform for physicians


UTHealth faculty members develop epilepsy care management platform for physicians

GQ Zhang, PhD, and Samden Lhatoo, MD, (third and fourth from left), who together developed EpiToMe, with their colleagues at the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics, Cui Tao, PhD, and Licong Cui, PhD. (Photo by Drew Donavan)

In an effort to address physician burnout, researchers with UTHealth Houston have developed an informatics platform that helps doctors better streamline and manage the care of patients with epilepsy.

The Epilepsy Tracking and Optimized Management Engine (EpiToMe) was designed by a team of researchers that included GQ Zhang, PhD, vice president and chief data scientist for UTHealth Houston; Samden Lhatoo, MD, professor and the John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Distinguished Chair in neurology with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston; and Shiqiang Tao, PhD, assistant professor and assistant director for the Texas Institute for Restorative Neurotechnologies at UTHealth Houston. In February, they published an evaluation of EpiToMe in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“The burden of documenting care is a universally recognized phenomenon among physicians, from documenting the diagnosis to patient history, medications, management plan, billing, and so forth,” said Zhang, who is a professor in the Department of Neurology with McGovern Medical School, with secondary appointments in the School of Biomedical Informatics and the School of Public Health. “With this system, we can reduce that burden.”

EpiToMe directly leads physicians to a dashboard with four modules: reports, billing, statistics, and schedule. In the reports module, physicians can review and complete reports and deposit the reports to parent electronic health records (EHR) systems with one button click. After the reports are stored in the parent EHR, EpiToMe automatically pulls all billing-related information and displays it in a user-friendly style, allowing physicians to file the billing for a report with three to four clicks. The statistics module provides an overview of reports completed, documented, and filed by physicians, and the schedule module allows physicians to review their service schedules for the whole year.

The system is able to generate four types of reports: electroencephalogram (EEG) reports, epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) phase reports, EMU daily reports, and evoked potentials. It also features a patient tracking interface that reflects 14 possible steps in the patient journey of epilepsy care and color-codes each step to show which steps have been completed, the patient’s current status, and what steps remain.

Epilepsy is the fourth-most common neurological disorder in the U.S. Approximately 3.4 million Americans have epilepsy, including 3 million adults and 470,000 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In our epilepsy clinics at UTHealth Houston, we probably see 200 to 300 patients weekly,” Lhatoo said. “An organized system like EpiToMe allows for systematic, standardized reporting and data collection, which could indirectly benefit many patients.”

EpiToMe is already assisting physicians at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, like neurologist Katherine M.J. Harris, MD, who sees patients at UTHealth Neurosciences, a clinical practice of McGovern Medical School, where she is an assistant professor.

Before EpiToMe, Harris used a standard electronic health record system that required over 20 clicks to submit one bill for a single patient. With EpiToMe, she said the same process only requires three clicks per patient. Overall, the time Harris spends billing a group of patients has dropped significantly, from around 20 to 30 minutes to 2 to 3 minutes, and similar efficiency improvement is seen in all modules.

“If you multiply that by how many people we’re caring for, it really adds up,” Harris said. “When you have more time to spend with your patients, you can spend more time listening to their concerns and addressing all of their questions. It’s always better to not feel rushed.”

Ultimately, Zhang said he and Lhatoo are working toward enabling other EMUs across the U.S. to adopt EpiToMe for care management, with deployments planned for four other institutions, including UT Health San Antonio. Zhang also plans to expand the scope of the data that is integrated into the system, as well as tailor the platform to manage care for other specialties, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

“So far, this is the only system out there like this,” Zhang said. “Our goal is to tackle systemic medical records challenges for physicians.”