The focus of Kathryn H. Bowles’s research began with a question: Why were so many older adults returning to the hospital after being discharged?
A former critical care nurse, she observed that many times patients were not prepared physically, did not have enough knowledge to take care of themselves at home, and were not getting referred to the necessary post-acute care, such as skilled home care.
With funding from multiple NIH grants, Dr. Bowles discovered a unique set of high-risk factors, ranging from a patient’s walking ability, to length of hospital stay, to having an in-home caregiver, that determined which older patients were most likely to need continued skilled care after discharge.
After 10 years of research on these high-risk factors, Dr. Bowles and her interdisciplinary team developed and validated a decision-support methodology that identified patients who need post-acute care, ensuring that high-risk patients were monitored and received adequate post-acute care plans when they went home. To put her risk-scoring tool into practice, Dr. Bowles co-founded RightCare Solutions in 2012, the first nursing business seeded by Upstart, Penn’s technology transfer host.
Through RightCare Solutions, Dr. Bowles and a team of experts incorporated the “Discharge Decision Support System” or D2S2, developed by her research team, into a software product that helps hospitals assess patients for post-acute care needs, optimizes workflow, and ultimately lowers the number of readmissions. In 2015, naviHealth acquired RightCare Solutions.
My research on information technology improves health care of older adults, particularly in relation to discharge planning and transitional care.
- PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 1996
- MSN, Villanova University, 1990
- BSN, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, 1978
Throughout her career, Dr. Bowles’ research has focused on the use of information technology and health informatics to improve healthcare for at-risk older adults and support healthcare providers’ efforts to improve planning and provide transitional care following hospital discharge, thereby reducing hospital readmissions. Her ongoing studies, funded primarily by NIH, include the development of decision support tools to determine the best site of care for those needing post-discharge services; telehealth technology applications; the effect of home care and post-acute referrals on patient outcomes; and evaluation of electronic health records.
Currently, one area of Dr. Bowles’ research involves using electronic monitoring and technologically-advanced devices that help patients monitor pulse rates, oxygen levels, weight, blood sugar and other health factors at home. In one study, patients received stethoscopes and technology-assisted devices that allowed office-based nurses to hear heartbeats and breath sounds remotely. Engaging patients through telehealth technology – instead of keeping information and managing it exclusively through a physician’s office – allows patients to become partners with medical professionals in managing chronic conditions and post-discharge care, which improves self care and helps prevent re-hospitalizations.
Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing
Dr. Bowles teaches and mentors doctoral students at Penn Nursing to build their own research and information technology solutions. She is director of the Health Informatics Minor at Penn and lectures widely on her research into self-care technology. Dr. Bowles also works with students from multiple disciplines at Penn through the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, where she is a Senior Fellow, and the Center for Integrative Sciences in Aging, where she is the director. Collaboration with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York provides opportunities for research in the growing home health care sector.
Selected Career Highlights
- Claire M. Fagin Distinguished Researcher Award, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 2018
- Harriet H. Werley Award, Best Nursing Informatics Paper at the American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium. Washington, DC, 2017
- Best Student Paper at the American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium. Washington, DC (pre-doctoral mentee Susan Keim), 2017
- Senior Methodologist Award, Omaha System Partnership, 2017
- Inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Research Hall of Fame, 2017
- Inaugural Speaker at the M. Louise Fitzpatrick Distinguished Lecture, 2016
- Fellow, American Academy of Nursing
- Fellow, American College of Medical Informatics
- Vice President of Research and Director of the Center for Home Care Policy and Research, Visiting Nurse Service of New York
- Leadership in Nursing Research Medallion, Villanova University School Nursing Alumni Society
- Edge Runner, American Academy of Nursing
Riegel B, Hanlon A, Coe NB, Hirschman KB, Thomas G, Stawnychy M, Wald JW, Bowles KH. Health Coaching to Improve Self-Care of Informal Caregivers of Adults with Chronic Heart Failure – iCare4Me: Study Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2019; 85:105845. PMID: 31499227. PMCID: PMC6815729. DOI: 10.1016/j.cct.2019.105845
Murtaugh, C., Deb, P., Zhu, C., Peng, T., Barron, Y., Shah, S., Moore, S., Bowles, K.H., Kalman, J., Feldman, P., & Siu, A. (2017). Reducing readmissions among heart failure patients discharged to home health care: Effectiveness of early and intensive nursing services and early physician follow-up. Health Services Research, (4):1445-1472. DOI:10.1111/1475-6773.12537. PMID: 27468707.