A Conversation with 2021 Research to Practice Award Winner Soumya Upadhyay

Dr. Soumya Upadhyay is the 2021 Research to Practice Award Winner

Congratulations to Dr. Soumya Upadhyay, the 2021 Research to Practice Award winner! Dr. Upadhyay was presented the award at a ceremony in October during the APHA annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, for her winning abstract “Do patient engagement IT functionalities influence patient safety outcomes.” APHA Health Administration Section Chair (2020-21) Michele McCay, DrPH, MPH, presided over the ceremony and presented the award.

The Research to Practice Award is sponsored by the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and the APHA Health Administration Section. Each year, the awards committee seeks to solicit best examples of current research that has effectively been put into the practice of health administrators. These papers may demonstrate translation of research findings to inform decision making and action by public health practice and policy stakeholders, development of new and/or effective dissemination strategies for research, or demonstrated achievement of work being utilized beyond peer-reviewed manuscripts.

HA Section Chair (2020-21) Dr. Michele McCay presents the award to Dr. Soumya Upadhyay at the APHA annual meeting

Winners of the award are invited each year to submit their work for publication consideration to the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, which receives special editorial guidance from the JPHMP editors before it is submitted for regular peer review.    

Dr. Soumya Upadhyay is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Healthcare Administration and Policy, School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Dr. Upadhyay’s research examines (1) how patient safety and quality of healthcare can be improved at hospitals, and (2) how patient safety culture and quality outcomes impact hospital performance. Dr. Upadhyay’s papers have been featured in top healthcare management/administration journals such as the Healthcare Management Review, Journal of Patient Safety, Journal of Healthcare Management, Journal of Health Administration and Education, and INQUIRY. In 2018, she received the Faculty Opportunity Award from UNLV’s Vice President of Research, and in 2019 her research was recognized by the UNLV School of Public Health. In 2021, she received a grant award from the Troesh Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UNLV. Prior to joining UNLV, Dr. Upadhyay managed data analysis at Sutter Health, California. Her roles as a strategic management consultant at Kaiser Permanente and as a performance improvement specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center gave her new insights into the broad scope of the healthcare management field.

Dr. Michele McCay and Dr. Soumya Upadhyay

JPHMP Direct: How did you hear about the Research to Practice Award?

Dr. Upadhyay: I heard about APHA’s Research to Practice Award through the community of healthcare administration research scholars at the Health Administration section at APHA.

JPHMP Direct: Why is this award important?

Dr. Upadhyay: I believe this is a very important award because we researchers are always looking forward to see how our research gets translated in practice and how it can be used by practitioners, health administrators, policymakers, and the community. It is very rewarding to researchers to see that their research is making a significant and practical impact. Application of research into practice by translating it meaningfully is a consequential goal that we strive for. This award shows that research can generate changes in the public health practice, while improving the health of our community.

JPHMP Direct: What is the objective of your article/abstract? Why is it important to public health?

Dr. Upadhyay: The objective of my study is to examine the effects of patient engagement IT functionalities on patient safety outcomes. Morse specifically, I investigate the interaction of EHR adoption with patient engagement functionalities and its effect on safety outcomes. Our study sample consisted of approximately 9,800 US acute care hospitals year observations from 2014 to 2018. We found that as the combined effect of patient engagement and EHR adoption increase, the adverse incident rates slightly decrease. It is important to the IT domain of public health because these findings signal that patient engagement functionalities through IT, which are a part of a comprehensive EHR system, work better in terms of alleviating patient safety mistakes, through their synergistic effects. 

JPHMP Direct: What motivated you to conduct this study?

Dr. Upadhyay: I have always been passionate about studying how to improve patient safety at hospitals. As a spinal injury survivor, I have been in hospitals as an acute care patient. I was fortunate to not end up with a patient safety mistake, which could have resulted in complications. Vast number of deaths happen due to patient safety mistakes every year in the US. With the IOM report To Err Is Human, this topic started gaining attention. Several factors play key a role in affecting patient safety, and technology is one of them. This study points to a very important role of engaging patents by using IT to improve patients’ safety at hospitals.

JPHMP Direct: Were any of your findings surprising? 

Dr. Upadhyay: A surprising revelation was that patient engagement functionalities alone may not be sufficient to positively influence patient safety outcomes. Along with patient engagement functionalities we also need more advanced or comprehensive EHR, for instance computerized physician order entry features, or clinical decision support systems to ensure that we achieve positive patient safety outcomes. Our expectation was that patient engagement IT functionalities alone would impact patient safety outcomes in a positive way. This finding suggests that the combined effect of EHR and patient engagement produces better results.

JPHMP Direct: What are the public health implications of your work?

Dr. Upadhyay: My study has important implications for administrators in hospitals and in public health practice. Engaging patients in their own care improves outcomes. Thus, making investments in engaging patients through various channels including IT would be worth it. Also, leveraging EHR to involve patients in their own care by providing them features to view, download, transit their health information, share their information with other providers, and communicate with their physicians would improve quality and safety outcomes for patients.

JPHMP Direct: What’s next relating to this field? 

Dr. Upadhyay: In this field, there are plenty of emerging opportunities that can be possibly explored. I would like to delve deeper into how EHR and health IT can influence organizational safety culture, and can be used to improve cultural competence for better patient outcomes. I would also like to study how can patient engagement affects other organizational outcomes, and how leadership can buy in to increase patient engagement as a means to improving outcomes.

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