Professor Abrons and Patient

Innovation can be described as a process of implementing new solutions to meet new requirements or needs. In teaching, innovation might spark from a need to increase student motivation, enhance course delivery, or improve learning outcomes.


Each year, the Academic Technology Advisory Council (ATAC) hosts the Innovations in Teaching with Technology Awards (ITTA), a program designed to enhance teaching and learning at the University of Iowa by supporting innovative instructional technology projects that have the potential to directly impact student success and retention.   


For Jeanine Abrons, Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Pharmacy, the ITTA program provided an opportunity to enhance the health screening process by supporting the development of a health screening app. The app uses branching logic when pharmacy students interview patients during the screenings. In the process, students not only learn more about patient health, but also about healthcare decision making.


Using the old paper form students would ask, for example, “Are you active?” The new app however, provides more detail by asking, “Have you participated in 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity activity most days of the week?”


In the new app, depending on patient’s answers to questions, students are then prompted with logical follow-up questions. 


“We noticed room for error in the traditional paper-based screenings,” Abrons said, “Particularly in general areas, students weren’t always asking necessary follow up questions, but we really want to provide the best care, and help our pharmacy students succeed,” she said.


Overall, the goal was to create confidence in the health screening system so that when a pharmacist refers a patient to a doctor, the doctor is assured that the right decision was made using an evidence based screening process rather than a judgment call.


Abrons partnered with Reuben Vyn, Center for Teaching Student Instructional Technology Assistant (SITA), to bring her electronic health screening application to life using Qualtrics, a survey tool that provides export functionally, question redirect options, and a customizable look and feel.


“We recognize that collaboration with healthcare, IT, and teaching don’t always happen to this extent, so I felt really lucky to have the support from SITA and ATAC,” Jeanine says, “This is an important collaboration.”


In testing the tool, Abrons found that pharmacy students improved in many areas, including gaining a better understanding of the factors to consider when providing patients recommendations, and being more thorough in the screening process.


Jeanine wasn’t always sure where to start, or how to scale her idea into a feasible project, but with the support from ATAC, SITA, and the ITTA program, Abron’s project continues to evolve organically.


If you have an innovate teaching project that involves technology, and are interested in submitting an ITTA project proposal, please visit the ITTA award website. The deadline to submit a proposal is October 16.