Grant Application

Joseph Breems and Jamie Scarano of UPMC Center for Engagement and Inclusion, and Mary Duranti of the UPMC Disabilities Resource Center

Proposed Innovation

Patients want to share in their own health care decisions, but are often intimidated when asked to disclose religious concerns, gender, and sexuality issues, disability needs, and other personal information. This results in patient dissatisfaction, staff frustration, and poorer health outcomes.

Through this project, an online patient engagement portal called “CHRIS” was developed for use by UPMC employees. The goal of CHRIS (Commitment to culturally competent Healthcare and improving Retention of diverse employees by Integrating dignity and respect into System-wide practices) was to reduce patient anxiety and improve engagement so patients receive respectful and responsive treatment that is guided by their individual values and preferences.


Focus groups were held with 115 representatives of 12 diverse communities in the UPMC “footprint” — including low-income/access, high-income/access, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, immigrant/refugee, caregivers, veteran/military, faith/religious, college students, rural, behavioral health, and youth. Focus group members shared their concerns and opportunities for improvement.

Based on the input of these groups, six system-wide solutions were identified:

  • Online portal to enter preferences, view health and wellness information, and track health data
  • Electronic reminders regarding health, wellness, and appointments
  • Opt-in model for sharing personal health information and preferences
  • Liaisons or advocates to help patients better navigate the health care system
  • Community education programs to keep patients up-to-date on changes in the health care system
  • Financial assistance program to help patients who regularly engage with the health care system


The CHRIS portal was designed as a user-friendly, flexible, and engaging online tool. It has been integrated with other UPMC web portals — including MyUPMC, Clinical Connect, and Patient Experience Advocate — and linked to guides and instructions on how to use cultural, social, and disability information to coordinate care at UPMC and at home. It also was adapted for a pilot program at UPMC Hamot involving, LUHU (Let Us Help You) patients to provide care coordination for individuals with disabilities.