5 Top Use Cases for AI to Drive ROI in Healthcare Transformation

Did ChatGPT’s 2023 virality create a watershed moment for the potential of AI to drive healthcare transformation? The answer is a resounding yes, according to Dr. Ashish Atreja, Chief Information and Digital Health Officer at UC Davis Health.

“Here, at least in my 25 years of informatics IT career, this is the first time there is a pull,” according to Dr. Atreja. “People are saying ‘We need this. We need this.’ It’s just amazing to see that, especially from clinicians.”

So how are leading health systems leveraging AI – from basic to advanced applications – to generate ROI in real-world use cases today?

To find out, Rick Strobridge, VP at Commure and a proven healthtech innovator, sat down with a panel of leading health IT experts in a webinar hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review:

  • Dr. Ashish Atreja, Chief Information and Digital Health Officer at UC Davis Health
  • Lisa Stump, SVP & Chief Information and Digital Transformation Officer at Yale New Haven Health
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The AI Use Cases Topping Health Systems’ Priority List

Today’s financial environment is an essential context for discussing real-world applications of AI in healthcare. “The challenge is looking at the multitude of potential use cases, and finding the highest priority, as most health systems are in a very low margin business,” shared Dr. Atreja. “Organizations that are still very early on in their value-based trajectory may focus on things that help cushion margins – like procedure completions. Organizations that have a large at-risk population or pay-viders will have large sandboxes of use cases to immediately create value and dive in there.”

In the webinar panel discussion, CIOs and Digital Health & Transformation leaders highlighted the following areas as top use cases for AI to drive ROI in healthcare transformation:

1 – Expediting Patient Triage

Dispelling fears of AI replacing the doctor, Lisa Stump emphasized that priority use cases focus on “not eliminating the need for the clinician, but supporting them.” Expediting patient triage is a primary use case.

For example, AI imaging can rapidly analyze scans and move those that indicate a concern to the top of a radiologist’s work queue. According to Stump, patient triage like this allows clinicians to “prioritize their work, dedicate their attention to those who are most in need sooner, and expedite care.”

2 – Augmenting Clinical Decision Support

Healthcare generates more data than any other industry, and AI can help put all of that data to use to augment clinical decision support according to Lisa Stump. “So taking all of the data that’s accumulated minute by minute around an individual patient – from their laboratory data to other biometrics to the nursing documentation – and compiling that into a deterioration index helps identify patients in need of intervention.” AI can help then triage the appropriate action, such as “quickly and seamlessly alerting the rapid response team who may need to respond.”

Dr. Atreja echoed the value of harnessing the power of data to aid in clinical decision support, sharing his excitement for unlocking even more insights: “truly moving towards natural language processing so we can make sense of the 80% knowledge which is hidden in text and images, to then getting into computer vision, where we can make sense of imaging and pathology, and to computer vision AI cameras.”

3 – Reducing Burnout & Increasing Time with Patients

Widespread burnout is one of the greatest challenges facing healthcare today. Manual, administrative work takes up far too much time for clinicians and non-clinicians alike.

“We funnel our work through an experience-led model for our stakeholders,” shared Lisa Stump of digital and technology solutions at YNHH. “The amount of cognitive burden and burnout that has been inflicted or created in the provision of care is tremendous. We need tools that remove that burden.” Eliminating this sort of digital fatigue is a north star in implementing AI-powered solutions that integrate with how people work.

“We are asking: How can we bring joy back to medicine?” shared Dr. Atreja “How do we take away this note, where 20% [of a patient encounter] is spent on typing and takes away the experience of seeing a patient?” Dr. Atreja also shared that the coding and billing process is an area ripe for optimizing with AI, by “allowing us to do more appropriate coding without coders doing this manually.”

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4 – Accelerating Research and Clinical Trials

According to Stump, “We see incredible potential to accelerate drug discovery, to support enrollment in clinical trials, and connect patients with the right clinical trials. These are all very real use cases that we are actively deploying or have already deployed.”

Advanced AI applications such as natural language processing can also help support UC Davis Health’s significant research mission according to Dr. Atreja. “Right now we are asking how do we really start to make use of all of the knowledge that’s been hidden in text notes and images and provide these tools to our researchers?”

5 – Improving Patient Engagement and Outcomes

According to Dr. Atreja, “AI needs an action, and if you combine AI with digital, magic can happen.” Evidence-based patient care journeys have shown to be highly effective in improving patient engagement, reducing costs, and improving outcomes. AI can not only automatically assign patients to these clinical journeys, but automate the entire digital navigation pathway that helps guide them along their entire care experience.

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Key Considerations to Reduce Risk and Maximize Impact of AI

AI’s promise must be tempered by responsible use, intentional design, and continuous learning in order to reduce risk and maximize the impact to help drive healthcare transformation. According to Dr. Atreja, “it reminds me of a movie my son loves: How to Train Your Dragon. The dragon is incredibly powerful but can be unmanageable. But if you can master it, you can reach new heights you’ve never reached before.” 

Strategic Governance: “All of our technology work starts with the strategic plan of the organization and ensuring our digital and technology solutions are removing barriers and paving paths to advance that mission and strategic framework,” according to Lisa Stump. “We then filter through a series of questions: is it safe, secure, unbiased? Does it remove barriers?” Strategic governance must be a cornerstone for any healthcare organization applying AI to the business of patient care.

Safety & Security: On the heels of President Biden’s Executive Order “Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of AI” over 30 health systems joined together to create a voluntary commitment that’s specific to the healthcare industry called ValidAI. According to Dr. Atreja, these leaders are asking: “How can we change and create the science of generative AI with multiple organizations validating each other’s work? We don’t want just one organization publishing and saying this is the algorithm.”

Equity & Fairness: While technology and digital health pose great promise to help drive more value-based care and better outcomes, it’s critical that these applications don’t further drive bias or inequities in care. According to Stump, one recent study found that healthcare organizations believed they were “least mature on the equity component and the ethical evaluation of the tools.” Dr. Atreja agreed, sharing: “one of our missions is no patient, no clinician, no researcher, no employee, no community gets left behind in digital transformation and AI.” That requires taking a variety approaches to address what is now recognized as the Super Determinant of Health (among SDoH): digital access. 

Beyond the Hype: The Future of AI in Healthcare Transformation

While Dr. Atreja is seeing clinician demand for health tech and AI at an all-time high, he is acutely aware of the Gartner Hype Cycle of technology. Working together as a healthcare ecosystem to find meaningful ways to make an impact and generate value is critical according to Atreja: “What I’m hoping is that the collective village of the healthcare ecosystem can help smoothen that valley of death and disillusionment to get to the second hype wave faster.”

It’s clear that healthcare’s watershed moment is here with the acceleration of AI use cases with potential to reshape healthcare. From Lisa Stump, SVP & Chief Information and Digital Transformation Officer at Yale New Haven Health’s point of view: “I’m not only optimistic, I’m enthusiastic.”

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