Leveraging AI to Transform Hospital Operations and Achieve ROI: A Q&A with Aaron Miri of Baptist Health of Northeast Florida

Becker's Hospital Review recently spoke with Aaron Miri, SVP and Chief Digital & Information Officer at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida, on his health system’s journey to leverage AI and advanced analytics to transform their operations, delivering increased revenue and patient capacity, particularly in the OR.

Baptist Health serves patients across northeast Florida, southeast Georgia and beyond with six hospitals (1,200+ beds) and over 80 ORs in which more than 50,000 surgeries are performed per year. The health system’s operational achievements, including increasing OR prime time utilization by 25% in four years, were featured in the Transform Hospital Operations Virtual Summit.

Question: What opportunities did Baptist Health of Northeast Florida see to use technology to transform care delivery? How did your organization begin its transformation journey?

Aaron Miri: As the largest not-for-profit, locally governed health system in our region, Baptist Health aims to deliver a patient experience defined by ease, empathy and service. To achieve this in today's environment, where patients are consumers who expect quality and convenience in digital and in-person care, we had to become more efficient in delivering care overall.

Operational friction can cause stress for patients. When patients are on a care journey, they don’t want to wait in post-op or inpatient care when it’s time to be discharged. To increase patient loyalty, we have to prevent this friction. This means using data and actionable intelligence to know when, where and how to keep patient care journeys running smoothly. We must provide tools to our team members to streamline tasks and help them maintain smooth patient journeys. Not only will this foster a positive patient experience, but it also will increase our capacity for care and optimize the resources we have.

At Baptist Health, we saw that technologies like AI and automation could enhance our processes and augment the expertise of our team. We knew doing this successfully would involve a significant shift in our culture, for which we needed the help of a firm that specialized in this space.

In late 2019, we collaborated with the AI company LeanTaaS, adopting their iQueue for Operating Rooms solution to optimize our ORs as one of the main economic drivers of our health system. This technology would provide the actionable, trusted data and automated workflows our OR teams needed to improve resource utilization, drive critical revenue, and provide better experiences for more patients.

Q: How did you approach adopting an AI-powered solution to ensure the results Baptist Health was seeking?

AM: We have found there is a recipe for magic in achieving transformation and producing results with AI in sizable health systems like ours. This includes using proven AI technology, which predicts and prescribes the most efficient ways to schedule patients and assign resources to their care, as well as automation capabilities that save time and streamline workflows. Staff can then focus on more strategic decisions instead of back-and-forth scheduling communications or repetitive documentation. Keeping underlying data hygienic is crucial here, meaning all data points are accurate, complete and correctly formatted.

The last part of the equation is holistic change management, which aligns all stakeholders on the same goals and ensures they work together to progress toward them. While our organizational goal was to increase capacity and efficiency in the OR to provide a better patient experience, we began by proving the value of the technology’s AI and automation capabilities on a more granular level. Each stakeholder at each site needed to see “what’s in it for me?” and feel that their input into the process was heard.

As we worked with LeanTaaS to deploy iQueue for Operating Rooms, we focused not only on acquiring and implementing the technology, but also on effectively shifting our culture to leverage it. We involved operational and clinical stakeholders from the beginning, tapping into potential innovators eager to pilot the new solutions. We wanted to ensure the technology became a genuine enhancement to existing workflows and staff expertise, delivering tangible value to end-users on the frontlines, so input from these users was vital.

We started with small, targeted, and manageable use cases where the AI and automation could have quick, clear impacts before scaling more broadly. Our LeanTaaS associates helped stakeholders identify gaps in OR operations such as late block releases, inefficient case scheduling through calls and manual means, and low utilization of the three highly demanded robots in our tertiary facility, Baptist Jacksonville. The LeanTaaS team then co-developed solutions with stakeholders to address these gaps. Seeing measurable improvements in areas like these got stakeholders excited about expanding the capabilities and helped us drive more significant transformations across our system.

As the success stories spread organically, more frontline staff grew enthusiastic about expanding AI and automation into new areas and achieving further results. These results translated into increased revenue, decreased burnout, and improved patient care.

Q: What results specifically have you seen so far from implementing AI and automation in a strategic way?

AM: We have seen remarkable efficiency results in our ORs at Baptist Health. Across the health system, we increased prime time utilization 25% between 2019 and 2023. We also increased case minutes by 10.5% and case volume by 5% in the same timeframe.

LeanTaaS helped rebuild a block schedule and modify our block release date that would unlock this expensive time. As a result, our tertiary adult hospital was able to increase robot utilization by 80.6% from 2019-2023, which enabled us to delay an investment in a new robot.

These outcomes mean we have been able to perform more complex surgeries, care for more patients, and provide a streamlined, frictionless experience for our staff and patients. We’re looking forward to taking what we’ve achieved and innovating further in our system to continue providing high-quality care with greater efficiency.

Q: What is next for Baptist Health on your transformation journey? What lessons or advice can you share for other health systems that want to accomplish similar outcomes?

AM: We've seen tremendous ROI from our AI solutions and will continue expanding those capabilities across our system. We're also pursuing innovations like generative AI to support human-like conversations and actionable insights to support our stakeholders’ decision-making.

Our focus, however, remains on the patient. The technology we use must break down barriers between patients and providers, meet patients when and where they want care, and guide them seamlessly across our network. AI and automation are powerful enablers, but providing high-quality care with a positive patient experience is our north star.

As advice for others, I would emphasize the importance of change management and focusing on people first before technology. Involving stakeholders early and often remains critical. Their input is needed to shape workflows that best augment their decision-making and support the processes that already work for them. I would underscore the value of starting with smaller use cases to prove value before scaling. It’s also important to keep being nimble and innovate, as AI evolves rapidly.

Finally, it’s crucial to choose third-party technology teams willing to help flexibly solve your health system’s specific problems, not just deliver canned products. LeanTaaS provided a change management support team, who collaborated with our leadership, project management team and key stakeholders to find ways to adapt solutions to our needs at every level. They also aligned with our mission of delivering value to patients and building their loyalty. They understood that the advanced technology they provided was a means to provide better care and experience overall.

To hear more about Aaron Miri’s experience leading Baptist Health of Northeast Florida through transformation and achieving ROI from AI, watch his session from Transform Hospital Operations Virtual Summit on-demand now.

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