Leveraging AI to Transform Infusion Center Operations and Achieve ROI: A Q&A with Obehi Ukpebor, Director of Product Management - Infusion Centers at LeanTaaS

Obehi Ukpebor leads product management for iQueue for Infusion Centers, delivering data science driven capacity optimization for over 700 infusion centers across the US.

An expert in applying AI solutions in practical ways, he helps infusion centers address their unique operational challenges to optimize resources and empower staff through technology.

Q1. What operational challenges do infusion centers face and how is AI-powered technology helping?

Infusion centers struggle with unique operational challenges, like managing patient appointments linked to clinics, labs, and pharmacies. They rely on specialized nurses, and have been hit hard by labor shortages. A survey that LeanTaaS and The Association of Cancer Care Centers (ACCC) conducted last year of over 100 centers reported a 15% increase year-over-year in higher nurse-to-patient ratios and 13% increase year-over-year in longer patient wait times as a result of staff shortages. At the same time, infusion centers are seeing increased patient demand — according to the American Cancer Society, approximately 5,365 new cases of cancer are diagnosed per day in the U.S., amounting to nearly 2 million diagnoses in 2023. Most of our infusion center customers are experiencing a 4-6% growth in their volumes.

Infusion scheduling has always been a hard problem to solve and balancing operational constraints, accommodating fluctuating nurse schedules, and addressing the unique needs of more and more seriously ill patients make crafting a schedule a highly complex endeavor. Traditional methods like grid-based scheduling and first-call-first-scheduled don’t work. To solve such a complex problem, infusion centers need actionable data from a solution that leverages machine learning and predictive analytics. An AI-powered solution helps centers stay operationally agile by optimizing their scheduling templates, level-loading the daily schedule across the nursing staff, flagging future problem days for preventive action, and identifying which appointments should be rescheduled to improve the experience for patients and staff alike.

Q2. What advice would you offer to an infusion center considering implementing AI technology? What factors should they consider?

From our vantage point of working closely with over 700 infusion centers, we see that cancer center leaders understand that AI and automation are now a requirement and not a luxury to accommodate growth and optimize constrained resources. Operational complexity in healthcare has increased so significantly over the last 10-15 years, so pulling dashboards from the EHR and manually doing the best you can is no longer good enough.

To get the most out of AI and automation, these leaders are becoming smart at recognizing that it takes a combination of people, process, and technology to drive true transformation. To get the most out of technology, you can’t just throw it over the wall — and we don’t. We have a dedicated team for each customer that is laser-focused on helping them drive change management, establish systemwide governance, and ensure ongoing success. We work hand-in-hand with the front line until they get comfortable that our technology is accurate, intuitive, and makes their life better — that’s the most important part. Operating at the edge of capacity every single day is exhausting. Once a nurse realizes that using the AI-optimized templates in iQueue for Infusion Centers to schedule appointments flattens their workload and allows them to take lunch breaks, then the change management is complete.

Q3. What are some results you’ve seen from infusion centers who have successfully used AI to transform their operations and support their staff?

At the upcoming Transform Infusion Center Operations Summit, multiple customers will be sharing real-world results of how they’ve used AI to stay operationally agile, increase access to life-saving care, and generate ROI. UCSF Health and Lee Health are using AI-powered staffing tools to balance patient assignments and achieve up to 100% nurse satisfaction with their assignments. Cone Health is utilizing predictive analytics to reduce appointments running beyond operating hours by 80%. And Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital Infusion Center at Vanderbilt is using data-driven metrics to achieve a 300% increase in satisfaction with the pacing of patient distribution.

On average, cancer centers who implement iQueue for Infusion Centers have seen a 50% decrease in staff overtime, 15% average increase in patients served, and 30% average wait time reduction at the busiest times. iQueue customers also generate an additional $20k per infusion chair per year, and see a significant increase in nurse satisfaction, reduction of burnout, and preservation of scarce nursing resources.

Q4. Over a decade ago, LeanTaaS pioneered the infusion solution for capacity optimization. How are you continuing to evolve your solution to meet customer needs?

We’re always listening to our customers and innovating to solve their most pressing needs — we push new functionality into production every few weeks. Workforce optimization continues to be a huge challenge for infusion centers, and that’s where our customers have asked us to help. We recently launched the iQueue Patient Assignment tool, which intelligently matches patients with the right nurses and allows them to easily manage patient flow and balance nursing workload in real-time. Whether nurses self-assign themselves or charge nurses make assignments as patients arrive, the tool has everyone covered. It's been deployed at 13 infusion centers across eight health systems so far, and initial results yield up to 10% reduction in workload imbalance, 11% improvement in nurse productivity, and 100% of nurses reporting higher satisfaction with their assignments. I’m excited to hear health systems share their experiences using this tool and the outcomes they’ve already achieved at Transform.

We also recently made enhancements so that iQueue for Infusion Centers seamlessly integrates with the EHR and workforce management system, ensuring any staffing changes in the system auto-populate in iQueue so that accurate schedules and optimal recommendations are there at all times.

To learn more about the strides infusion centers are making in deploying AI technology to achieve ROI, improve patient access and empower staff, access free sessions on-demand from the recent Transform Infusion Center Operations Summit.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars