Advocate Health doubling down on innovation in 2024

Charlotte, N.C.-based Advocate Health has been on the forefront of healthcare transformation for years, and CEO Eugene Woods will stay focused on innovation next year.

"While the pandemic pushed so many of us in the healthcare system to the brink, it also catalyzed innovation and transformed the way we deliver care in so many ways," Mr. Woods told Becker's. "Looking ahead to 2024, the Advocate Health leadership is doubling down on innovation and continuing to cultivate strong partnerships across industries, while we strengthen our financial position and drive significant synergy savings consistent with our pledges to make care more affordable."

The health system was formed in late 2022 as a combination between Atrium Health in Charlotte, where Mr. Woods was president and CEO, and Advocate Aurora Health, based in Wisconsin and Illinois, to become a 67-hospital network spanning six states. Advocate Health has more than $28 billion in annual revenue as the third-largest nonprofit health system, which provides nearly $5 billion in community benefit.

Atrium Health's focus on innovation over the years has manifested in several ways, including the "Design for Impact" process to transform care at community clinics, dialysis and stroke care, according to a white paper released by the system in September. Clinician executives work together to solve a specific problem, aiming to understand the perspective of patients, clinicians and caregivers before designing and testing a new business model as the solution.

One example in the case study aimed to figure out why clinics in underserved communities were underutilized. After conducting research, the team realized the target population was hesitant to seek care for several reasons. To gain the trust of people who could benefit from the clinics, Atrium Health embedded community health workers who could visit at-risk patients at home and integrate preventative care into their health programs. The workers also witnessed challenges like food insecurity or patients who couldn't afford medications, and connected them with resources.

When the community health worker strategy was deployed, clinics reported a 34% drop in emergency room visits and 37% shorter inpatient stays.

"Design for Impact provides an innovation blueprint that health care leaders can use to determine the feasibility, desirability and viability of potential new products and services," said Todd Dunn, vice president of enterprise innovation at Advocate Health. "At Atrium Health, this approach to innovation has united executives and clinicians around the mission of developing patient-centered solutions by including input from patients and caregivers in the Design for Impact process. Applying this process in community care, dialysis and stroke care has proven to be a smart investment of staff and resources that improves patient satisfaction and outcomes."

Atrium Health also pioneered and expanded the use of an artificial intelligence copilot earlier this year for primary care settings. It was the first-ever to use the AI assistant from Nuance, a Microsoft subsidiary, called Dragon Ambient eXperience Copilot to generate clinical summaries from virtual or in-person visits. In a survey, nearly 85% of Atrium Health physicians and APPs using the technology improved the documentation experience, freeing up as much as 40 minutes per day of their time.

Atrium Health is also heavily involved in the creation of a new innovation district, called "The Pearl," in Charlotte. It will include a second campus of Wake Forest University School of Medicine as well as the North American headquarters for IRCAD, a global surgical training center, both opening in 2025.

"We intend to pioneer out-of-the-box approaches to harness the full potential of new technologies, whether that's AI or deepening our partnerships with robotics and other leading-edge companies to bring inventive approaches to the bedside faster," Mr. Woods told Becker's.

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