AI, innovation, scheduling: OSF's digital strategy in 2023

Digital innovation in healthcare is challenging. It is a process that requires countless hours of hard work and often ends in failure. 

Peoria, Ill.-based OSF Healthcare has carved out a name for itself in this difficult healthcare innovation space. The 15-hospital system has a notable venture capital arm for its size and is consistently rolling out new digital health technologies. 

COVID-19 and innovation

For many systems, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst to adopt a comprehensive digital health strategy. OSF Chief Strategy Officer Michelle Conger told Becker's that the health system had been making significant investments in digital health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We had planned to open up a digital hub. We called it OSF OnCall and that really connects digital from outreach, scheduling navigation to digital care," Ms. Conger said. "And then ends with retail, which is the physical footprint, so that's kind of the entire continuum in that space. And we've started that prior to COVID-19."

Despite the foresight to adopt a digital strategy, the COVID-19 pandemic forced OSF to adopt digital care strategies quickly.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," Ms. Conger said. "When you had COVID happening, we were able to move really fast with a lot of those [digital health] capabilities."

Dealing with disruption

Any hospital entering the digital health space will face fierce competition from a slew of smaller digital health companies and large conglomerates such as Amazon and CVS Health offering their own digital care. 

However, OSF believes health systems' legacy and ability to offer in-person treatment gives them a competitive advantage.

"The promise of that for legacy systems is the full depth and breadth of the continuum of care. People seek care at all times in their life for very different things, but how do you navigate them appropriately depending on what they are really looking for," Ms. Conger said. "I think that is what is really creating value for people reaching out for care from more traditional health systems."

Intake and discharge 

While patient scheduling might seem like a more mundane area of healthcare, scheduling is crucial to ensure patients get the correct care they need. 

OSF has been working to standardize its online scheduling system and working to make it easier for patients to schedule care digitally.

"We're going process by process and really trying to standardize all of the dimensions of scheduling so that it is much easier for a consumer to be able to navigate and make appointments and be able to do much more of that online."

On the discharge side, the health system partnered with venture builder High Alpha Innovation to create a platform that can identify patients at risk of longer stays.

Investments in AI

With artificial intelligence applications such as ChatGPT rapidly increasing in popularity, OSF is working to adopt AI in its system.

The collaboration with High Alpha Innovation used an AI algorithm to identify the risk of patient deterioration. However, AI has the potential to transform healthcare beyond the clinical side.

"So how do we use AI to really help people? Do that on the front end, any type of work that we can do there," Ms. Conger said. "I think that there's a lot of potential for some of the clinical realms, but it's probably just not as mature."


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