Health systems' 2024 digital innovation wish list

The realization of generative artificial intelligence tops the wish list of health system digital and innovation leaders for 2024.

The difference lies in which problems they hope the technology solves.

"Generative AI has an opportunity to address clinician and care team well-being through new technology to reduce administrative burden, improve quality of care, and address historic inequities in care outcomes," Jane Moran, chief information and digital officer of Somerville, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham, told Becker's.

Mass General Brigham is piloting the technology for "ambient documentation" of patient encounters and to sort and draft replies to patient portal messages, Ms. Moran said. Early results have been promising, and the health system hopes to scale the digital tools later this year.

AI or not, lightening administrative workloads is the great digital hope in 2024 for health system leaders.

"I hope we finally see an improvement in offloading administrative tasks from our clinical workforce using digital solutions, including generative AI," said Ashis Barad, MD, chief digital information officer of Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network. "Our workforce is overburdened and burned out and consumers are not getting the access and touch points they need for optimal care."

His health system plans to overcome those obstacles in 2024 through "ambient clinical intelligence and digital and virtual asynchronous care," he said.

Craig Kwiatkowski, PharmD, CIO of Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai, envisions a cornucopia of digital technologies that cut nonhealthcare work for providers while enhancing the patient experience. For providers, that includes ambient listening technology to document appointments and AI to summarize EHR notes and help manage inboxes. For patients, that means better virtual and digital care via "intelligent" scheduling and personalized treatment options.

"Innovations that leverage AI to simplify and automate key functions are advancing quickly," said Jason Joseph, chief digital and information officer of Corewell Health, dually headquartered in Grand Rapids and Southfield, Mich. "My hope is that in 2024 our patients, members and team members will all benefit from these new capabilities."

Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems aims to lighten its administrative load through the development of a centralized physician practice call center with increased automation and patient self-service, according to Lynn Simon, MD, president of healthcare innovation and chief medical officer.

Still, the potential of generative AI remains top of mind for health system leaders.

"Broadly, my hope is that we will see the implementation of practical and useful generative AI solutions that specifically address healthcare's quadruple aims: enhancing patient experience, improving population health, reducing costs, and improving the work life of healthcare providers," said Charles Bruce, MD, chief innovation officer of Jacksonville-based Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Christopher Longhurst, MD, chief medical officer and chief digital officer of UC San Diego Health, said generative AI is "rapidly ascending the hype cycle" but that he wants to see "meaningful outcomes" on the technology published in peer-reviewed studies this year. This would help deliver on a commitment from the Biden administration and several health systems to the fair, appropriate, valid, effective and safe use of AI in healthcare (aka FAVES). To that end, UC San Diego Health recently hired its first chief AI officer.

"Generative AI, as part of a larger set of intelligent automation tools, offers the promise of extreme transformation in our industry," said Mona Baset, vice president of digital services for Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Health. "I hope as an industry we can responsibly accelerate our initial — and perhaps timid — curiosity into tangible use cases."

That can initially come through "low-risk" scenarios such as helping providers complete documentation more easily and speeding up responses to patient messages, she said.

"What I hope to see in 2024 is innovation that helps patients better engage with and leverage health information, and actively participate with their providers in making informed healthcare decisions," said Eric Smith, chief digital officer of Houston-based Memorial Hermann Health System. "Digital engagement allows us to do that across different channels — at scale — and generative AI has great potential to maximize our impact."

Peter Fleischut, MD, chief information and transformation officer of New York City-based NewYork-Presbyterian, has three digital innovation wishes for 2024: operational efficiency, patient volume growth, and lowered disease burden. He calls that last one "the area we're probably most excited about in 2024."

"For example, how do we identify structural heart disease or structural heart abnormalities earlier in the course, so we can intervene sooner to reduce the mortality burden with cardiac disease, using components of AI and EMR and physiologic data?" he explained.

Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health, meanwhile, is aiming its digital ambitions at the home. The health system is building a fully digital at-home chronic disease management program via vitals monitoring and remote visits.

"I am excited to see more digital transformations that support the needs of the patient and the provider, where the benefits are mutual," said Richard Milani, MD, chief clinical innovation officer at Sutter Health.

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