How UNC Health uses an internal version of ChatGPT to streamline daily tasks

AVA, standing for AI virtual assistant, is UNC Health's internal version of ChatGPT that is hosted within the health system's own secure environment.

With patient safety at the forefront of its development, the virtual assistant's existence within UNC's secure environment minimizes the potential risks of exposing sensitive information.

AVA is trained to be knowledgeable of UNC Health's training and education library, allowing physicians to ask the artificial intelligence tool questions instead of sifting through various resources to find answers. The health system is currently developing multiple use cases across the organization to identify how the technology can best improve the work of its teams.

Administrative and operational personnel across various areas of the health system have been engaging with AVA, and the health system has identified suitable use cases within "pretty much every corner of the business," David McSwain, MD, chief medical informatics officer at UNC Health, told Becker's.

"We've identified over 70 use cases across all areas, including 30 clinical use cases, 13 patient engagement use cases, 10 in the finance and revenue cycle area and multiple others from human resources research, legal security and supply chain," Dr. McSwain said.

Areas in which AVA appears to be especially advantageous are drafting appeals for claim denials, prior authorization requests and drafting customized outreach for population health applications. The most promising use case at this point, however, is the ability to improve the continuous education and training UNC Health's team undergoes to be more proficient in navigating digital health tools and electronic health records, according to Dr. McSwain.

As the health system works to pinpoint all areas that would benefit from implementing the technology, leaders who are evaluating the tool are already using the virtual assistant on a daily basis to streamline their work and quickly draft communications. Aside from improving staff efficiency, AVA is also being used to streamline patient experience in the scheduling process to provide easily accessible information about each UNC Health specialist.

Despite the success AVA has had in enhancing staff and patient efficiency, the health system is approaching use of the virtual assistant in a clinical setting with caution, and clinical use cases are still in the testing phase.

"We have to be really careful, in particular, about use cases that directly impact clinical care, because patient safety is always first and foremost in our mind," Dr. McSwain told Becker's. "Any use cases that impact patient care will be very carefully and fully evaluated before being put into actual clinical use."

Dr. McSwain underscored UNC Health's focus on the responsible use of AI, meaning the security of every patient's information is the number one priority. Additionally, the health system recognizes the importance of keeping all clinicians directly engaged when AI applications are handling patient data to ensure patient safety.

"The AI is not a substitute for our teammates' clinical expertise. It's a supplement to it," Dr. McSwain said.

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