UC Davis Health Execs Detail AI Strategy

Jan. 5, 2024
Using generative AI for clinical documentation is the No. 1 initiative UC Davis Health is pursuing, execs say

UC Davis Health is one of the health systems leading the charge in terms of finding valuable use cases for artificial intelligence in healthcare. In October, the health system announced it was leading a new group of 30 organizations in a consortium called VALID AI to explore uses, pitfalls, and best practices in generative AI. Recently, two UC Davis Health executives described the potential they see for AI in their health system. 

In a recent video discussion created by UC Davis Health, David Lubarsky, M.D., M.B.A., the vice chancellor of Human Health Sciences and CEO for UC Davis Health, sat down with Dennis Chornenky, the chief AI advisor to the health system, to talk strategy. 

Chornenky, who was formerly a senior advisor and strategy consultant in AI and emerging technology for the White House and also served as senior vice president and chief AI officer at Optum Health, said that beyond any changes to the patient/provider relationship, AI can have a big impact on the administrative side. He said it could change how health systems think about workforce transformation, creating better recruiting, retention, and career paths for people. “I think we're looking at all of those things very broadly and looking to advance a holistic AI strategy that helps us really answer key questions of why we want to adopt AI in the first place, whom will it really be benefiting and in what ways can we do that? How do we ensure safety when we are adopting it and then which use cases and applications and in which areas?”

Lubarsky pointed to the way Amazon uses AI to personalize recommendations. “We are trying to use that same thinking, if you will, to make all the past decisions and all the past diseases and all the past labs that have ever shown up on a patient's chart to help inform what the next step should be for that patient in their journey towards wellness,” he said. 

Lubarsky also gave some examples of the role AI can play. He said UC Davis Health is working with a company that does remote patient monitoring. Currently, it has eight different vital signs that it collects every minute of the day. “By applying AI, you can look at patterns of these vital signs, and very early on detect who might be deteriorating, allowing the doctor and the nurse to keep a closer eye on that patient to intervene earlier to be prepared for a deterioration,” he said. “They're going to eventually expand it to 16 variables, and that will be 24,000 data points per day, per patient. A human being can't process that, but AI is built to analyze those patterns.”

As the technology evolves and regulations evolve with it, Chornenky said, health systems are going to have to get more thoughtful about their adoption of AI and how they think about governing AI. He noted that federal agencies are going to be required to have AI governance boards to ensure safety, efficacy and ethics of AI systems and also have a requirement to have chief AI officers or advisors. “I think currently in academic medical centers and health systems, we have technology groups, we have IT departments, and there are typically some people with some AI expertise and there are some budgets for AI applications or vendors within larger IT or software budgets,” he said. “But we're really getting to a point where we have to start looking at AI more specifically and creating more specific mechanisms and groups with that expertise to help guide prioritization, adoption, monitoring of those kinds of technologies for different organizations.”

Lubarsky added that clinical documentation is another key potential area for AI. “For physicians, their biggest complaint is filling stuff in about patient visits into the electronic medical record. We have added very low-value interactive time with keyboards to the most expensive labor in the United States,” he said. “We’ve turned our brightest and best and most compassionate healthcare providers into typists.” He said generative AI will help ease that burden and reduce burnout. Lubarsky said documenting in the EHR is repetitive, thankless and often populated with irrelevant things, “so I can't wait and that, by the way, is the No. 1 initiative that we are pursuing here at UC Davis Health because we care about our providers, because when we care about them, they're able to care for their patients.”

Referring to the new VALID AI collaborative, Chornenky said, “We’ve now got, I think, around 40 leading health systems and payers, academic medical centers, covering the entire country that have come together to help advance the responsible adoption of generative AI technologies." He said they are focused on discovery and validation of use cases across the member organizations to help build that capacity together “because in isolation, these technologies are just moving too quickly for any one organization to really be able to figure it out on its own.”



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