Monday, April 15, 2024

Cleveland Clinic’s advice for AI success: democratizing innovation, upskilling talent and more

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One of the big questions today in healthcare is how hospitals and health systems are going to make best use of the power of artificial intelligence across the enterprise.

In just a short time, AI has arguably become the most powerful technology to ever impact healthcare. It brings with it many benefits and many challenges. So harnessing it in just the right way to study and use health data is critical.

According to Albert Marinez, chief analytics officer at Cleveland Clinic, provider organizations must:

Build a strong data foundation to leverage AI at scale

Create a data and AI innovation ecosystem to engage with industry innovators, validate opportunities and accelerate outcomes

Activate the organization by democratizing innovation and getting out of the way

Upskill by bringing in new talent for a generational change in how organizations deliver services

We interviewed Marinez to discuss this guidance and the power of health data and AI.

Q. Please describe the landscape as it exists today for data and AI in healthcare. What challenges and opportunities are provider organizations faced with?

A. The enthusiasm for data analytics and AI in revolutionizing healthcare is undeniable, promising better patient care and efficiency. As the sector evolves, with both new and established players integrating AI into their solutions, it’s clear that while AI offers substantial benefits, it’s not a cure-all. Recognizing the fragmented landscape, we must proceed with caution, acknowledging AI’s potential without overestimating its immediate impact.

As a leading provider organization, our focus is on providing world-class care to as many patients as possible. We want to create better ease of access to our system, ensure our clinicians are equipped with the best technology that enables them to spend more time with patients, and create experiences for our patients that support them on their health journey.

As we engage on these opportunities, our key data management priorities include safeguarding patient privacy and data security amidst increasing reliance on technology and external threats. It’s vital to handle sensitive health information with care, ensuring robust security measures. AI’s reliance on cloud and novel approaches to handling data means we need to be quite vigilant in how we manage and deploy new solutions.

Ethical considerations are also paramount, as AI applications must be equitable, transparent and accountable. Our commitment at Cleveland Clinic is reflected in our AI Taskforce, which evaluates algorithms for quality, ethics and bias, aiming to mitigate health disparities and ensure responsible AI use.

Q. To leverage the power of data and AI, you say the Cleveland Clinic first is building the foundation – a strong data foundation that is a requirement to leverage AI at scale. Please elaborate on this focus and on what you are doing.

A. To fully unleash the potential of artificial intelligence in transforming healthcare, a foundational step must be establishing a robust data platform. AI’s strength lies in its capacity to sift through vast amounts of data, synthesizing and uncovering patterns, correlations and insights that would otherwise remain obscured.

Our organization is privileged to possess extensive datasets and domain-specific data marts, which form the bedrock for our AI-driven initiatives. However, the value of these datasets is contingent upon their quality. A rigorous data quality program is not just beneficial but essential to ensure that our AI algorithms can generate reliable and actionable insights. Without high-quality data, even the most sophisticated AI models are rendered ineffective.

The scalability and flexibility required to meet our goals necessitate a shift toward cloud-based platforms. While our existing on-premise platform has served us well, it falls short in accommodating our growing needs and aspirations.

The cloud offers a scalable, flexible environment that can support our global analytics requirements, providing the foundation necessary for deploying AI at scale. This transition is about more than just infrastructure; it’s about adopting a platform that empowers us to rapidly adapt to new technologies and innovations as they emerge, ensuring our architecture remains future-proof.

In focusing our efforts, three pivotal areas stand out. First, the identification and adoption of a cloud platform that aligns with our global analytics vision. This platform must not only meet our current demands but also have the capacity to grow with us, accommodating complex datasets and sophisticated AI applications.

Second, the development of a future-proof architecture. This involves creating a flexible, scalable framework that allows for seamless integration of new technologies and methodologies, ensuring our systems evolve in tandem with advancements in AI and data science.

Lastly, the emphasis on agility across our teams is crucial. By fostering an agile culture, we can enhance collaboration, speed up innovation cycles, and adapt more quickly to the changing landscape of healthcare data and AI.

Q. Next you say the clinic is creating a data and AI innovation ecosystem to engage with industry innovators, validate opportunities and accelerate outcomes. Please discuss your work here to help educate your peers who may be getting ready to dive in.

A. In today’s rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, the pace at which new technologies emerge far outstrips our capacity to adopt and effectively utilize them independently to build new solutions. Recognizing this, our strategy emphasizes the creation of a data and AI innovation ecosystem, designed to foster engagement with industry pioneers, streamline the validation of emerging opportunities and expedite the realization of tangible outcomes.

Our engagement with external innovators is guided by a set of critical considerations. We seek solutions that address concrete challenges, are ethically grounded and free from bias, and have demonstrated efficacy within other healthcare settings. We prioritize solutions that can be deployed swiftly and possess the inherent flexibility to adapt alongside technological advancements.

Our team is dedicated to constructing a robust foundation that underpins our innovation ecosystem. By making these foundational elements accessible, we aim to empower not just our own innovators but also our partners and collaborators across the industry, enabling them to swiftly navigate from ideation to implementation.

This strategic focus on building and nurturing an innovation ecosystem represents our commitment to staying at the forefront of healthcare technology. It’s about more than just keeping pace with change; it’s about leading the charge, breaking new ground, and shaping the future of healthcare through continuous innovation and collaboration.

Q. After that, you say there is a need to activate the organization. Please describe what you mean here.

A. Long term, we want every caregiver at Cleveland Clinic to engage in AI. Our approach to integrating artificial intelligence into our organization means embarking on the journey to bake this into our cultural DNA. We have a multipronged approached to this:

First, we prioritize education and awareness to demystify AI for our caregivers, highlighting the innovative solutions we’re implementing and their potential to enhance patient care and operational efficiency. This foundational step is critical to sparking new ideas.

Second, we dedicate efforts to identifying high-value use cases where AI can significantly impact, whether by improving patient outcomes, increasing diagnostic accuracy or enhancing operational efficiency. This focus allows us to channel our resources and energies into areas with the most substantial potential benefits.

Lastly, we strive to activate the innovation potential within our team of world-class clinicians. By creating an environment that encourages exploration and provides the necessary tools and support, we enable our clinicians to experiment with and apply AI in meaningful ways. This effort to inspire internal innovation is a testament to our commitment to fostering a culture of continuous learning, collaboration and innovation.

Together, these efforts ensure Cleveland Clinic not only remains at the cutting edge of healthcare innovation but also sets a benchmark in adopting and applying AI to improve both patient care and operational excellence.

Q. You say another focus must be on talent – upskilling, reskilling and bringing in new talent for a generational change in how you deliver healthcare services. How are you going about this challenge?

A. To navigate the generational shift, a comprehensive talent strategy focusing on upskilling current staff, reskilling those in evolving roles, and attracting new talent is essential. Initiatives like continuous education programs and digital learning platforms offer current employees the opportunity to enhance their skills in emerging technologies such as AI and data analytics.

Simultaneously, we’re working on clear career pathways and cross-functional training programs for caregivers transitioning to new roles, ensuring the workforce remains versatile and adaptable.

Follow Bill’s HIT coverage on LinkedIn: Bill Siwicki

Email him: bsiwicki@himss.org

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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