(INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTHCARE) – Intermountain Healthcare has been on a mission to reduce surgery costs while improving patient care. They’ve been able to discover millions of dollars in savings through artificial intelligence.
David Skarda, MD, Intermountain Healthcare’s medical director for Center for Value-Based Surgery, has been named to the nation’s class of Top 25 Innovators for 2020 by Modern Healthcare magazine for his innovative work to reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes.
Dr. Skarda is helping to establish a surgical care process model that changes the way Intermountain analyzes and codes surgeries to create better outcomes and lower costs for patients. This new state-of-the-art tool uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze data, claims, and anything associated with the cost of care from 30 days before to 90 days after surgery.
So far, the tool is being used for two procedures across the Intermountain system and it’s already projected to save more than $8 million during the fiscal year. The savings are expected to increase as the technology is applied to other surgical procedures.
“In the past, most health systems would save money by cutting out devices or procedures that cost the most,” said Dr. Skarda. “By analyzing total medical costs over 120 days we get a clearer picture of what gives us the best surgical outcomes, which also tends to lower the total cost of care.”
Dr. Raymond Price is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Intermountain Healthcare.
he also performs a lot of gallbladder surgeries and recently found a glitch in a computer system had ordered certain pre-surgery tests that were unnecessary.
“There were many blood tests that were actually being drawn by my patients. The AI system identified and asked why are you one of the highest ones ordering these blood tests and I said I didn’t know I was ordering those blood tests. We looked at the system and we really sat down and reorganized how we did my pre-operative patients so we could really get rid of the waste in the system and be a much better value for the patient,” said Dr. Price.
Looking at the total cost of surgery, and not just what happens in the operating room, gives clinicians the information needed to improve care, said Dr. Skarda.
An example is a knee replacement, which is a common procedure. The AI system analyzes the cost of the knee replacement device but also looks at any medications, imaging, physical therapy, and complications over the 120-day period. If a device is slightly more expensive but leads to fewer complications, and quicker recovery, the system recognizes it as a better value even though the initial cost is more expensive.
Trying to find these results using only electronic medical records would be impossible but combining claims data and the AI system makes the information useful to caregivers.
Intermountain surgeons now receive a report card that shows where they can reduce costs and how other physicians in their field are improving outcomes. This helps doctors make better decisions because it gives them the necessary data to prove what works.
That information can easily be shared to help hospital systems around the world improve the way they give care.
To see the complete Modern Healthcare 2020 innovators list, click here.
One of the first uses for the AI system began in May for gallbladder surgeries. While this doesn’t include a major device like hip and knee replacement there is still key information the AI system finds for cost savings and better outcomes. Doctor Ray Price says doctors are always willing to change their process if the information is there to prove what works best.
“By analyzing cost information 90 days after surgery we see what steps and procedures lead to fewer complications,” said Dr. Price. “We have found just because something is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to be better for the patient. When we have the numbers to prove what leads to better outcomes we end up lowering the total cost of care.”
The AI system can also help correct inefficiencies in the system before, during, and after surgeries. For example, Dr. Price found a glitch in a computer system had ordered certain pre-surgery tests, that were no longer a part of the process or were not needed. When compared to other surgeons it stood out because no one else had the glitch which was quickly corrected.
According to Dr. Price, this system allows doctors to compare themselves to other surgeons and learn different steps that can help their patients. Better outcomes for patients with fewer complications means the total cost of surgery naturally goes down. This type of innovation is at the center of Intermountain’s value-based care model which aims to find the best way for patients to remain healthy at the lowest cost to them.
For more information about Intermountain Healthcare, visit their website.
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