DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Microsoft developing health chatbot platform -- Lifespan aims to cut $182 million in costs with GE partnership --  Hitachi working to reduce hospital readmissions

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MICROSOFT IS TESTING ITS NEW HEALTH CHATBOT PLATFORM:The tech giant is developing the platform as a part of its Healthcare NExT program and has partnered with Aurora Health Care to create the Aurora Digital Assistant, a new chatbot service that aims to demonstrate how digital assistants can benefit not only patients but healthcare providers and networks, too. Currently, the platform is being privately previewed to Microsoft’s new partners.

Microsoft hopes the service will help make it easier for users to access medical info from their smartphones.Aurora patients can “text” the digital assistant in a conversational manner via an app, answering a series of questions relating to their ailment. The assistant uses these responses to determine the type of care the patient may need and when they need it. The patient can then use the app to schedule an appointment with an appropriate doctor.

For healthcare providers, AI-integrated services, like chatbots, are showing great potential to make healthcare more efficient. They can help cut costs associated with processes including triage, admissions, reimbursements, and others. For example, insurers can use chatbots to make it easier for potential and existing customers to look up plans, or the status of a claim. Healthcare providers could save just over four minutes per inquiry by 2022 or $US8 billion in savings, according to Juniper research. That’s up from $US20 million in 2017.

Although the current utility of chatbots in healthcare is limited, there is growing interest from a range of US medical providers that have shown interest in Microsoft’s efforts. These include Premier Blue Cross, the largest health plan in Pacific Northwest, and UPMC, a leading US integrated healthcare delivery network, according to Microsoft.

Google chatbot platformBI Intelligence

LIFESPAN PARTNERS WITH GE HEALTHCARE TO CUT COSTS: Lifespan, the Rhode Island-based hospital system, is partnering with GE Healthcare in an effort to reduce $US182 million in costs over the next six years. In what is being dubbed a shared-risk model, GE Healthcare will only be paid once certain outcomes are achieved. These outcomes likely fall under improving patient flow, increasing capacity for services, decreasing wait times, improving efficiencies, and ultimately reducing costs. In order to achieve these outcomes, GE Healthcare plans to lean heavily on digital health technology, including data analytics and tools. This is GE Healthcare’s fifth shared-risk model partnership in the US – all of which were initiated in recent months. This appears to be part of two growing trends. Hospitals are beginning to adjust to the digitization of the healthcare system by adopting the latest technologies. However, they are also not completely sold that these technologies can achieve all of the positive outcomes being marketed which explains the shared-risk model.

HITACHI AND PARTNERS HEALTHCARE TO USE AI TO LOWER HOSPITAL READMISSIONS:Japanese technology company Hitachi has partnered with Partners Healthcare’s Connected Health group to develop artificial intelligence (AI) powered tools to predict and prevent hospital readmission in patients with heart failure, according toHIT Consultant. The AI algorithm that they developed uses a form of machine learning that can highlight critical factors that lead it to identify a patient as being at high risk for readmission. This gives hospital personnel the opportunity to take steps to mitigate that risk. Researchers working on the algorithm tested it by using it on data from over 12,000 heart failure patients who were discharged, comparing its predictions to what actually happened. Preventing hospital readmissions is a critical metric for hospitals – too high a readmission rate can lead to penalties under the Affordable Care Act and can cost payerswell over $US10,000 per incident. Using AI-powered tools to prevent readmissions can help hospitals and insurers to reduce costs and improve outcomes.

MERCY JOINS AVIA INNOVATOR NETWORK TO IMPROVE INNOVATION: Mercy Health, the largest health system in Ohio, announced that it has joined the AVIA Innovator Network to gain insights into digital innovation. AVIA is a network of over 24 health systems across the US and the UK that have partnered to accelerate the identification, adoption, and circulation of highly impactful digital strategies. Through these collaborations, AVIA has been able to create a field-tested methodology to enable health systems to develop an innovation blueprint. While only 10% of providers and payers were actively executing digital transformation initiatives as of March, that number is expected to reach 42% among providers in the next year, according to an IDC survey cited by HealthcareITNews.

In other news…

  • The FCC voted to repeal 2015’s Open Internet Order, which established net neutrality regulations on Thursday, according to TechCrunch. The decision will likely impact the deployment of telemedicine in the US, however, parties disagree whether the effects will be positive or negative.
  • MassChallenge, a non-profit startup accelerator, has named 32 startups to participate in PULSE 2018, its digital health program, AmericanInno reports. The program aims to partner startups with healthcare institutions, systems, and payers to better achieve milestone goals.

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