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Our Take: AI takes center stage at HIMSS24, with Mayo Clinic, Google, Oracle, and Microsoft among the headliners

Mar 18, 2024

In the 15 months since OpenAI made ChatGPT available to the public, enthusiasm for generative AI’s potential to revolutionize health care has grown exponentially. That enthusiasm was on full display at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference in Orlando last week. 

These are some of the top announcements made at the conference in terms of their potential impact on health systems:

Mayo Clinic launched a program for digital health companies called Solutions Studio to help accelerate the development, validation, and deployment of digital health solutions and integrate them into health care workflows.  

Startups using the program will have access to a pool of de-identified, privacy-protected data they can use for training their models, as well as Mayo Clinic’s clinical expertise and specialized tools and processes Mayo Clinic has developed to assist digital health innovation. 

Dr. John Halamka, president of Mayo Clinic Platform, told Becker’s Health IT at the HIMSS conference that the Solutions Studio program has been in the works “for a number of years.” 

“It used to take health care 18 months to bring an entrepreneur in. We can now bring in a dozen a week,” Dr. Halamka said. “So, that cycle time is wildly reduced, and the cost of getting your product to market is significantly reduced.”

Noting the importance of following best practices in the testing, deployment, and evaluation of AI solutions, Dr. Halamka said in a news release that Mayo Clinic Platform developed “a rigorous, proprietary qualifications process to evaluate digital health solutions and ensure they are fair, appropriate, valid, and effective.”

Google Cloud launched a tool called Vertex AI Search for Healthcare to improve how health care professionals find critical information within patients’ records and other medical documents. 

Integration with MedLM gives Vertex AI Search for Healthcare the ability to generate answers to questions about the patient’s medical history, according to the announcement. (MedLM is Google Cloud’s family of foundation models that are specific to health care.) 

The tool can cite and link to original, internal sources of the information it provides, for increased transparency. In addition, Vertex AI Search for Healthcare is integrated with another Google tool called Health Data Engine, which “enables an interoperable, longitudinal record of patient data.” 

Mass General Brigham and GE HealthCare announced that they plan to integrate medical imaging foundation models into the AI research work they are conducting  through the partnership they began in 2017. 

“With foundation models, we are witnessing the next wave of AI innovation, and it is already reshaping how we build, integrate, and use AI,” said Dr. Keith Dreyer, Mass General Brigham’s chief data science officer.

According to GE HealthCare, foundation models have the potential to transform health care by improving workflow efficiency and imaging diagnosis. 

Oracle’s chief health officer, Nasim Afsar, told Healthcare Dive at the HIMSS conference that the company plans to launch a generative AI-backed clinical assistant during the next quarter. The company unveiled the digital clinical assistant last fall, and Afsar said Oracle has been beta testing the tool with provider partners for months. 

Healthcare Dive pointed out that Oracle has an advantage — even though competitors have already launched similar clinical assistants — because Oracle owns Cerner, the country’s second-largest EHR vendor, and can build cloud services on top of Cerner. (Epic is the largest EHR vendor in the U.S.) 

However, Afsar told Healthcare Dive the clinical assistant will be EHR-agnostic. 

On the first day of the HIMSS conference, a consortium of leaders from 16 health systems announced the creation of the Trustworthy & Responsible AI Network (TRAIN). The network’s goal is to put “responsible AI principles” in place to “improve the quality, safety, and trustworthiness of AI in health.”   

TRAIN members will collaborate on sharing best practices, enabling registration of AI used for clinical care or clinical operations through an online portal, providing tools that can measure outcomes associated with AI implementation, and facilitating the development of a federated national AI outcomes registry.

Microsoft will be TRAIN’s technology-enabling partner.  

Many members of the TRAIN collaboration are also founding members of the Coalition for Health AI (CHAI), an organization established in 2021 with a mission “to be the trusted source of responsible AI in health that serves all.”

CHAI just announced its founding partners last week. The list includes 20 nonprofit founding partners, most of which are health systems, and four industry founding partners: Amazon, CVS Health, Google, and Microsoft. 

In the same announcement, CHAI said it has formed a partnership with the National Academy of Medicine to support and advance the academy’s Artificial Intelligence Code of Conduct, an initiative undertaken “to provide a guiding framework to ensure that AI algorithms and their application in health, health care, and biomedical science perform accurately, safely, reliably, and ethically in the service of better health for all.” 

What else you need to know
Clinical departments and academic programs at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have remained largely independent of those at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), even though the two academic medical centers joined together to form Partners HealthCare in 1994. (Partners HealthCare was rebranded as Mass General Brigham [MGB] in 2019.) That will change over the next several years, as MGB plans to further integrate by merging clinical departments and academic programs at the two flagship hospitals, MGB announced. In addition, interdepartmental disease-focused institutes will be created to “advance and facilitate interdisciplinary research and teaching.”

Dr. David Brown, who is currently president at MGH and will serve in a newly created role — president of academic medical centers at MGB — will oversee the restructuring process and the newly integrated clinical departments, each of which will be led a single chairperson. Drs. Marcela del Carmen and Giles Boland, who currently serve as presidents of the physicians’ organizations at MGH and BWH, respectively, will expand their roles to serve as presidents of their respective hospitals. 

Elevance Health completed its acquisition of Paragon Health, a company based in Plano, Texas, that operates a network of more than 40 ambulatory infusion centers and home infusion pharmacies in eight states. Paragon will operate under Elevance Health’s pharmacy services segment, CarelonRx. According to a press release, Elevance Health intends to expand Paragon’s geographic footprint and operations “while bolstering its therapeutic coverage.” Neither Elevance Health nor Paragon’s previous owner, Peak Rock Capital, provided financial terms of the transaction, but Axios reported in January, when the deal was announced, that it would be valued at “well north of $1 billion,” citing sources familiar with the matter. 

Amazon Pharmacy is now a third-party dispensing provider for Eli Lilly’s new direct-to-consumer program, LillyDirect Pharmacy Solutions. As such, Amazon Pharmacy can deliver select prescribed medications made by Lilly — specifically, drugs used to treat diabetes, obesity, and migraine — directly to patients’ homes. Along with the delivery service, Amazon Pharmacy noted in a blog post that its pharmacists can offer round-the-clock guidance on how to administer the medications (including insulin and other injectable treatments, such as Zepbound [tirzepatide]) and can counsel patients on drug interactions, potential side effects, and cost considerations. Truepill is also a third-party dispensing provider for the Lilly program. 

Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy (semaglutide), approved by the FDA in 2021 for weight management, is now also approved to reduce the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE), including cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and nonfatal stroke, in overweight or obese adults who have a history of cardiovascular disease. The drug’s label expansion is based on results of the Phase III SELECT cardiovascular outcomes trial. Wegovy is to be used in conjunction with a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity. 

Several health system CEOs announced career changes last week, including Peter Banko, who will become president and CEO of Springfield, Mass.-based Baystate Health in June. Banko, who will take over the roles when Dr. Mark Keroack retires, previously served as president of a three-state division of CommonSpirit and as CEO of Centura Health, a long-term joint venture between CommonSpirit and AdventHealth. Separately, Dale Maxwell plans to retire as CEO of Albuquerque, N.M.-based Presbyterian Healthcare Services, effective July 31, and Dr. Craig Lambrecht resigned as CEO of the recently combined Billings Clinic-Logan Health system. A successor for Maxwell, who has been with Presbyterian Healthcare for 24 years, has not been designated. Dr. Clint Seger and Kevin Abel will serve as co-CEOs of the combined Billings Clinic-Logan Health system. 

What we’re reading
Update On The Medicare Value-Based Care Strategy: Alignment, Growth, Equity. Health Affairs, 3.14.24
The future of Medicare Advantage. McKinsey & Company, 3.13.24

Vertical Integration and the Transformation of American Medicine. NEJM, 3.14.24


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