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by Dr Ahmad AbuSalah
Published on December 12, 2022

Specialized tertiary care hospitals are viewed as the go-to hospitals for many patients because they are equipped with the needed specialists, facilities, and supplies for addressing critical patient needs. To cope with increased demand, King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre (KFSH&RC) has developed intelligent tools for day-to-day operations management and planning activities.

Dr Ahmad AbuSalah, a healthcare informatics and intelligence officer at KFSH&RC, presented on the adoption and utilization of applied artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare last month at the Oracle Cerner Health Conference. Continue reading to discover his insights on the intelligent solutions developed in-house that have helped to enhance patient experience and streamline workflows and operations, concluding with potential collaboration opportunities.

KFSH&RC is a tertiary care hospital network  established in the 70s and is located in Saudi Arabia with more than 2,200 beds and 16,000 employees. KFSH&RC’s Center for Healthcare Intelligence was established in 2019 to extract actionable insights from the hospital’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system as well as Hospital’s operational and financial systems for enhancing clinical decisions, streamlining workflows, and improving overall experience using Artificial Intelligence and emerging technologies capabilities. The hospital’s 20-year digital health journey empowered the hospital with mature computing infrastructure, rich digital data, and local core AI human-power for informing decisions using smart cutting-edge technologies.

The hospital has also established several collaborations with national and international entities with similar vision such as MIT  and Oracle Cerner for building applied Healthcare AI models. The hospital’s strategic partnership with Oracle Cerner achieved a lot of recognitions, such as the HIMSS Davies Award, the Most Wired Award, HIMSS Stage 7 in EHR adoption and analytics, the Gartner Award, and the Cerner Innovation Award. But the most important metric is patient satisfaction; we are ranked among the 99th percentile for patient satisfaction among the hospitals in the region, as measured by the Press Ganey satisfaction system.1

Importance of AI in tertiary care hospitals

Most patients who come to tertiary care have multiple conditions or comorbidities. As clinicians need to consider various factors about their condition, data-driven AI can assist with providing valuable information about patients to make an informed decision about their possible treatments, rather than referring to a set of predefined guidelines that can only provide a high-level overview of aggregated data.

We focus on the patient-centric model and put the patient at the center of the healthcare delivery process by analyzing their satisfaction scores and feedback. In addition, clinicians are determined to provide the best treatment for their patients while also focusing on their KPIs. AI helps with factoring all these aspects to make informed clinical and operational decisions. Other factors also include medication availability, patients’ length of stay in the hospital, etc. where AI can be of great assistance.

While building our EHR system using AI solutions, we wanted to ensure it derived a high ROI from its initiation. However, to do so, it was essential to recognize that it requires a lot of maintenance support that incurs time and cost, and would require a great deal of human, infrastructure, and operational resources. Hence, before one considers building AI applications, it is vital to ensure they have a strong and mature digital infrastructure to ensure an optimal ROI is derived from it.

In addition to digital infrastructure, awareness and training are equally crucial. Therefore, we built an applied Healthcare AI training program at KFSH&RC for this with two proficiency levels. One is an associate program for those who are beginning their journey into using AI in healthcare, and the second is the advanced version, for those who are into data and technology, and want to have a hands-on experience with AI. This program is built in-house and is constantly reviewed based on the feedback we receive from the clinicians.

Quick wins of use cases using AI

When the hospital established the Center for Healthcare Intelligence in Q4 2019, COVID was on its way to becoming a huge pandemic all over the world. Our first use case was working on COVID operational intelligence to showcase the value of AI over time. We primarily focused on forecasting trend analysis to predict the expected number of cases along with expected utilization and needed equipment and resources over time. These forecasts found favor with the operational COVID-19 command and control committees in the hospital for COVID-19 treatment prioritization. Consequently, similar tech tools were built for the patient flow command center, prescription demand forecasting, staffing decisions, and creating an efficient schedule of operating rooms to conduct as many procedures as possible.

The center also built and deployed a patient satisfaction enhancement system that leverages patients’ charts and feedback surveys to proactively identify patients’ concerns for clinicians and staff to act on. We then measured patients’ feedback on the actions we took over time and noticed that our satisfaction score with Press Ganey increased by 6% on the oncology side.
One challenge that is still facing Applied Healthcare AI is the lack of regulations and licensing of evidence-based AI. While there may be limitations in this space, having these discussions about its feasibility are ongoing and should aid in improving this area. To address such issues, in association with Oracle Cerner, we developed a Special Interest Group (SIG) for data analytics that connects all organizations in the region to periodically meet and discuss use cases, opportunities, and issues across use cases. Knowledge sharing with others contributes to valuable collaboration, and these SIGs were one of the great ways to promote that.

Collaborations via innovation hubs

Innovation hubs can be an opportunity to collaborate on various aspects, such as patient data analysis, home healthcare, patient journey, and other advanced technology such as metaverse augmented reality and virtual reality. While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030 is very ambitious, it is achievable considering the numerous foundational and transformational projects that have happened over the last few years. The hospital has extensive resources in empowering applied healthcare AI innovators across the globe to maximize the utilization of AI in healthcare and capitalize on the fast recent achievements in this domain.

“As an early adopter, we can be your backbone with AI data and real-world utilization. We are seeking strategic partnerships with various entities and vendors that go way beyond just the classical client-vendor relationship. We're open to such collaborations and partnerships.”

If you’re interested to learn more please contact Dr Ahmad AbuSalah at abusalah@kfshrc.edu.sa

1 https://www.pressganey.com