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by Dr Ahmad AbuSalah
Published on May 30, 2023

Specialized tertiary care hospitals are viewed as the go-to hospitals for many patients because they’re 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.

Continue reading to discover my insights regarding the intelligent solutions developed in-house that have helped enhance patient experience, streamline workflows and operations, and foster potential collaboration opportunities.

How it started

KFSH&RC is a tertiary care hospital network established in the 1970s and 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 both the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) and its operational and financial systems—for enhancing clinical decisions, streamlining workflows, and improving overall experience using AI 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 informed decision-making using smart, cutting-edge technologies.

The hospital has also established several collaborations with national and international entities with a similar vision, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oracle Cerner, for building applied healthcare AI models. The hospital’s strategic partnership with Oracle Cerner achieved significant recognition, including the HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence, "Digital Health Most Wired” recognition from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), HIMSS Stage 7 in EHR adoption and analytics, and the Oracle Health award for Achievement and Innovation in Patient Experience. But the most important metric is patient satisfaction; KFSH&RC is ranked in the 99th percentile for patient satisfaction among the hospitals in the region, as measured by the survey.

Importance of AI in tertiary care hospitals

Most patients who seek tertiary care have multiple conditions or comorbidities. As clinicians must consider various factors about these patients’ conditions, data-driven AI can help provide valuable patient information to make informed decisions about possible treatments, rather than referring to a set of predefined guidelines that only provide a high-level overview of aggregated data.

KFSH&RC focuses on a patient-centric model and puts patients 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 factor these aspects to make informed clinical and operational decisions. Other factors also include medication availability or patients’ hospital length of stay, 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 it requires significant maintenance support that incurs time and cost, and would also require a great deal of human, infrastructure, and operational resources. Hence, before considering building AI applications, it’s vital to ensure the organization has a strong and mature digital infrastructure to ensure an optimal ROI is derived.

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

AI use case quick wins

When the hospital established the Center for Healthcare Intelligence in Q4 2019, COVID-19 was on its way to becoming a pandemic all over the world. Our first use case was working on COVID-19 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 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.

Press Ganey then measured patients’ feedback on the actions taken by KFSH&RC over time and noticed that our oncology patients’ satisfaction mean score increased by 6%.

One challenge 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 technologies such as metaverse augmented reality and virtual reality. While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030 is very ambitious, it’s 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 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