Apr 10 2018
Patient-Centered Care

Cleveland Clinic Targets Telemedicine, Big Data and AI to Improve the Future of Care

The healthcare leader relies on digital platforms, a closer relationship with IBM to continue to fast-forward care.

The Cleveland Clinic has a history of being on the bleeding edge of health IT and its new CEO Tom Mihaljevic has made it clear that the Ohio-based health system will keep pushing ahead as a medical technology pioneer.

“Most of our plans for the future will depend on digital platforms: telemedicine, data analytics, artificial intelligence,” Mihaljevic said during the State of the Clinic address in late February. “Digital technology will allow us to deliver smarter, more affordable and more accessible [care]. The Cleveland Clinic has always been an early adopter, beginning with our electronic medical records. But now, we have to take technology even more seriously. We have to go for even more transformational technologic adoption.”

Mihaljevic, who took over for former CEO Toby Cosgrove at the start of the year, laid out the ways that digital tools and research into new health IT areas will factor heavily into the Cleveland Clinic’s future plans.

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Digital Tools Continue to Enhance the Provider Experience

With the clinic reporting more than 25,000 virtual visits in 2017 through its Express Care Online portal, Mihaljevic says that telemedicine is the fastest growing clinical option for the provider, which will continue to be a priority going forward.

What might be the most impactful, however, is an even tighter relationship with IBM that seeks to investigate how AI, cognitive computing and data analytics can improve care. Mihaljevic looked ahead to a continued five-year partnership with IBM Watson, which aims to dig deeper into how Big Data and cognitive computing can help providers to handle “the rapid expansion of knowledge in healthcare,” and eventually augment clinical decision-making.

“Now, the day will come when our decisions are supported by data from wearables, imaging, implants, genetic profiling, along with insights from global help trends and published research. And care through that will become more individualized and personalized than ever,” Mihaljevic said.

Already, the clinic has expanded its use of IBM tools — a secured cloud as well as social, mobile and Watson cognitive computing technologies — across both clinical and administrative operations in order to enable more efficient analysis of data from electronic health records, social determinants of health and information from administrative claims. In order to improve this collaboration, IBM Watson announced it is building a 43,000-square-foot, analytics home base near the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus. This will further the partners’ work into using Big Data to tackle cancer research, genomics, predictive analytics and other precision medicine initiatives, Cleveland Clinic CIO Edward Marx said at the recent HIMSS 2018 conference in Las Vegas, Health Data Management reports.

“They have made a pretty large footprint in the city near our campus, where they’ll bring 300 professionals related to IBM Watson, right across the street from where our researchers and providers are,” Marx said, according to the site. “That’s really just going to escalate the relationship that we have together, because the future really is largely about data and the ability to learn from it and apply it going forward.”

During his address, Mihaljevic was careful to stress that this use of AI does not mean that caregivers will be replaced by computers, but instead will offer providers access to more knowledge than ever while liberating them from repetitive administrative tasks.

“We will use the digital technology to humanize care and enhance our role as healers,” he said.

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