Innovation partnerships at UCHealth (Healthfinch)

Tracy Sawyer, RN

Our UCHealth Care Innovation Center is dedicated to implementing partnerships with companies that improve and simplify our work. Our most recent example is our partnership with Healthfinch to improve prescription renewals, by assessing the data in the electronic health record, presenting it to nurses and pharmacists on a centralized prescription renewal team and demonstrating efficiencies, like cutting per-prescription refill time in half.

As we move into value-based contracts in healthcare, and continually need to remove inefficiencies and lower costs, to stay competitive, partnerships like this will move us in the right direction. See the video of UCHealth’s Tracy Sawyer RN, speaking at the AMDIS conference in Ojai, California, as she describes our journey and our results:

CMIO’s take? There are more smart people who DON’T work for you, than who do. Find a way to work with them when you can.

Showing Rx Co-Pay Cost at time of Prescribing, in the EHR (info transparency!)

Sometimes you work hard, and cool things happen. UCHealth is partnering with RxRevu, makers of SwiftRx, an EHR-embedded tool that shows prescribing doctors the co-pay cost of patient medications AT THE TIME OF PRESCRIBING! We believe we’re one of the first in the country to do this successfully.

Yes, at the time of prescribing. NOT the usual “guess-again” game that we’re all tired of. “Hey, I’m gonna prescribe doxycycline from this chronic condition. It’s an older drug so, I’m GUESSING it will be inexpensive at the pharmacy, but WHO KNOWS?!” And then the inevitable phone call “Doc? That prescription has a $241 copay! Isn’t there something else?”

We are all tired of this game.

After quite a bit of hard work and innovative partnering with RxRevu, we are pleased to have launched, about a month ago, the ability for our docs to prescribe medicines within our EHR, and (like magic!) right within their workflow (don’t have to make a phone call, don’t have to launch a web browser and figure out the patient’s insurance specifics, or look up in some massive formulary book), right in our EHR, we see the co-pay! The Real-time benefits check shows up in about 1-2 seconds, just like above.

With that particular patient, we saved him about $200 by switching from tablets to capsules. Silly, but true.

Here’s the news article on SwiftRx at UCHealth.

Here’s the recent webinar I participated in describing this innovation.

CMIO’s take? There are so many ways information transparency will help us and our patients, in healthcare. Have you found success with information transparency? Let me know!

EHR Sprint Optimization Executive Summary – using Stories, Images AND Data to change minds

Many of you know that in my role as CMIO at UCHealth, I’ve stepped in my share of potholes. My Failure Resume is replete with examples (eg: my 16 year journey to implementing Open Notes). Having studied the Open Notes phenomenon back in 2000 and published in 2003, it was a big disappointment when, after presenting to the medical leaders at University of Colorado, I was soundly voted down for implementing this transparency initiative (sharing doctors progress notes with patients online) repeatedly in 2002, 2003, 2004, until I stopped asking. Then, about a decade later, AFTER the Open Notes organization (thanks, Tom Delbanco and others) formed and pushed the agenda in 2011, we gathered steam and I finally succeeded in May 2016 to implement Open Notes system-wide for several million patients). You can call it a failure or an eventual success.

Nevertheless, when we implemented our Sprint Team for EHR optimization, we were at risk of being disbanded and told to return to our usual jobs (I had “stolen” these resources from IT and informatics to “Sprint” one endocrinology clinic of 29 doctors). In defense of our program I wrote this 1 page Executive Summary. We know that readership of white papers drops by half with every additional page. I included images/graphs (internal marketing, make your document attractive and interesting), STORIES (because, what p-value has ever REALLY changed someone’s mind?) and DATA (because, what self-respecting doctor or leader DOESN’T ask for evidence?).

And no, it wasn’t an overnight success, but it was one of the core documents that drove our executive team to finally approve the budget to continue our Sprint efforts. Download the 2-year-summary version below.

We have now sprinted over 750 clinicians, hundreds of ancillary staff (MA’s, RN’s, front desk clerks), over 70 clinics, with uniformly RAVE reviews. And, even better news, we were recently funded to DOUBLE our Sprint team to 22 people. We are grateful to our leaders for such foresight.

CMIO’s take? Sometimes internal marketing can be as or more important that external marketing. Do you have success stories of how you wrote/composed documents for success? Let me know.

I Can See Clearly That My Sprain is Gone – Ukulele parody (and an XGM talk)

Author along with co-conspirator Peter Sachs MD. Neither can sing.

We (Dr. Peter Sachs, Vice Chair of Radiology at UCHealth, and I) recently had the pleasure of presenting our recent quality improvement work at Epic’s XGM (eXpert’s Group Meeting) in Verona, WI this week. In brief, we created and turned on the ability for patients to view their own radiology IMAGES online in their patient portal. We had already been sharing radiology REPORTS with our patients for over a decade, and this is an additional step towards information transparency. We think we are among the first to do this.

Despite some minor misgivings on the part of our clinical leaders, we were given the green light to turn this on. Short answer, over 22,000 patients viewed their images in the first month, September 2018 and … no complaints from either doctors or patients! So, we get to keep our jobs!

If you have 2 minutes, here’s the song:

And, if you have another 25 minutes, here’s the talk, and some Q/A after:

Patients Viewing Their Radiology Images Online. Peter Sachs, CT Lin, XGM 2019

CMIO’s take? It is terrific to have a close community of like-minded physician informaticists and technologists pulling to improve healthcare and patient experience, and celebrating each other’s successes. I’m ever grateful to innovative and inspiring colleagues.

What is a Yottabyte, and How Do You Treat It? (a talk)

I gave a keynote speech late last year at Technology Awareness Day, hosted by the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus about Big Data, Tech acceleration, and Artificial Intelligence, as applied to healthcare.

I enjoy making my colleagues uncomfortable. How long will doctors have jobs? Will the AI eliminate internal medicine doctors? If Watson can beat humans at Jeopardy, can it beat me at reading medical literature? Can it be dermatologists at diagnosing skin cancer? Can it beat radiologists at interpreting CT scan images?

It is true that the most complex object known to us is the human brain, with its trillions of neurons and extensive interconnections. From this physical matter, something called “general adaptive intelligence” and “consciousness” arises, neither of which we understand or know how to construct or deconstruct. On the other hand, fundamentally though, isn’t a neuron a collection of physical and chemical processes that we DO understand? And then extrapolating upward then, is it not conceivable that we could eventually figure out how to construct a human brain in all its complexity? Hmm.

Reading books like “Life 3.0” and “Superintelligence” gets me thinking about stuff like this. It is both humbling and exciting at the same time.

CMIO’s take? Decide for yourself. I know, it is almost an hour long, and who has an hour anymore, especially if TED speakers can get their point across in 10 minutes? Well, consider my talk a series of 4-5 TED talks. Yeah, that’s it.

Steven Strogatz (NYTimes) on a future for AI via AlphaZero

AlphaZero is now the undisputed champion of Go and now of chess. It recently battled Stockfish, the former chess computer heavyweight, and in that series of 100 matches, it won 28, drew 72, AND LOST NONE.

Lets hear that again. AlphaZero, the deep learning computer originally designed to play and beat human players at Go, the ancient board game, has recently been redesigned in a couple ways: 1) to take the original game rules AND NO HUMAN EXPERIENCE as its starting point, and 2) now can receive the rules for almost ANY game (in this example, chess) as its starting point. Then the programmers set AlphaZero to play itself AND LEARN THE STRATEGIES of the game by brute force and whether each strategy led to a victory or defeat. 

AlphaZero, having spent time playing itself millions of times and having discerned and taught itself the principles of chess, it only considered 60,000 moves per second instead of 60 million by Stockfish. It played smarter and faster.

“AlphaZero had the finesse of a virtuoso and the power of a machine.”

But, can it teach us its insights? No. Perhaps the most troubling paragraphs in this article is:

“What is frustrating about machine learning, however, is that the algorithms can’t articulate what they’re thinking. We don’t know why they work, so we don’t know if they can be trusted. AlphaZero gives every appearance of having discovered some important principles about chess, but it can’t share that understanding with us. Not yet, at least. As human beings, we want more than answers. We want insight. This is going to be a source of tension in our interactions with computers from now on.”

I am both heartened and disturbed by this. Heartened in that AI is on the launch pad to apply itself to all kinds of human challenges that have been difficult to solve until now. Disturbed also; how long will AlphaZero and its contemporaries need human insight and input before it’s always-accelerating capability outstrips our brains’ hardware and our ability to keep up and be relevant?

CMIO’s take? I have no take. I’m gonna wait for my auto-correct from Siri to get smart enough to finish writing this post.

Video: Dr. Sieja discusses EHR Optimization Sprints

Congratulations to Dr. Sieja and team for publication of UCHealths’ experience regarding EHR Optimization Sprints. You can do it too! Read about our published experience at Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

There are several online supplements: additional specifics about how we conducted the program (30-60-90 day planning meetings, agendas for the 2 weeks of activity, etc), and the actual pre and post-intervention surveys.