‘Shark Tank’-style competition leads to artificial intelligence-powered prescription refills for health system

WYOMING, MI — An improved prescription-refill system is coming to University of Michigan Health-West’s outpatient locations due to a “Shark Tank”-style competition for employees.

A two-person team from Caledonia Health Center won first place in the challenge that was open to employees at University of Michigan Health-West health system. The health center’s proposal, called “The Nuance of Refills,” involves an artificial intelligence-powered documentation system to overcome delays in prescription approvals.

Caledonia Health Center Office Team Lead Cassie Baker and Office Manager Amy DeGood submitted the proposal to help alleviate staffing shortages in healthcare, the University of Michigan Health-West said.

The proposed system will work to decrease stress for both staff and patients by providing the needed information about a patient’s health history.

Instead of a simple voicemail queue, the AI-recognition system will work to “validate” the patient calling based on the patient’s incoming phone number or the simple background information they provide (name, date of birth, etc,). Based on their answers, the process moves forward with the prescription refill.

With a competition modeled on the TV show “Shark Week,” the University of Michigan-West invited employees to submit their best ideas to improve patient care. The competition attracted 27 submissions.

Five finalists were invited to present their proposals during the “Big Pitch” phase of the competition.

As part of the winning presentation, Caledonia Health Center played a few different patient calls left on the prescription voicemail. Dr. Rakesh Pai, president of University of Michigan Health Partners and chief population health officer, said it was important for the judges to hear the real-life examples of how the system could be improved.

“We got to hear from real patients,” Dr. Pai said. “It was a voicemail that said something to the effect of, ‘Please give me your name, date of birth, physician prescription and other additional identifying pieces of information.’ One of the voicemails left by a patient said that it was too much information for them to remember, and they would call someone else.

“So, you can imagine the people working those voice messages, that it’s a lot of frustration to track them down and get the right information to sign off on the prescriptions. There’s a lot of what I call ‘non-value-added time.’”

UMH-West is providing $66,000 to develop and implement the proposal over the next six months, according to a news release said. Another finalist, the UMH-West Community Health Center, will receive $9,000 to purchase 10 remote-monitoring kits.

As part of the University of Michigan Health Partners program, physician and advance practice providers (nurses, physician assistants) committees have dedicated their work towards different initiatives presented.

Although the challenge will become an annual event, Pai said innovation is a “year-round characteristic” of the University of Michigan Health-West, and the “winning solution” from Caledonia Health Center to expand the proposed system to primary care and specialty care clinics under University of Michigan Health Partners proves that.

“This is a solution that uses voice recognition, AI capabilities to help patients be identified in your system,” Dr. Pai said. “It can help reduce the pain points of our medical assistants, patient-service representatives and tracking down these patients.

“In additional consideration of picking the winner, we wanted a solution that wasn’t going to be so specific for a tiny population, but it was going to be broad and could be applied across our whole enterprise.”

“Shark Tank” is a hit ABC TV show. Five sharks on the show listen to entrepreneurs pitch their businesses and the sharks make offers to buy into those businesses they like for a percentage of the company.

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Steve Liem

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