AITech Interview with Pete McLain, Chief Strategy Officer at Caregility

Can AI truly transform healthcare, or is it more about enhancing patient care? Pete McLain, CSO at Caregility, weighs in.

Kindly brief us about yourself and your role as the Chief Strategy Officer at Caregility.

I have over a decade of experience in telehealth video and communications solutions with 20 years of overall experience in the healthcare industry. I have served in various strategic, business development, and sales leadership positions at healthcare technology manufacturers such as Rubbermaid Healthcare, C Port Solutions, Johnson & Johnson, DePuy, and Zimmer. I now lead the overall product and solutions strategy at Caregility, driving innovation, value, and business expansion in the healthcare market. I joined Caregility in 2014 to build out our strategy as a video conferencing company and how we use video as a way to deliver patient care. As the industry has evolved, we are now developing a strategy for how AI fits into care delivery – and that is exciting.

How will AI technology transform the healthcare industry in the next 5-10 years?

I have to start by asking,”What do we mean by AI?” AI can mean so many different things to different people – from artificial intelligence to ambient intelligence, as well as augmented intelligence. Many people think of the movie “iRobot” and are under the impression that robots are now going to be replacing doctors and nurses and providing care. I don’t believe that is going to happen in the next 5-10 years. These technologies are not about transforming healthcare, but instead, enhancing healthcare. I don’t think AI is going to fundamentally transform the industry to where it will be completely different from what it is today. But I do expect it to be enhanced quite a bit. So I would disagree with the word transform.

What are some of the biggest challenges that healthcare providers face when implementing AI solutions?

I believe we need to go back to the basics. The job of healthcare providers or clinician teams is to care for patients. So the approach to AI should center on whether AI can help provide better care for patients. The biggest challenge is how to leverage AI in a way that will help deliver care. As an example, AI might detect medical issues that are impacting a patient and send alerts or alarms to the doctor or nurse. If some of those alerts are false, meaning they weren’t there or they’re not accurate, then that becomes a distraction to the caregiver and for the patient. AI needs to be able to help enhance patient care, and help make things easier for the caregivers. AI is not going to ever replace the caregiver, because healthcare decisions will always need to be made by humans and delivered through humans. But where AI can help is by supporting some of the rudimentary tasks that need to be performed by doctors and nurses – freeing them up to spend more time with their patients.   

Another big challenge I see for providers is determining which AI solutions will still be here a year from now. When the pandemic first started, everybody shifted to providing telehealth solutions, and suddenly everyone seemed to be a telehealth company. There is the risk that we start to see that with AI solutions.  

At the end of the day, though, it is about delivering the best care to patients.  

In your opinion, what are some of the most promising AI applications in healthcare today?

There are several promising AI applications in healthcare. Clinical decision support is a big one and this is different from clinical decision making. Currently, lots of data is being collected about patients and having an algorithm or database management engine that sifts through all the information and identifies things that are relevant that the caregivers need to know is extremely important. While this is happening, it is important to identify trends in the data, such as whether a patient is deteriorating and a physician needs to intervene. This type of AI solution is not new, but it is extremely helpful. Supporting clinical decision making with data, trends in the data, and predictive algorithms can make a difference between life and death. 

Another promising area for AI is that the technology can replicate some of the mundane work that caregivers have to do such as vital sign collection. A nurse can now do this in a contactless way using a camera, a radar device, or a wearable that’s just like a patch to collect vital signs. AI can help continuously bring awareness to doctors and nurses about a patient condition and/or changes in the patient. 

AI can also be used to detect what a patient is doing in their room. Are they lying on the bed? Are they sitting up? Are they out of the bed walking around? Have they fallen on the floor? Then an alert can be sent to a nurse at the nurse’s station or maybe to a virtual nurse to follow up with the patient. 

How do you think AI technology can improve patient outcomes and experiences?

AI can detect deterioration or other conditions in patients that can enable early intervention, preventive maintenance, or other types of necessary interactions. The concept of being able to catch things earlier could certainly help with patient outcomes and experiences. Another area of AI is called ambient clinical intelligence – taking a recording of the doctor/patient conversation, and then documenting the conversation into the medical record. This saves time from a nurse sitting at a computer trying to re-enter the information. This contributes to accurate information, and also frees up the medical staff to provide better patient care. It definitely allows clinicians to work at the top of their license.  

What role do data privacy and security play in the development and deployment of AI solutions in healthcare?

It is about accuracy. If AI is being used to detect something, it needs to be correct and that’s where privacy and security comes in.

What advice would you give to healthcare providers who are interested in implementing AI solutions in their practice?

Make sure health AI technology is helping care for patients and not getting in the way. We need to always ask the question, “How is this going to help me care for my patients better?” 

How does Caregility approach the ethical considerations of using AI in healthcare?

Caregility takes AI in healthcare very seriously. One of the companies we have partnered with pulls the video stream from the camera into a machine learning engine. But they are also turning the patient into just a stick figure, so there’s no way to know anything about who it is, or what they are doing other than lying down, sitting and walking. 

The technology should be helpful to the care team, and ensure accuracy and privacy at the same time. 

Can you discuss any specific AI projects or initiatives that Caregility is currently working on?

Recently, we announced a new portfolio of AI-enhanced hybrid care solutions built on our Caregility Cloud virtual care platform. The enhancements reduce technology investment risks for hospitals and health systems by offering the flexibility to choose those health AI applications that are the best fit for their environment and needs without creating more IT silos that could hamper workflow and congested networks. 

Caregility’s partners, Abridge, Ouva, and Xandar Kardian, are committed to integrating their transformative AI-enhanced hybrid care solutions with Caregility to help provide better patient care. 

For example,  Abridge, a leader in the clinical adaptation of generative AI, is helping capture relevant medical documentation from clinical conversations with patients in near real-time. Ouva, a pioneer in the clinical application of computer vision, is providing AI-powered continuous patient and patient room observation tracking so that patient and visitor movement can alert care teams to potential patient safety concerns such as falls, elopement, or self-harm. Xandar Kardian, an innovator in radar-based contactless patient monitoring, is adding continuous vital sign and motion capture to Caregility solutions, delivering real-time data on patients’ resting heart rate, respiratory rate, and motion patterns to remote clinical teams to assess trends and meaningful changes in patient conditions.

Caregility Cloud virtual care platform also leverages operational AI to remotely monitor telehealth endpoint systems and initiate self-healing commands if equipment is not performing properly, enabling health systems to manage large telehealth system deployments at scale and across multiple sites.

Lastly, how do you envision Caregility using AI technology to enhance the delivery of telehealth services?

AI enhancements in telehealth can unlock even more value for overburdened caregivers and administrative teams who are struggling to keep up with rising costs and increased demand. 

When people think of telehealth, they often think of virtual visits over Zoom because that is how a lot of people were introduced to telehealth during COVID. But that is just a small sliver of telehealth. 

Caregility has partnered with several companies that are bringing AI into telehealth services across multiple settings and use cases, including using chatbots to do surveys with the patient before their scheduled visit with the doctor and lots of the prep stuff that’s needed before the virtual visit. All that can be handled with AI now. Computer vision applications can analyze live video streams of patients and their environment to detect movement and changes that could lead to adverse events such as falls or self-harm. Contactless monitoring systems can continuously capture patient vital signs, detecting variations in heart rate, breathing patterns, and movement that could be indicative of physiological events like awakening from sleep or an induced coma. And ambient clinical intelligence algorithms can generate documentation from live clinician and patient conversations for the patient’s electronic health record.

These are all examples of the tremendous protential AI has to enhance and augment – not replace – care teams, helping them save time, capture more meaningful patient data, and support clinical decisions and interventions that lead to better care and improved patient outcomes.

Pete McLain

Chief Strategy Officer at Caregility

As Caregility’s Chief Strategy Officer, Pete provides leadership to our growing product and solution focus in the healthcare market. He is a pioneer, innovator and leader in the field of telehealth video and communications solutions with 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Pete has served in various strategic, business development and sales leadership positions at healthcare technology manufacturers such as Rubbermaid Healthcare, CPort Solutions, Johnson & Johnson, DePuy and Zimmer. He now leads overall strategy at Caregility, driving innovation, value and business expansion in the healthcare market.

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