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UCSF teams up with Doctors Company for AI-powered patient safety project

Among the challenges the organizations say they'll target are physician burnout, alert fatigue, EHR optimization, data sharing and patient engagement and experience.

Jeff Rowe | May 15, 2019 04:50 pm

UC San Francisco and the Doctors Company recently announced a new $1 million initiative to explore how artificial intelligence can improve care delivery and patient safety.

According to a statement, the Doctors Company, a physician-run provider of medical malpractice insurance, will work with UCSF researchers on the development of evidence-based patient safety practices, focusing ways to apply health information technology, specifically AI, to new and innovative approaches to quality improvement.

"The Doctors Company insures 82,000 physicians in the U.S. and has a rare window into the causes of medical errors and strategies to mitigate them," explained Robert Wachter, MD, chair of UCSF's Department of Medicine and a member of the Doctors Company's Board of Governors. "By leveraging UCSF’s world-class research community, we believe that we can develop new insights into safety hazards and strategies to keep patients safe.”

The two organizations see AI – alongside the ongoing maturity of electronic health records, medical apps and sensors – as big opportunities to find new approaches to long-standing safety risks such a misdiagnosis and medication errors.  The collaboration aims to maximize the strengths of both organizations to make substantive advances in patient safety and digital health through novel research and engagement, with the goal of safer care.

The UCSF team is led by two well-known associate professors of medicine: Julia Adler-Milstein and Urmimala Sarkar, MD. With support from the Doctors Company, they'll research best practices for integrating AI tools into clinical workflows.

"The primary goal of the partnership is to discover and disseminate new insights into risk mitigation strategies and patient safety by connecting top-tier UCSF researchers and unique resources and expertise from The Doctors Company," said Adler-Milstein. "It is a rare and exciting opportunity to have two such organizations come together to jointly advance such an important area.”

"We are proud to partner with a world-class institution like UCSF in a mission-based collaboration that has the power to improve medical outcomes in the transformative sphere of digital healthcare," said Richard E. Anderson, MD, chairman and chief executive officer of The Doctors Company.

Dr. Sarkar sees the initiative as a "valuable opportunity to learn more about errors in diagnosis for outpatient physicians across a range of practice settings, and to find creative ways to improve medical practice."