Intermountain center taps AI, telehealth to improve kidney care

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Artificial intelligence and telemedicine are among the technologies Intermountain Healthcare is leveraging in a new center to provide kidney patients with the care they need—even at home.

The Intermountain Kidney Care Center, in Murray, Utah, brings together under one roof doctors, nurses, dietitians and other clinicians to offer fully integrated and coordinated medical services.

Among those services are telehealth-enabled care and in-home dialysis to ensure that Intermountain is able to successfully manage patients with kidney disease and remotely monitor their condition, no matter where they live. Currently, about 12 percent of Intermountain’s dialysis patients receive in-home care.

Ray Morales, the center’s executive operations director, contends that the facility is an effort by Intermountain to “take a more proactive approach” to managing patients with chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease.

“This new program is really geared towards early identification and management of kidney disease,” says Morales. “What makes this new clinic innovative is that we look to leverage telehealth to co-manage the disease. A lot of these patients don’t just have chronic kidney disease but three to five other comorbidities. These patients are complex and require a team approach.”

According to Morales, all of the exam rooms and workstations in the Intermountain Kidney Care Center are tele-enabled with the goal of helping patients to get remote access to care in a convenient manner “without adding additional burden to their lives.”

He notes that video visits are provided by linking healthcare providers with patients in their home settings as part of regularly scheduled medical appointments.

“With changes in CMS regulations, we can now provide the majority of the monthly consults—that these patients are required to have—in their home as opposed to having them travel to the dialysis center,” says Morales, who observes that the center will be utilizing telehealth for those virtual exams.

“Also, when the patients come into the clinic, whenever possible we want to be able to co-manage care virtually with other providers, where we can connect multiple providers (via telehealth) at one time to discuss the care plans that are most appropriate for these patients,” he adds.

In addition, the center has partnered with Israeli health IT vendor MDClone to transform Intermountain’s vast clinical data repositories into actionable insights by identifying trends and key decision points in treating kidney disease and applying that knowledge to help prevent patients from progressing to end-stage renal disease.

“MDClone is doing a lot of the predictive modeling—AI—around the identification of these individuals,” observes Morales. “All of our data is put into the data lake that MDClone has built, and from that we can then create specific queries based on different clinical parameters to be able to identify those patients that are in need of these services.”

For example, if a patient’s “lab values” indicate that they have advanced chronic kidney disease and they have not been referred to a nephrologist, that’s a “high priority” case, he concludes. “We’re leveraging predictive modeling to be proactive and identify and manage those patients."

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