Tech

Dean Rottinghaus on the ‘Alexa for healthcare’ that helps hospitals reduce readmission rates

Reducing readmission rates also helps hospitals improve their quality measures, Rottinghaus said.
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Dean Rottinghaus

· 3 min read

On Fridays, we schedule our rounds with Healthcare Brew readers. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

This week’s Making Rounds spotlights Dean Rottinghaus, chief clinical officer for virtual care provider Infinity Care Partners and artificial intelligence (AI)-based platform QurHealth. Rottinghaus talked about using AI to help patients access care as well as hospitals reduce readmission rates and lower overall costs.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about Infinity Care Partners and QurHealth.

Infinity Care Partners and QurHealth are two separate companies that work together. QurHealth is a voice-enabled AI platform that’s like Siri or Alexa for healthcare. The platform is named Sheela, and it’s customized for a patient’s condition. Patients can speak to Sheela through their smartphone or tablet and say, for instance, “I’ve got swelling in my legs.” Sheela starts asking the patient a series of questions regarding their condition. The AI doesn’t make any clinical decisions; it only elevates the situation to a level of an alert. Then Sheela sends an alert to Infinity Care Partners, which is a team of registered nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, and medical assistants. The Infinity Care Partners team can provide virtual care for the patient and address what’s going on.

There’s a tremendous shortage of clinical staff right now in healthcare, and QurHealth can help a lot. We are utilizing QurHealth and Infinity Care Partners in inpatient settings, outpatient settings, and home health settings. We service a few thousand patients in the US.

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What benefits do QurHealth and Infinity Care Partners provide for hospitals?

We have reduced hospital readmission rates and emergency room visits, leading to an overall significant reduction in healthcare costs to the system. Most readmissions occur within the first 12 to 14 days after discharge. But if someone is there—meaning Sheela and QurHealth—where a patient can reach out to them, and there’s virtual care—meaning Infinity Care Partners—the chances of readmission drop by roughly 40%. The other big part of that was increased quality measures because hospitals get penalized for patients who get readmitted.

What’s the most meaningful part of your job?

Reaching people who otherwise would not have 24/7 access to care. We are in rural hospitals in numerous states, and people in rural areas don’t have the access to care and the quality of care that people in more urban areas have. Many times in those smaller rural areas, patients use the emergency room as their primary care physician because they don’t know how to navigate healthcare. We are reaching these patients who don’t have a primary care provider and we’re able to help them navigate the healthcare system—and keep them out of the emergency room.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your industry?

That virtual care management utilizing AI is not possible in the elderly or compromised populations. You would think that patients who are older don’t have the technological expertise or savvy, but we’re finding quite the opposite. They are super excited to have somebody to reach out to 24/7.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.