CMS competition seeks predictive AI apps for better health outcomes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has launched a new contest it hopes will speed the development of new artificial intelligence technologies that can better predict health outcomes and boost quality of care.

CMS says the Artificial Intelligence Health Outcomes Challenge – announced by the agency on Wednesday, in partnership with American Academy of Family Physicians and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation – seeks to uncover and “unleash” new and innovative tools to help with the push toward value-based care.

To do that, CMS is calling on developers from all industries to create new predictive AI applications to help providers participating in CMS Innovation Center models to deliver better care and make quality measures more impactful.

“The Artificial Intelligence Health Outcomes Challenge is a three stage competition that will begin with the Launch Stage, in which participants will submit an application at,” officials explain. “Up to 20 participants will be selected to participate in Stage 1 of the Challenge. We anticipate that more information about Stage 1 and Stage 2 will be announced later this year.”

As much as $1.65 million in total awarded to participants during Stage 1 and Stage 2.

“If selected for Stage 1, participants will develop algorithms that predict health outcomes from Medicare fee-for-service data, and strategies and methodologies to explain the artificial intelligence-driven predictions to frontline clinicians and physicians while building trust in the data,” according to CMS. “Participants in Stages 1 and 2 of the competition will use Medicare claims data sets provided by CMS to develop their algorithms and solutions.”

The deadline for submitting applications for the Launch Stage is June 18, 2019.

The initiative comes close on the heels of President Trump’s executive order to increase research and development of AI capabilities in this country. A tacit recognition that the U.S. needs to play catch-up in the global push for AI innovation, the American AI Initiative calls on the federal government to prioritize R&D for machine learning in healthcare and elsewhere.

But as healthcare technology pioneer Dr. Eric Topol points out in our recent interview with him, that initiative is not light on specifics, it’s completely unfunded. Still, Topol says he’s optimistic, on the whole, about what AI can do for healthcare, as long as it gets the support it needs and is deployed wisely and safely.

“This is the greatest potential we have to fix what ails us in healthcare,” he said. “We’re still a long way from that. But when you think about the waste, the inefficiency, the lack of productivity, the horrible workflow that we have – never mind the relationship between patients and their physicians. All these things. There’s a remedy in store. It’s out there, dangling.”

“The Artificial Intelligence Health Outcomes Challenge is an opportunity for innovators to demonstrate how artificial intelligence tools – such as deep learning and neural networks – can be used to predict unplanned hospital and skilled nursing facility admissions and adverse events,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

“For artificial intelligence to be successful in healthcare, it must not only enhance the predictive ability of illnesses and diseases, but also enable providers to focus more time with patients,” she added. “The power of artificial intelligence will truly be unleashed when providers understand and trust the data and predictions.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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