Solving Grassroots Medical Issues With AI
When people think of AI in healthcare, robots performing miraculous surgeries with absolute precision are probably what spring to mind.
“AI can get there one day,” Pratik Mehta explains. “But there are some grassroots-level problems that need solving first.”
As head of artificial intelligence at CloudMedx, a company that uses predictive analytics to improve healthcare for patients and providers, Mehta is constantly asking what will meaningfully impact as many lives as possible using the technologies available today.
One of the most straightforward answers is supporting medical adherence. This essentially means whether a patient takes medicine on time and completes a prescribed course. A simple action with significant impacts.
Behavioral factors, like forgetting to take a pill, are no big deal for someone relatively healthy with a common illness.
“But when you’re talking about serious complications for people ages 60 and up, missing a medication can have huge consequences,” Mehta said.
His team is not concerned with one-off mistakes. They’re looking at systemic reasons why this happens—someone not having enough money for a copay or a means of transport to a pharmacy.
“When we have enough data about patients from different zip codes and communities, we start to see larger trends that tell bigger stories about common struggles.”
“The umbrella term is social determinants of health (SDOH),” he explained. “Like not having a stable income, access to doctors and pharmacies, clean air and water, and safe living conditions.”
Mehta’s team uses large amounts of patient data to help medical providers identify patterns and create awareness campaigns that target systemic problems.
“When we have enough data about patients from different zip codes and communities, we start to see larger trends that tell bigger stories about common struggles,” Mehta said.
Another important way that Mehta is using AI to create value throughout the medical ecosystem is by helping doctors and practitioners save time between seeing patients by improving the documentation process with AI. More pointedly: finding ways to remove obstacles between patients getting the essential care they need from medical providers. “For every 30 minutes that someone visits a doctor, it creates 30 minutes to one hour of documentation that needs to happen—not just by that doctor and by that nurse.”
Mehta’s team has built custom solutions that help review large amounts of documentation to retrieve timely, relative pieces of patient information, such as recent medications, a doctor can use to augment their understanding of someone’s condition. The goal is to reduce the time medical practitioners spend completing mundane but necessary tasks.
“It’s in everybody’s best interest that a doctor or a nurse spends more time with patients than documenting things,” he says.
Like so many leaders in the AI space, Mehta’s path was largely self-directed and based on his passion for new ideas and technology. AI is not what he studied directly at Chico State, but he says many lessons here have resonated with him in ways that transcend textbooks and made him a lifelong learner.
Originally from Mumbai, Mehta found the hands-on learning environment and collaborative style of project management at Chico State to be his own catalyst for change.
One of his biggest influences was professor Melody Stapleton. She needed a new teaching assistant and selected Mehta for the post, even though he didn’t apply.
Mehta explained, “She told me, ‘If anyone else can do it, so can you.’ In that class, she helped me believe that I was there to take care of those students, and this ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.”
“For an international student to come to a country like USA for the first time to do a master’s program, it was a fabulous experience,” he said. “It still is one of my most cherished experiences in my life.”
Today, mentoring and helping his team believe in themselves are part of his job at CloudMedx.
“I love mentoring, and that is something I’ve gotten from Chico,” Mehta said. “Having the confidence to speak to people and give presentations and the tools to treat these situations like lessons—this has gotten me to interface with a lot of wonderful people.”