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Transforming Health Care with AI: A Conversation with Dr. Nishit Patel


Dr. Nishit Patel

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a part of our everyday lives. Particularly, it is reshaping the way society approaches medicine and is promising a future of precision, efficiency, and improved patient outcomes. Dr. Nishit Patel, MD, professor in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, vice president of medical informatics for USF Tampa General Physicians, and vice president and chief medical informatics officer at Tampa General Hospital, explains the exciting potential and challenges of AI in health care, emphasizing its transformative role and ethical significance. 

The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly revolutionized how we use artificial intelligence. It reshaped health care delivery, accelerating the adoption of telehealth and virtual care technologies. This shift has brought new challenges in delivering efficient care and handling increased patient inquiries through digital platforms. To address this, the electronic health record platform Epic, used by USF Health and Tampa General Hospital, started collaborating with Microsoft and OpenAI to integrate chat GPT-like functionality directly into the medical field, enabling more efficient responses to patient queries, which will give doctors more time to spend with patients. 

"Under the leadership of our provost and our CIO, there's an AI strategy work group that's being put together to lay out a strategy and an organizational structure that can help us truly maximize this revolutionary technology, whether it comes in the form of how we teach our students or help our professors and instructors look at opportunities from a research perspective, as well as deploying AI tools to improve business and operational efficiencies." 

USF Health and TGH are embracing these AI and related technologies. Under the guidance of university leadership, an AI workgroup is starting to shape a comprehensive strategy to maximize this transformative technology's potential. This strategy extends beyond education and research, including enhancing business operations. 

Tampa General’s partnerships with data company Palantir and Epic, have yielded remarkable results over the past year with leveraging predictive algorithms and AI tools. This collaboration has produced innovative solutions to address everyday healthcare challenges.  

“We have developed and tweaked algorithms to be able to help with patient placement, to make sure that the right patient goes to the right bed and that we can plan for their needs in advance,” Dr. Patel said. “We have used it to optimize efficiencies around nurse leader planning for how many nurses are needed on a particular floor, and what’s most exciting is that we've been able to leverage a combination of predictive tools from our EHR vendor Epic, as well as with Palantir, to ensure that when patients face a life-threatening conditions, we can detect it perhaps even before the clinician or the medical team is able to, as well as make sure that the treatments and interventions that patient needs are as timely as possible and that any delays are identified as they're happening and corrected.”  

With over 500 AI algorithms cleared for health care use by the Food and Drug Administration, the opportunities are vast. Dr. Patel emphasizes the importance and need for AI to be transparent, explainable, and guided by medical ethics to ensure patient safety and equity.  


Stock image showing the potential future of health care technology being used to consult with a patient.

“At the end of the day, as a physician, we are responsible for the care of that patient in front of us, and, regardless of what an algorithm says, we must combine that with our medical experience and knowledge to ensure we are doing the right thing for that patient in front of us,” he said. “There is a process that exists and a rigor that exists because we're dealing with people's lives. That's why it's so critical, whether it's for medical education or even as a practicing physician today, that we really understand in detail how an AI recommendation works, what it's based on, and to make sure that we're making thoughtful decisions and not reflexively relying on that tool in place of good medical decision making.”  

AI tools are rapidly becoming seamlessly integrated into health care workflows. In the future, AI will aid physicians by reducing administrative burdens, enabling them to focus more on direct patient care. Patients will benefit from improved accuracy in diagnosis and treatment, leading to improved holistic outcomes. 

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About Health News

USF Health News highlights the great work of the faculty, staff and students across the four health colleges – Morsani College of Medicine, College of Public Health, College of Nursing and Taneja College of Pharmacy – and the multispecialty physicians group. USF Health, an integral part of the University of South Florida, integrates research, education and health care to reach our shared value - making life better.