David Skarda, MD, Intermountain Healthcare’s medical director for Center for Value-Based Surgery, has been named to the nation’s class of Top 25 Innovators for 2020 by Modern Healthcare magazine for his innovative work to reduce healthcare costs.

Each year, Modern Healthcare, a national publication, honors innovators from across the country who’ve championed solutions that are reshaping the healthcare industry in four categories: consumerism, cost reduction, population health, and safety and quality.

“While healthcare always looks for ways to transform, 2020 required more nimble, innovative adaptations than ever before,” says Aurora Aguilar, Modern Healthcare’s editor. “As communities hunkered down, providers and other industry members quickly found new ways to care for their patients, and they couldn’t be afraid to try something new.”

“This year’s Top 25 Innovators exemplify the best of those transformations,” Aguilar added. “They put quality first and still looked for ways to improve their work during uncertain times.”

Dr. Skarda’s is helping establish a surgical care process model that changes the way Intermountain analyzes and codes surgeries to create better outcomes and lower costs for patients. This new state-of-the art tool uses artificial intelligence to analyze supply chain data, claims, and anything associated with the cost of care from 30 days before to 90 days after a surgery.

So far, the tool has been used for two procedures across the Intermountain system and it’s already projected to save more than $8 million during the fiscal year. The savings are expected to increase as the technology is applied to other surgical procedures.

“In the past, most health systems would save money by cutting out devices or procedures that cost the most,” said Dr. Skarda. “By analyzing total medical costs over 120 days we get a clearer picture of what gives us the best surgical outcomes, which also tends to lower the total cost of care.”

Looking at the total cost of surgery, and not just what happens in the operating room, gives clinicians the information needed to improve care, said Dr. Skarda.

An example is a knee replacement, which is common procedure. The AI system analyzes the cost of the knee replacement device but also looks at any medications, imaging, physical therapy, and complications over the 120-day period. If a device is slightly more expensive but leads to fewer complications, and quicker recovery, the system recognizes it as a better value even though the initial cost is more expensive.

Trying to find these results using only electronic medical records would be impossible but combining claims data and the AI system makes the information useful to caregivers.

“Dr. Skarda has been instrumental in the development and implementation of surgical care process models at all Intermountain facilities” said Paul Krakovitz, MD, vice president and chief medical officer of specialty-based care for Intermountain. “His innovative approach to identifying and removing unwarranted clinical procedures has expanded across the organization. We’re grateful for his dedication and proud of his efforts to improve healthcare affordability for our patients and communities.”

Intermountain surgeons now receive a report card that shows where they can reduce costs and how other physicians in their field are improving outcomes. This helps doctors make better decisions because it gives them the necessary data to prove what works.

That information can easily be shared to help hospital systems around the world improve the way they give care.

“It takes a whole system of innovative thinkers to develop and implement new tools like this, and we’re grateful to have it recognized by Modern Healthcare,” said Dr. Skarda.

To see the complete Modern Healthcare 2020 innovators list, click here.

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