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David Higginson of Phoenix Children's Hospital on using machine learning


He talks about how machine learning improved patient care and the hospital's financial performance, and offers a few tips for health systems.

Chicago - David Higginson has some advice for hospitals and health systems looking to use machine learning.

"Get started," he says.

Higginson, the chief innovation officer of Phoenix Children's Hospital, offered a presentation on machine learning at the HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition. He described how machine learning models helped identify children with malnutrition and people who would be willing to donate to the hospital's foundation.

After the session, he spoke with Chief Healthcare Executive® and offered some guidance for health systems looking to do more with machine learning.

"I would say get started by thinking about how you going to use it first," Higginson says. "Don't get tricked into actually building the model."

"Think about the problem, frame it up as a prediction problem," he says, while adding that not all problems can be framed that way.

"But if you find one that is a really nice prediction problem, ask the operators, the people that will use it everyday: 'Tell me how you'd use this,'" Higginson says. "And work with them on their workflow and how it's going to change the way they do their job.

"And when they can see it and say, 'OK, I'm excited about that, I can see how it's going to make a difference,' then go and build it," he says. "You'll have more motivation to do it, you'll understand what the goal is. But when you finally do get it, you'll know it's going to be used."

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