Mercy launches AI texting program to prevent hospitalizations for chemotherapy patients

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 6:47 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - New artificial intelligence technology is being used to help cancer patients at Mercy Hospital.

The AI texting platform is used to reach out to chemotherapy patients after their treatment and raise any red flags of symptoms before they become severe and require a visit to the hospital.

Julie Farmer is undergoing chemotherapy for small-cell lung cancer, which has spread to her liver.

She was diagnosed in September and comes to Mercy’s Pratt Cancer Center for treatment every three weeks.

Farmer is one of the patients utilizing the new texting technology.

“You always have somebody there making sure you’re safe,” Farmer said. “It just says, ‘Hello Julie, how are you doing today? We would like to know if you’re experiencing any nausea, dizziness.’”

Dr. Bethany Sleckman is Mercy’s chief of hematology and oncology and said the AI algorithm identifies patients who are at high risk of having complications after their chemotherapy treatments. The goal of the new technology is to keep those patients out of the hospital.

“We send out text messages and ask about all of these symptoms and try to get an idea of the severity,” Dr. Sleckman said. “The ones that are most severe are escalated right away to our triage team that contact the patient directly and try to get a better idea of what’s going on and what we can do to help.”

It’s named The Chen Chemotherapy Model after the lead data scientist Jiajing Chen, who used her expertise in developing it.

Chen’s husband Andy Greenwood said this is a piece of his wife’s legacy and he is happy to see it launch.

“This was something she had been working on for a long time in getting the details right,” Greenwood said.

Chen lost her own battle with cancer earlier this year.

“She joked with me, I’ve become a data point in my own model now,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood said his wife was determined to use her time left to help others by trying to perfect this technology.

“The more that the doctors can track the symptoms, the more they can help you,” Greenwood said. “I saw it with my wife, too. She had multiple re-admissions, and we benefited from a caring support team of nurses and doctors we could call, but this kind of app would have been a wonderful thing to have.”

Patients have the ability to opt in or out of the AI texting.

This is one of the many AI programs Mercy will be implementing after partnering with Microsoft to utilize AI more within the hospital system.