New York’s largest health system is pushing into generative AI with help from a former Amazon exec and a $100 million venture partnership

  • Northwell Health, New York’s largest health system, is making a big investment in generative AI.
  • It’s working through an AI partnership with Aegis Ventures to make new products for providers.
  • They’re focusing on how the new AI models can cut down on burdensome paperwork.

New York’s largest health system is increasing its investment in generative AI, the hot new technology that is sweeping the business world.

Northwell Health is preparing for this effort by collaborating with Aegis Ventures, a startup studio that has committed $100 million to Northwell joint ventures. One of their collaborations is initially focused on using generative AI models to reduce the time doctors spend on paperwork and other administrative tasks.

The plans offer a glimpse into the reality of how generative AI, which has been hailed as a job-killer capable of outperforming physicians, could be used in healthcare. There is a long history of technology failing to solve the most difficult problems in healthcare. However, as health-care costs have risen and burnt-out providers have left, the need for health-care systems to save time and money has become increasingly pressing.

According to Mark Michalski, a former Amazon executive who runs Ascertain, the AI studio created by Northwell and Aegis, pressure has created a rare window of opportunity when there is genuine enthusiasm for technological assistance.

“I think we have this window, and it’s not going to last forever,” he told Insider.

Michalski joined Ascertain as CEO in July, but the venture studio only announced his appointment today. It also announced the appointment of Gregg Fergus, a former healthcare executive, as executive chair of its board.

Michalski said in an interview that he is already working closely with Northwell teams to understand pain points in the sprawling nonprofit health system, which has more than 20 hospitals and approximately 85,000 employees, and how the new AI models can help.

Ascertain will initially focus on using AI technology to reduce the time spent on paperwork and processes that keep clinicians away from their patients and families, based in part on Michalski’s “listening tour” with about 50 leaders across Northwell, he said.

Ascertain and Northwell will tackle discharge notes, billing

The administrative burden on providers was crystal clear when Michalski and Richard Mulry, the CEO of Northwell’s for-profit arm, recently met with Northwell leaders overseeing billing, supply chains, patient-care transitions, and more.

Every day, providers and hospital employees spend hours on paperwork and reading. The tasks vary, but they all involve sifting through massive amounts of information in order to write down or otherwise communicate the pertinent bits to each other, patients, and health plans.

Michalski believes that generative-AI models, which can generate human-like text and other content based on patterns learned from data, are ideal for the task.

Michalski stated that the team has already created a tool for creating discharge paperwork since he joined Ascertain on July 7.

Mulry stated that the Northwell team in charge of billing health plans is also interested in utilizing AI. Billing is currently a painful, manual process — the rules vary from plan to plan and change frequently, resulting in unpaid bills and wasted time, according to Mulry.

According to him, AI could help by supporting some kind of process that keeps workers informed of the web of rules that health plans have around paying for care.

“Doctors should be there for their patients,” Michalski stated. “And paperwork should be handled by these bots.”

Ascertain faces steep competition

Northwell’s collaboration with Aegis is an unusual attempt to combine cutting-edge technology with the vast insights of a large health system.

The studio is investing $100 million in two joint ventures with Northwell’s for-profit arm: Ascertain and Caire, both of which are focused on telehealth.

These joint ventures create products with Northwell’s input from beginning to end. They are intended to become for-profit businesses, with financial backing from Northwell and Aegis. Mulry also stated that Northwell is the companies’ first customer.

Ascertain has already launched one company that uses artificial intelligence to detect signs of eye disease.

Ascertain already faces stiff competition in the generative-AI space; Microsoft has an AI company focused on automating medical notes that is gaining traction.

Northwell is collaborating with companies other than Ascertain to evaluate various tools, according to Marc Paradis, Northwell Health’s vice president of data strategy.

According to Paradis, Michalski, and Mulry, Ascertain’s close collaboration with Northwell gives the startup studio a distinct advantage because the problems it is attempting to solve are so complex.

“It’s such a complex space,” Michalski said, adding that “looking at it through the lens of an engineer, you really have to be embedded.”

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