The University of Southern California (USC) Body Computing Center has plans to launch its Virtual Care Clinic, complete with AI-powered virtual doctors, in Ophthalmology and Urology within the next few months.

At the USC Body Computing Conference last fall, Dr. Leslie Saxon, Executive Director of the Body Computing Center, announced plans to launch a Virtual Care Clinic (VCC). Using everything from wearables & apps to artificial intelligence (AI) & avatars of actual physicians, the clinic is being set up as a prototype for what will some day become standard practice. This week, they announced eight foundational partners including USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, Doctor Evidence, IMS Health, Karten Design, Medable, Planet Grande, Proteus Digital Health, and VSP Global.

VirtualDoctors

The VCC has ambitious goals. One that caught my eye was using AI-powered avatars of USC physicians to take a complete medical history, interpret it, and provide guidance to patients on next steps. Other potential applications suggested include providing longitudinal care for veterans with PTSD including virtual reality based therapy, providing ongoing chronic disease management for patients that integrates data continuously captured by apps & wearables, and helping educate patients on complex medical issues.

In one demonstration of current capabilities, a “virtual” Dr. Saxon follows up with a patient whom she saw in clinic for atrial fibrillation. Asking a series of questions, like what outcomes the patient cares about most, and integrating some information about the patient, the virtual Dr. Saxon uses Doctor Evidence’s enormous database of medical research data to run a quick meta-analysis and provide personalized information on things like stroke or bleeding rates, on and off anticoagulation.

The eight partners announced this week highlight the intense focus the VCC will have on the patient experience. The Institute for Creative Technologies specializes in AI, virtual human interfaces, and virtual reality. Karten Design is a company that focuses on user experience in medical devices. Planet Grande is a television & movie production company.

According to USC, the Virtual Care Clinic will start off by launching in Ophthalmology and then Urology. The former is particularly interesting given the involvement of VSP Global, both a vision insurer covering more than 70 million people, and eyewear maker. In fact, VSP announced last year a prototype of sensor-laden glasses that could count steps & distance traveled. Often, one of the major obstacles in testing a new care delivery model is figuring out who is going to pay for the services. Partnering with a payor who is willing to test that care model and provide some degree of reimbursement is a huge step towards demonstrating real world viability, assuming of course that VSP is going to do that.

And most importantly, the Virtual Care Clinic plans to actually study and share the clinical impact of the technology & care models they try out. According to Dr. Saxon, that thoughtful analysis and iterative redesign will be something that is made publicly available as the VCC evolves over time. That’s something that should be particularly applauded as it will not only support what the VCC does but could actually help extend the model to other centers by showing them that this clinic-of-the-future actually works.

Here’s a video of Dr. Leslie Saxon describing the Virtual Care Clinic:

Reference: USC Press Release