By Marc Helberg, Pariveda Solutions
Artificial intelligence is one of the most disruptive and potentially impactful technologies in healthcare, as is the case in seemingly every industry. It has brought significant improvements to the lives of those who work in the healthcare industry, from providers and their staff to administrators and executives at every level.
Yet one of the biggest disruptions AI poses can be to the overall patient experience. The quality of health outcomes remains the industry’s main focus, and AI helps improve those outcomes by improving the experience patients have at each stage of their journey.
Currently, healthcare AI is mostly used for applications such as language processing and robotic automation. But these areas only scratch the surface of AI’s potential to completely reinvent patient interaction and experiences — there's much more this concept can achieve.
Healthcare AI Is Already Here
AI solutions first caught on in healthcare because they made repetitive tasks — like administration and data entry — less of a burden on providers and their teams. Before long, it became obvious that AI has the potential to do so much more.
Now, organizations are getting ahead of the curve by using artificial intelligence for more comprehensive solutions, such as clinical decision support and population health management. For example, in one Oxford hospital, researchers have discovered a promising way to use AI to more accurately diagnose heart disease.
When analyzing heartbeats to determine whether a patient needs treatment, cardiologists are admittedly wrong in one out of five cases. To prevent patients being sent home with serious cardiac issues or being prescribed unnecessary treatments, researchers tested an AI system that diagnoses heart scans with substantially higher accuracy. Clinical trials for the system are optimistic, and if successful, it could be implemented throughout U.K.-based National Health Service hospitals for free.
It’s that same innovation and tangible success that has driven increasingly wider adoption of other AI technologies, and these four solutions are becoming the most prominent:
1. Mining And Analyzing Mountains Of Data
Information is the cornerstone of modern healthcare technology, and digitizing data was one of the most important steps in its evolution. Sorting through the massive amounts of healthcare data that are collected every day to find a solution to a specific problem isn’t humanly feasible — but with the right AI program, it is.
AI solutions can mine entire databases for pieces of information that might be relevant to a specific situation. This includes searching nationwide databases for specific symptoms or even using data to pinpoint an outbreak's epicenter. For example, my company used machine learning, an instance of AI, to help one Texas hospital trace an infectious disease, analyzing data behind the movements of doctors, patients, and staff throughout the facility.
2. Designing More Successful Treatment Plans
Besides controlling population health, mining data with AI technology helps doctors provide more accurate diagnoses and design more successful treatment plans. Providers can search for specific symptoms that they may not have seen before and get input from thousands of doctors across every related discipline.
Imagine Google or Wikipedia, but with search results and records that only come from other qualified professionals. One such platform, Modernizing Medicine, offers a storehouse of information from nearly 3,700 doctors and 14 million patient visits. In an article from Wired, dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla praises the AI platform for helping her find a solution when a patient’s autoimmune medication wasn’t available.
3. Providing Expert Consultations Online
Giving providers access to almost limitless data means better treatment outcomes for patients, but giving that same data access to patients helps them avoid treatment altogether. When powering telemedicine devices, healthcare AI can allow patients to search the same trusted data sources to determine whether their symptoms actually warrant a visit to the doctor.
Patient engagement is vital to patient experiences, which is why AI-driven apps like Ada are becoming more popular among patients and providers alike. Ada’s founders began the app as a provider’s tool similar to Modernizing Medicine. However, they soon realized that a more consumer-friendly front end can empower patients to make better decisions and be more proactive in their own healthcare.
4. Clarifying Clinical Documents Instantly
When patients do need treatment, having deeper knowledge of their symptoms helps improve communication with their doctors and the quality of their outcomes. However, that can all be compromised when clinical documentation is unclear or incomplete. Therefore, organizations are turning to AI-powered language and documentation software to shore up this vulnerability.
Natural language and computer-assisted physician documentation (CAPD) solutions combine high-end spell checking with intelligent analysis of clinical notes. The language solution analyzes the grammar and syntax of physician notes and suggests ways to be more specific. CAPD software focuses on the clinical aspects of the documentation and provides data-supported feedback to make it easier to code.
Working Toward Wider Adoption
The prospect of AI-powered healthcare is exciting, but to date, it has met the same challenges that all healthcare technologies have faced in the past. The changes it brings are paramount to improving patient outcomes, but they’re also significant enough to make some practitioners hesitate.
The same was true for electronic health records. Most organizations completely digitized their records long ago, while others were uncertain it would be a good thing. That hesitation is still felt today — according to a Black Book survey last year, 41 percent of organizations still have trouble exchanging records with other providers because their systems aren’t compatible.
Organizations that are ready for change still have to contend with the costs of upgrading. Technology is expensive, and the healthcare industry is already bogged down by skyrocketing costs. This affects both patients and providers, and organizations have to weigh any new expenditure against those rising costs.
However, the difference between AI and past healthcare technologies is that the benefits are immediately obvious. The technology is designed to interact with other forms of AI, regardless of vendor, so implementation is easier than it’s ever been. Health IT companies may be increasing prices, but that’s only because other companies like Amazon are invading the market with more affordable solutions.
AI’s impact on every healthcare organization and its patients is undeniable, but more importantly, it won’t be as slow of a change as the industry is used to. Fortunately, that impact is likely to be the exact change that healthcare needs to improve outcomes, lower costs, and give patients the improved care and experiences they deserve.
About The Author
Marc Helberg is the managing vice president at the Philadelphia office of Pariveda Solutions, a consulting firm driven to create innovative, growth-oriented, and people-first solutions. He has extensive expertise delivering strategic initiatives and brings more than 25 years of consulting and industry experience to helping Fortune 100 companies transform their operating models and achieve their business goals. Outside of the office, he enjoys scuba diving, photography, cooking, and playing music