Guest Column | October 24, 2019

The Strategic Value Of AI In Healthcare

By Chuck Whinney, Infor

U.S. CEOs See Greater Willingness To Use Artificial Intelligence: KPMG Survey

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a seemingly limitless force; however, it requires that your organization is nimble and ready to advance day-to-day. Is your health system positioned to take strategic advantage of this dynamic technology, or will your patient’s expectations pass you by?

AI’s Healthcare Disruption
There are countless articles across the internet describing ways AI is evolving within healthcare. AI-driven benefits are visible across patient care, clinical research, insurance, and pharmaceutical development. More recent areas of AI influence in clinical care include disease detection, medical image processing, precision treatments, drug creation, and cost reduction. AI is also being leveraged to read imaging data to faster and more accurately diagnose cancers. The traditional process of clinical care is clearly being disrupted, allowing clinicians to focus on the areas where they can add the most incremental value by reducing manual, menial tasks.

With the widespread adoption of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) over the last decade, emerging technologies have evolved to the point of taking the growing volumes of patient clinical data to help physicians and caregivers make more informed decisions on targeted, individualized care. Some real-word examples of AI at work include the NIH using AI to monitor patient medication use and pharmaceutical companies embracing applications in their clinical trials, leading to a reduction in critical research time from multiple years to mere months. Other partnerships are exploring ways AI can discover data patterns to predict hospital visit outcomes.

AI is evolving in all directions, and its disruptions are not solely focused on the obvious choices for innovation such as clinical spaces, research areas, or development environments. The latest AI-enabled capabilities are already elevating organizations strategically, enabling them to advance beyond traditional data regurgitation and static dashboards to make better operational decisions. Machine learning algorithms are powering disruption in the traditional analytics space by automatically determining the best visualizations based on a given data set. At its most basic, AI is ensuring information reliability via detailed reconciliations and alerts.

AI Demands Agility

We all know healthcare has lagged compared to other sectors in technology innovation due to limited resources, complexity, and the priority of patient care. However, with the rapid advancement of AI in today’s marketplace, it is time for healthcare to start embracing the possibilities of AI and its associated technologies. While it can start small with a fundamental process, such as automatically reconciling invoices to streamline the patient billing process, now is the time to think more boldly.

Ensuring the successful use of a disruptive technology, without compromising daily operations or patient care, is where cloud technologies have the greatest impact. In fact, cloud use is one of the main drivers of adoption of innovative technology such as AI. Organizations do not need to expend resources planning the deployment of their own servers and infrastructure to take advantage of functionality, rather they can focus explicitly on the execution of the functionality. Rapid advancements in AI can now be deployed much more quickly.

Although currently surfacing primarily in niche areas, healthcare is beginning an era of ever-faster AI-driven disruptive innovation. Over time, AI will continue to optimize the value of organizations’ most underutilized assets—their data. However, it’s not just the organizations’ data that will be involved, rather it is the marriage with previously external data sources from partner organizations that will provide AI with the data it is hungry for. Patient encounter information will first be cross-referenced with insurance provider, pharmacy, and wearables data, providing a more comprehensive picture of the patient. AI will then be pointed at cross-referencing genetic databases, providing clinicians with more accurate likelihood of outcomes based on the more detailed patient picture. This dramatic increase in the size of the data, let alone the computing power required to perform this analysis, will quickly be beyond the means of an organization not leveraging the cloud.

Aim To Take AI For Granted

In our personal lives, many of us interact with AI-driven technology daily. No one goes looking for a specific compact disc when they want to listen to music. The ability to interact with AI, like Alexa, to play and recommend music has matured well beyond the early adopter phase. What was previously the stuff of science fiction has become ubiquitous functionality that even my five-year-old wields as well as I, if not sometimes with less effort. He fully takes for granted the power of the digital assistant because he has never known a world without it.

In 20 years, surely, we’ll all be taking healthcare’s AI advancements of today for granted, just as my son already does with Alexa. If you don’t have AI pervasively supporting the services you provide, won’t your patients question whether you can keep them as happy and healthy as your competitors?

About The Author

Chuck Whinney is Sr. Director Healthcare Strategy for Infor.