Unleashing the full potential of healthcare with AI
One of the tools that can leverage AI to free up more of healthcare providers’ time to offer care to more patients, is the electronic healthcare record (EMR)
Stacy, who has been struggling with chronic arm pain, is reluctant to meet her physician as she doesn’t have the time to visit him. So, she uses a smartphone app that can diagnose her issue quickly. Within minutes of chatting with a virtual assistant, her medical history and current discomforts are recorded and she is virtually connected to a physician. During her consultation, the physician recommends a scan, for which the app suggests a nearby hospital (covered by her healthcare provider). As the app has all her details, it gives her the option to securely share it with the hospital, where only authorized personnel can access it. At the hospital, Stacy enquires about the accuracy of her report. Her physician assures her that they use AI-based software/algorithm that’s free of bias or human error, to analyze reports. Stacy is relieved – both with her diagnosis and the technology the hospital uses.
What we see here is an instance of how AI and AI-enabled tools make the lives of patients like Stacy, easier and more convenient. In this case, AI not only provided a seamless, human-like intuitive conversational interface, but also detected hospitals covered by her healthcare provider, connected her to the right physician and made an accurate diagnosis. In fact, it’s not just patients who are set to benefit from AI. Many healthcare organizations are parallelly using AI to reimagine healthcare. More are geared to get on the bandwagon. Proof lies in data that shows that AI is set to grow from US$ 667.1 million to about US$ 8 billion between 2016 and 2022. This is a huge leap.
Is AI actually going to make a difference?
Today, the healthcare industry in nearly every geography is being pressurized to meet the demands of patients, healthcare organizations and healthcare providers. The patient leads a life where technology plays a pivotal role – from helping access services quickly and conveniently, to meeting their ‘on-demand’ needs. They expect the same of all service providers – even from healthcare. They are no longer passive but active participants in the healthcare ecosystem.
Alongside, healthcare organizations are struggling to decide which technology is right for their needs, as well as those of their patients. At the same time, healthcare providers are under constant pressure to streamline healthcare models and payments to ensure these are aligned with new financing and healthcare delivery models. With so many challenges and roadblocks to overcome, the ecosystem needs a comprehensive solution. And today, that solution is AI. It can help all three players collaborate effortlessly with each other to the benefit of all.
It can also enable them to mitigate challenges like the growing demand for more effective treatment plans for both long-term and chronic diseases, especially among the ageing population, which is projected to grow from 46 million in 2016 to 98 million by about 2060. Deep learning algorithms capable of accelerating diagnosis and AI-based virtual health assistants can help manage the needs of this population. This will also allow AI to play a role in improving the cost of diagnosis, a key concern for the industry. More importantly, it can be integrated easily in the healthcare space.
One of the tools that can leverage AI to free up more of healthcare providers’ time to offer care to more patients, is the electronic healthcare record (EMR). AI, when integrated in EMRs, can sift through large datasets to analyze, store and share insights with all key players in the ecosystem. Also, AI can be leveraged to protect the data stored in EMRs and other data repositories that healthcare organizations use. In fact, security analytics tools enabled by AI can help with threat detection by carrying out real-time analysis of risks and breaches.
It’s also empowering patients through smartphone applications that allow them to track their health and manage fitness goals with ease. It also allows them to share this information with healthcare organizations, where physicians can leverage it to provide preventative healthcare measures to patients. Ultimately, even healthcare providers can gain visibility into essential information about patients, healthcare treatments that organizations have provided, and make more informed decisions about insurance.
AI adoption: The strategic way
While AI has great scope to transform the way organizations function, patients experience healthcare, and healthcare providers decide the best plans, it can be realized only when the technology is used strategically. I believe that the most crucial element in this strategy is recognizing that AI adoption is a journey. More importantly that it is a gradual one. This journey is marked by three key milestones or stages. The first is the deterministic stage, during which repeatable processes and tasks are automated with AI. At this point, you will see an improvement in operational efficiencies. However, the overall business impact of AI will be low.
Once the first stage has been completed, you can move to the second one – the intelligent stage. Here, AI is leveraged to automate dynamic processes to proactively avoid business disruption. By this stage, the overall business impact of AI will be medium. You can then move to the last milestone – the AI and cognitive stage, where ambiguous, uncertain and complex environments are analyzed and transformed by AI. Here knowledge management becomes the key focus and dependency reduces significantly, thanks to smart systems that understand, learn and solve complex problems. At this stage, the impact of AI across the business is felt quite extensively.
To make the most of AI and realize the true potential of the technology, it is essential to understand that it is one of the most pervasive of all the technologies that the healthcare industry has encountered. It has the scope and the capability to be utilized in nearly every area of healthcare, to the benefit of all the key stakeholders. All that stands in the way, is our openness to leveraging the technology in a way that unleashes its full potential.
Venky Ananth, Vice President, Regional Head, Healthcare, Infosys Ltd
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