Numerous industries—from manufacturing, to logistics, to security—have embraced artificial intelligence (AI). But while AI may provide immense benefits to companies operating in those spaces, it can have an even greater impact on the healthcare industry. That’s because AI technology has the potential to save lives. AI is powering the next wave of technological innovation in healthcare. Let’s examine what that means for healthcare organizations in both the short and long term.
HOW IS AI IMPROVING HEALTHCARE?
AI offers a whole host of benefits to create better healthcare outcomes, streamline processes, create efficiencies, and improve the overall quality of care for patients. Here are just a few of the many areas in which AI is having a direct impact.
MORE ACCURATE DIAGNOSES
According to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, one-third of medical malpractice cases that lead to death or disability stem from a misdiagnosis. An estimated 12 million patients in the US deal with issues resulting from diagnostic errors by primary care physicians. AI has the potential to greatly improve the diagnostic process, helping to create more impactful treatment plans and save lives.
AI technologies are being deployed to assist doctors in diagnosing patients more accurately, understanding long-term health outcomes, and designing and implementing better treatments. Healthcare’s digital transformation has inspired startups and innovative healthcare device providers to explore the intricate ways in which AI can help better understand the issues patients face, and how to best overcome those challenges.
Buoy Health, a healthcare startup based in Boston, employs intelligent algorithms to diagnose and treat patients. Using AI-powered chatbot technology, Buoy listens to patients’ symptoms and concerns, then provides actionable recommendations based on its diagnostic processes. It can direct patients to schedule an appointment with urgent care, seek out a specialist, use at-home, self-care methods, and more.
Siemens’ AI-Rad Companion Chest CT uses AI to review chest CT scan images, take automated measurements, and create an extensive report with valuable clinical images and quantifications. The company’s AI-Pathway Companion utilizes data integration and AI technologies to help medical teams make more informed diagnostic decisions and achieve better clinical outcomes.
AI’s transformative nature is perhaps the most evident in diagnostics, where it promises to deliver improved results that help patients achieve short- and long-term health realities.
IMPROVED PATIENT EXPERIENCES
Forging better doctor-patient relationships is a goal for many AI solutions. By enabling truly efficient care, AI technologies help patients get connected to the right physicians, facilities, and treatment options—improving the overall patient experience in the process.
AI-enabled tools can help practices and healthcare organizations automate administrative tasks and processes—like scheduling, referrals, insurance verification and eligibility, patient pay estimation, and more—so physicians can focus more on delivering the best care they can to patients.
Helping patients to become more engaged is essential to create better overall experiences. AI-powered medical chatbot tools are helping patients to better understand and manage their symptoms, and engage directly with treatment. These tools can answer frequently asked questions, connect patients to doctors, help patients navigate appointment scheduling, and much more. This not only creates more engaged patients but helps practices automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks, saving significant time and resources.
AI technology also enables virtual nurse assistants, tools designed to improve the quality of in-home care without human intervention. These assistants are available around the clock to help homebound patients manage chronic conditions or illnesses. Virtual nurse assistants help increase patient engagement, facilitate improved communication between patients and providers, and reduce the sizable costs associated with around-the-clock in-person care.
BETTER SURGICAL OUTCOMES
AI-enabled robots have made their way into the operating room—and the results are extremely promising. Speed and precision are essential to success in surgery, and AI is powering the robots that deliver both.
In 2017, Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands employed an AI-enabled surgery robot to suture extremely small blood vessels measuring no longer than .08 millimeters across.
AI can collect valuable data over time by watching surgeons perform. Using this collected data and subsequent algorithms, AI can help surgical robots better perform cognitive functions like decision making and problem solving.
THE BENEFITS OF HEALTHCARE AI
Transformation technology like AI has boundless potential. Let’s look at some key areas where organizations are already seeing improvements from implementing AI solutions in a healthcare environment.
COST SAVINGS AND EFFICIENCY
By streamlining countless different healthcare processes—from diagnostics, to surgery, to administrative work—AI limits the amount of time, effort, and money required to successfully treat patients. In the aggregate, AI means a leaner, more efficient, and less costly healthcare system. While it may seem like a lofty achievement, AI has found its way into all elements of healthcare—and with the rapid pace of innovation and deployment, we may not be too far off from seeing a truly optimized healthcare system powered by AI.
INTELLIGENT DATA ANALYSIS
AI technology can easily and quickly analyze massive amounts of data. Increased digitization in healthcare means every facet of the space is flush with data. AI can help to transform this data into actionable insights geared towards improving patient treatment plans and outcomes. On the operational side of things, AI can help optimize the use of resources, streamline processes, reduce downtime, and create improved patient experiences.
The insights gathered from AI’s robust data analysis tools can be used to foster improved information sharing and enable a true culture of collaboration and innovation in healthcare. In large healthcare systems, individual patient data can be aggregated and used to inform large-scale policy decisions. Additionally, research teams and diagnostic professionals can access large datasets to inform their work in a timely manner. The information-sharing potential that AI offers can help physicians and other medical personnel continuously develop and refine treatment options while gaining a more informed understanding of the challenges that patients face.
POTENTIAL RISKS OF HEALTHCARE AI
While AI is achieving incredible things in the medical space—and has the potential to offer even more—it’s not without its risks. It’s imperative that healthcare professionals are aware of the following risks associated with AI to ensure adequate patient care is not compromised.
PRIVACY ISSUES AND REGULATORY CONCERNS
Any organization that handles sensitive protected healthcare information (PHI) in the US is subject to the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act—more commonly known as HIPAA. Designed to help protect the medical information of individuals, HIPAA outlines key data privacy and security provisions that must be adhered to. Worldwide, there are numerous other confidentiality and privacy laws and regulations that govern the sharing of PHI. If organizations do obtain consent to engage with patient health data in AI systems, they could run into some serious legal trouble. And getting this consent could be a real logistical nightmare, especially for organizations looking to utilize massive data sets. Navigating compliance rules and regulations can be difficult for organizations using AI technologies. If they are not careful, they could easily end up in hot water by illegally exposing protected patient healthcare data.
ERRORS AND MISDIAGNOSES
No technology is perfect, and AI is no different. Errors and mistakes can and do happen. Unfortunately, errors in the medical space can be catastrophic. If an AI-enabled piece of software or technology provides inaccurate data, misdiagnoses a patient, or malfunctions physically, it could lead to injury, significant complications, or even death. For this reason, AI-enabled technologies still require human oversight. Healthcare organizations need to be smart in how they deploy AI technologies, ensuring that they do not place patients in harm’s way or provide inaccurate feedback.
There’s a lack of truly diverse healthcare data available. That’s a problem since AI systems learn from the data they are fed, and can easily incorporate bias as a result. The Brookings Institute points out that, on average, African-American patients receive less treatment for pain than white patients. An AI system that is fed this data might then learn to recommend lower doses of painkillers to African-American patients. This recommendation is not born out of an understanding of biological reality, but rather a systemic bias as a result of insufficient data. Achieving diverse, representative healthcare data may be an unlikely concept. But until that is realized, healthcare organizations need to understand that AI systems can be—and likely are—biased and adjust accordingly.
INTEGRATE AI INTO YOUR HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATION
As part of the healthcare industry’s larger digital transformation, AI is already making waves. It’s helping physicians better diagnose and treat their patients, helping practices and healthcare organizations automate workflows and streamline operations, and creating more engaging patient experiences.
As AI technologies grow in complexity and increase in adoption, future innovations are certain to follow. Harnessing the power of AI-enabled healthcare tech can help your organization run more efficiently and deliver superior patient outcomes. The time is now to get on board and embrace cutting-edge healthcare tech. With extensive experience in the healthcare space, Codal knows what it takes to help build a healthier, smarter future. Interested in seeing how a leading healthcare web design and development agency can implement AI technology into your healthcare organization? Feel free to contact us.