If there’s one trend that isn’t going away, it’s artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare. In fact, according to Accenture, AI in healthcare is expected to reach $6.6 billion by 2021. The impact of AI on healthcare and health outcomes is only just beginning. This isn’t the “machines will turn against us” type of AI — this is life-saving AI.
AI is creating a whole new generation of smart sensors, wearable care, home glucose-testing and baby monitoring that gets to know patients and can flag issues that are outside of normal parameters. And it’s not just happening at home: ORs and ERs are now using AI-infused equipment to work side-by-side with surgeons in critical cases.
Moreover, there’s AI meets data, and that’s an often overlooked area of healthcare transformation. Clinicians and physicians will be able to parse data far faster to look for early warning signs and remedies.
As scientific and medical advisory group JASON tells Health IT Analytics: “The growing availability of data from networked smart devices and increased consumer comfort with ambient computing, mobile apps and smartphone platforms are creating an environment that is ripe for artificial intelligence to augment healthcare both inside and outside of the clinic.”
Even the government is jumping in with the AI Health Outcomes Challenge, seeking bold new ideas for how AI may influence healthcare outcomes.
Here are four ways that AI is poised to impact health outcomes in 2019:
1. Emergency Room Care
AI will begin to be felt in the emergency room as it does everything from regulating patient flow to alleviate ER overcrowding to providing AI-infused robotic assistants to physicians.
Triage can be transformed by AI by helping to prioritize patients and determine who needs what remedy. Diagnostics and predictive medicine that’s needed in the critical seconds when a patient's life is hanging in the balance will all be transformed by AI's pattern analysis and ability to "see" where the problems lie.
2. Home Health Care
AI might have the greatest influence by bringing the often-intimidating healthcare landscape into the familiar and friendly confines of the home. Innovators and legacy companies are scrambling to roll-out AI-infused health wearables from monitors that scan your heart for irregularities through the day, wrist-worn sensors that track everything from oxygen levels to pulse and into the nursery with tools for babies.
Consider the case of Owlet, a wearable sock that can be slipped onto the foot of a newborn at bedtime. Sensors send real-time data to a bedside monitor while they sleep and on-site sensor-laden AI using edge technology interprets the rest. If your baby’s oxygen or heartbeat exceed or go below specific parameters, the Owlet’s base unit will “chirp” to alert you.
With all of these sensors, monitors and smart machines exploding in number, the amount of data produced will continue to increase along with the need to be able to parse it. That’s where AI’s influence will be felt.
CoreHealth, a PatientBond partner, is confident that AI will play an essential role in data diffusion. “I see a greater role of artificial intelligence being used to make conclusions on the data,” CoreHealth CEO Mary Anne Kirby says.
She predicts that wearables will continue to become more sophisticated. For example, wearables may soon be able to monitor health functions such as metabolism, which can tell people whether eating a banana will continue their fat burning mode or put them into a fat gain mode.
Moreover, patient engagement platforms like PatientBond are laying the groundwork for wider adoption of AI in the ongoing quest to improve health outcomes. Such platforms are creating an infrastructure that allows for data-driven engagement between practitioners and patients that form a seamless corridor between the healthcare ecosystem and a patient’s wellness as a whole. PatientBond leverages an NLP (natural language processing) framework that uses the Amazon AWS Comprehend services to classify free-form patient responses to pre-defined, structured response categories. Patient responses to digital communications (e.g., emails, text/SMS, Interactive Voice Response, etc.) are tracked to adjust engagement.
With its digital workflows and psychographic messaging based on patients’ unique motivations and preferences, PatientBond can tear down walls that have kept patients from experiencing the best possible health outcomes.
Everything from lab work to patient observation can be improved by pairing skilled personnel with AI. AI can also help with administrative duties, which then frees up more resources for care. This AI revolution may be especially felt in the urgent care center setting, where speed and accuracy are key to customer satisfaction.
According to Carbon Health:
“One bonus of AI is the improvement of the diagnosis process. Because of this, urgent care clinics can become more efficient and refer patients to the emergency room more quickly than before. By treating patients rapidly, wait times go down. Even more, providers can give machines information such as lab work to get results and diagnoses faster.”
What steps will your healthcare organization take in 2019 to pave the way for AI? Share your thoughts in the comments below.