This article by Ambra Health CEO, Morris Panner, was originally published in Forbes on January 22, 2020.
AI Superpowers Health Administration
Healthcare is burdened under a load of administrative tasks, and this is an area where AI really shines. Many tedious processes, carried out by beleaguered staff members in doctors’ offices and hospitals, can be accomplished with AI platforms built to do tasks like carry out checks on patient eligibility and prior authorization. Such platforms can also help with moving data, images, medical records and patient files between providers and patients.
AI programs can even interact directly with patients to speed processes along. This can include online chats that patients engage in through their provider’s website to provide insurance information, explain symptoms and schedule appointments. Patients can also interact in person with AI-powered robots and programs in waiting rooms, saving the staff time and helping to correctly prioritize patient care.
Healthcare providers are increasingly using AI programs to help manage patient data. Sophisticated programs can potentially recognize critical issues in a patient’s history or radiologic imaging and bring findings to the attention of specialized clinicians to be dealt with in a timely manner.
Enhancing Diagnostics And Treatment With AI
AI has an enormous role to play in diagnostics. For instance, AI can help radiologists by learning how to identify abnormalities in images so it can prioritize which set of X-rays, MRIs or CT scans the radiologist should examine first. This kind of fine-tuned prioritization can help ensure that problems are caught much earlier, increasing the likelihood of immediate treatment of patient disease or condition.
Taught to detect patterns and make connections, AI may also be able to examine an array of sources like patient symptoms, medical history, genetic information and lab results to suggest diagnoses to doctors and nurses (one such system was recently built to diagnose common childhood illnesses). Similarly, AI could be capable of taking some of that same information to design possible treatment options.
If AI can demonstrate its ability to read images or make diagnoses with greater accuracy than a human professional, there is the possibility that AI could eventually be trusted enough to alleviate some of the responsibilities of overwhelmed doctors and medical experts.
AI Speeds Drug Development
The drugs and treatments that patients rely on to battle disease come through a research and development process that is time-consuming and very costly. Pharmaceutical companies and researchers are eager for any way to create efficiencies in this process, and AI has a lot to offer in drug discovery. It can carry out repetitive processes that normally eat up a big chunk of researchers’ time, and it can be used to help identify the most promising candidates for drug targets so that time and money are not wasted on drugs that are likely to fail.
AI Optimizes Patient Care
Most of the types of AI mentioned here so far are essentially computer programs and platforms, which may be brilliant and impactful but aren’t quite as exciting as the AI that futuristic movies and TV shows imagine. However, modern robotics is giving us a taste of that more fantastical future, and those robots are making their way into healthcare as well.
AI is being used to power robots that roam the halls of hospitals to deliver drugs directly to patients. Robots are also being created to perform some of the roles of nurses and caretakers, from physically moving bedridden patients from one place to another to chatting with them as a means of providing companionship and helping them to keep their minds sharp.
Wearables and remote patient monitoring equipment also incorporate AI to help patients take charge of their own care and to stay in touch with physicians and medical advisors from afar. This helps doctors keep better tabs on their patients’ health, and the data that the devices capture can be used to optimize patient care plans.
A Smart Assistant
Though there will almost certainly be some initial resistance to implementing these new technologies (nobody ever likes change, do they?), AI is here to stay, and it is transforming the industry right before our eyes. To stay ahead of the curve, I would advise that healthcare leaders need to stay informed about AI, invest in it and champion it in their organizations.
One of the most important responsibilities for leadership is in managing people’s expectations of what AI can do. Everyone using AI technology must understand that it’s not a magic wand that you wave about to do the difficult stuff; human brainpower and expertise are still valued and vital. AI is more like a hard-working assistant designed to do the mundane, tedious tasks.
AI technology is best used to improve workflows so that medical professionals can use their time to their best advantage. AI has the power to help everyone from pharmaceutical researchers to nurses to do their work more efficiently and to improve patient outcomes.
That said, as AI programs and platforms get smarter and more skilled at their tasks, maybe one day our great-grandchildren will get their shots from Dr. Robot in some Jetsons-style future. For now, though, AI is chiefly a valuable ally to — not a replacement for — healthcare workers.