Imagine waiting in an exam room for test results that could mean either a life-altering diagnosis or good news - an “all clear”. This can be one of life’s scariest moments. The door opens, but instead of a physician, a bot rolls in speaking canned phrases, with awkward movements, in what appears to be a poor attempt at mimicking human behavior. This may seem like the stuff of a classic comedy skit - breaking up an intense moment with some ridiculous and unexpected humor, or worse, some sort of hidden camera show, but while it’s not reality, there is a nod to the future in it. While the work is behind the scenes, the era of artificial intelligent (AI) solutions and machines with the ability to diagnose & deliver information to patients is here.
Can Artificial Intelligence Transform Healthcare?
The short answer – yes. AI outperforms humans in its ability to quickly process and analyze data with precision and without bias. This processing ability can be applied in so many areas across the healthcare industry and can reduce high costs and labor-intensive tasks. As Frost & Sullivan reported, the application of AI tools across the healthcare industry has the potential to improve outcomes by up to 40%, while also cutting treatment costs by 50%.
Some of the most promising applications of AI in healthcare include:
1. Crunching Big Data - Predictive Analytics
There is an abundance of healthcare data: results from the hundreds of thousands of medical research articles produced annually, the influx of data from IoT patient monitoring devices, genetics information, and patient data currently being housed in institutional silos. AI tools are the clear choice for analyzing this data and making it useful. It’s impossible for healthcare professionals to accurately review all the data, let alone analyze it and apply it to their patients’ unique cases. AI technologies are masters at crunching big data, spotting trends, and finding irregularities; AI (when properly trained) can do it quickly and precisely.
2. Streamlining Operations Reduces Cost of Administrative Overhead
Like many other industries, healthcare is weighed down with manual administrative tasks, with repetitive patient forms, record keeping, payment and insurance management, and outcome reporting. Improving the efficiency and speed of these tasks by employing AI tools will streamline operations and help to reduce the overall cost of healthcare.
3. Clinical Triage with Virtual Nurses – AI Health Chatbots
Unnecessary emergency room visits bog down hospital resources, resulting in long wait times and increased patient costs. With AI-powered virtual nurses, we can solve this problem. These AI health chatbots, armed with troves of medical information and access to patient history information, can be the first point of contact for patients in their homes. During an initial virtual (bot-powered) nurse interaction, the decision can be made as to whether a patient requires additional medical attention via the emergency room or a standard doctor’s visit. If it turns out the patient does need additional medical attention, the virtual nurse could transmit the recorded session and records along with recommendations on a treatment plan and medications to prescribe. In some cases, the bots can answer patient questions or give treatment plans for basic and routine problems without the need for physician intervention.
Tools like Sensely, an AI-powered healthcare interaction solution, show great promise for the home health industry, especially care involving patients with chronic conditions. It combines monitoring devices, video screens, medical data and physician input to interact with chronic patients and evaluate their condition. Innovations like Sensley are a peek into the future of directed and precise patient care, where health chatbots respond to basic needs while human resources are reserved for more complex problem-solving and sensitive matters.
The Human Touch – Physicians and the Art of Medicine
There are many reasons why AI machines won’t replace actual human physicians, most important being that healthcare professionals are schooled in the art of patient care and bedside manner. Physicians can empathize with their patients in ways that bots can’t. We naturally prefer interacting with other humans, especially in times of vulnerability and anxiety; knowing that the person helping us can relate in some way to our situation makes the experience less scary, thus reducing the anxiety. Additionally, there is a certain “art” to the practice of medicine – human doctors can present multiple treatment options that consider more than just the raw data, including things like quality of life, family circumstances, and human emotion. These factors need careful human consideration and conversation between doctor and patient.
The Dream Team = Medical Professionals + AI Technology
The best path for impeccable patient care and reduced costs in healthcare is the combination of human medical expertise and care, coupled with powerful AI computing ability. Human medical experts will lead the team with their empathy, expertise, adaptability and creative problem-solving abilities, forming bonds and inspiring engagement with proper treatment. AI tools play the support role on this team, as a knowledge bank + treatment advisor + task master. Basically, a rock star healthcare digital assistant. Delegating resource-heavy tasks to AI machines will free up time for healthcare professionals to focus on patient care and creative solutions for unique cases – AI technology is poised to transform the health care industry.
For those of us still using internet searches in lieu of medical care to save money, avoid filling out forms and sitting through time-consuming clinic visits, there is hope (p.s, sore throat + fever + insomnia does not equal a rare tropical bacterial infection). With the introduction of artificial intelligence solutions, healthcare is on the brink of a transformation that will not only benefit our health but our wallets.
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