Step aside, telehealth and electronic health records. The healthcare IT world is buzzing about the growing role of artificial intelligence (AI). This emerging, promising technology may soon help physicians diagnose and treat their patients faster and more accurately using complex algorithms and datasets–and in some cases, can even diagnose patients faster than human physicians. This future is not far away, either. Here are three ways AI will change the patient experience in the near future.
Quick and Accurate Diagnoses
AI in medical imaging has existed since the 1980s. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only recently approved these AI algorithms for portable chest X-rays to screen for collapsed lungs in intensive care units. This algorithm reduces the time needed to detect a collapsed lung from eight hours to just 15 minutes. Outside of chest screenings, work is underway to create AI algorithms that can help diagnose patients with different types of cancer and cardiac arrhythmias. This means that AI will be able to supplement rural areas of the United States that do not have enough providers and practices that do not have the capabilities to support every patient.
Google and Amazon have developed AI for digital clinician support tools to screen at-risk patients. These complex algorithms help organize massive amounts of data with different formats and analyze it so EHR companies can assign accurate risk adjustment factors. The result: patient data is unified to help ensure seamless continuity of care and segmented to identify at-risk patients who need medical intervention from their primary care providers. Overall, these practices can reduce an at-risk patient’s number of trips to the emergency room and shift their focus to primary care.
Here it is: the Internet of Health Things. Wearable devices like smartwatches are moving beyond fitness tracking to monitoring patients with chronic illnesses. Myia Health partnered with Mercy Virtual on a device that will monitor symptoms in patients with congestive heart failure. Beyond monitoring heart rates, wearable devices will become integral to a value-based care system. Wearables also have little to no marginal costs to use, making them worth the initial investment. The big idea here: patients with chronic illnesses will have greater autonomy, and providers will have the technology they need to intervene when necessary. The downside: there are still many ethical concerns associated with wearable devices and protected health information, so we will still need to keep an eye on their development in the future.
What Does This Mean for Providers?
Seeing how technological advancements are changing the healthcare landscape, there are a few steps providers can take to ensure they are keeping their practice competitive.
- Get involved. Familiarize yourself with the latest tech trends and maybe start wearing a Fitbit yourself. If your patients are using the technology, advise them how many steps they should realistically aim for in a day or activities to help them increase their active minutes.
- Begin the conversation. Discuss possibilities with your EHR representatives and see if they are thinking of implementing Big Data tools and see how you can take advantage of them.
- Be present. Establish yourself as a thought leader. Physician leadership, input, and advocacy are essential in shaping policy around upcoming changes in the healthcare landscape.
Ultimately, AI is still only a supplemental service. Experts agree that even the best AI cannot replace the support and empathy needed in a patient-provider relationship. Patient-focused initiatives are still the best way to retain patients, keep them healthy, and ensure they feel they are cared for.