Technology is evolving at a rapid speed, and the rate of change is forcing all industries to evaluate how businesses are run and how customers are served. No longer is it an option to think of the digital and physical world as separate entities. The digital footprint tells a story, and it’s a story the healthcare industry should be tapping into.
Consider the volume of patient data made available today. Recent industry reports note that patient data generated online has grown 700 percent since 2010; 91 percent of which is unstructured. But unstructured data – images, sensor data, videos and provider notes – is complex, murky and hard to make sense of because it’s unorganized and being generated around the clock.
That’s where the value of artificial intelligence comes into play. The algorithms that power AI technology have the ability to make sense of large volumes of information – whether historical or in real-time – at a speed the human brain cannot possibly replicate. Embedding AI into the healthcare industry will fundamentally alter patient-provider relationships and the speed at which diseases are treated and cured.
Where exactly will AI technology show up and impact the healthcare industry?
Healthcare Tracker Apps
The power that lies within our Smartphones has the potential to alter the way we look at patient care. There are apps on the market today that help monitor heart rate, record blood oxygen levels and generate EKG readings within minutes. And those apps are changing the way we view the patient-provider relationship. Rather than relying solely on in-office appointments, our mobile devices are now becoming medical devices, giving providers real-time access into the health of patients.
The technology allows patients to track symptoms, record treatments and engage with medical professionals in a way we’ve never seen before. The patient history and data recorded within those apps tells a story providers can use to treat patients and discover insights previously unattainable. Using AI technology to crawl through all of that information is where the real impact lies. Rather than providers reviewing and analyzing the data collected, AI works as the data is being generated and provides immediate recommendations for providers to act on.
Virtual Medical Assistants
Ask a question, get an answer. Thanks to AI-driven technology such as, Google Home or the Amazon Echo dot, the expectation for how we consume information and receive answers has changed. The healthcare industry can use this instant response technology by deploying virtual medical assistants.
Consider the capabilities and what a virtual medical assistant could offer medical professionals and patients:
- Advising patients on medical lab results.
- Reminding patients to fill prescriptions or schedule future medical appointments.
- Assisting memory-loss patients –those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s— with frequent reminders to take prescribed medication.
- Evaluating personal health questions immediately, and connecting patients with a provider, if needed.
- Providing dietary recommendations and recipes for diabetic patients to ensure healthy eating habits.
The information garnered from healthcare apps and the access to medical insight from virtual assistants are valuable. But the greatest impact we will see in healthcare is the role AI will play in diagnosing and treating illnesses.
While still in the early stages of development, there is technology underway designed to identify moles, rashes and lesions that are most likely connected to specific skin conditions or cancer. Once identified, patients are connected with a specialists for consultation. The AI technology working behind-the-scenes is busy detecting disease in its infant stages of development.
The power of AI does not diminish the value and need for medical professionals. But rather than diagnosing colds, coughs, strep throat and ear infections, providers will have more time to focus their medical expertise on the areas of medicine that need deep, thoughtful human insight. More time will be spent on research and diagnoses that require reasoning and evaluations that algorithmic technology is incapable of performing.
Before you dive off the deep end, be smart about how to integrate AI technology into your operations. Work alongside your IT providers to research and analyze the right technology for your specific business needs. Know how you’ll measure the success and effectiveness of AI technology within your healthcare system. Doing so, will bring value to you, your patients and society at large.