The current healthcare industry relies heavily on cutting-edge technology. In this dynamic environment, change is the only constant; as the tools and processes utilized in healthcare facilities are continually evolving and advancing to keep pace with the rapid rate of innovation and provide better patient care.
Technology’s march into healthcare’s future was further solidified by healthcare reform in the U.S. and provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which emphasized and codified technology’s role in the delivery of care.
As artificial intelligence (AI) technologies become more advanced and move to the forefront of conversations around innovation and efficiency, many in the industry are asking and examining how AI can be used with other technologies to increase the level of care at healthcare facilities.
This article will examine healthcare applications for AI and consider its potential in the medical space as a means of increasing efficiency and improving care outcomes.
A Valuable Complement to Existing Technology
The amount and variety of technology being utilized in healthcare today are staggering. Current solutions allow for easier communication between members of the medical team, as well as between practitioners and patients. Technology even will enable physicians to provide remote examinations to patients in areas that lack adequate medical services or are difficult to access.
Electronic medical records (EMRs) have allowed for better record keeping and more efficient and effective care as patient information is centralized and easily accessible to care networks and providers.
Apps have allowed for the early detection of certain types of cancer, as well as other diseases and conditions. AI can build on these existing technologies for increased efficiency and more appropriate care.
Initiatives such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) MyHealthEData have further demonstrated the importance placed on technology not only by providers but also by the agencies and government bodies charged with regulating the industry.
A True Number Cruncher
Few industries rival healthcare in the amount of data generated. From EKGs and pacemakers to charting systems and lab results, virtually every process and system that interacts with a patient or provider produces data. The amount of data generated is so staggering that it is nearly impossible to analyze it properly and in such a manner that improvements and appropriate interventions can be implemented.
This gap is a prime opportunity for AI, as such technology could be used to analyze data and identify trends in the information. AI’s potential for spotting patterns is beyond the capabilities of human medical professionals and could prove invaluable in proactively addressing areas of concern and implementing impactful healthcare interventions.
Error and Accident Prevention
AI’s ability to identify trends and patterns during a patient stay in the hospital could allow the technology to alert healthcare staff of patients at high risk for falls or other adverse events before an incident occurring. This intervention could be key to prevent falls and other injuries. The information examined to arrive at such conclusions, and flag patients as higher-risk could include the frequency at which a patient presses his or her nurse call button and how often he or she leaves their bed.
An Added Resource for Humans, but Not a Replacement
A common fear associated with AI is that it will replace or eliminate jobs and remove human touch, sensibilities, and intuition from the equation. Depending on the industry, these fears may not always be unfounded. But in healthcare, humans will never be completely replaced by technology.
Healthcare is a complex practice that requires critical thinking, intuition and a range of other abilities, skills, and emotions that a machine will never possess. Thus, in discussions around the role of AI in healthcare, it is important to remember that AI technologies are not designed to replace human staff members and their patient interactions. Rather, AI in the healthcare setting is intended to help improve the processes and efforts of medical personnel.
When implemented properly, AI can provide physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals with access to information that would have previously been unattainable. AI that is truly effective in healthcare makes the medical professional’s job easier and bolsters his or her efforts to better serve the patient.
Artificial intelligence will undoubtedly continue to be frequent, and at times controversial, the topic of conversation in the healthcare arena. But when integrated properly, AI and learning computers can help interpret and activate data, and leverage resources and existing technology, to simplify and streamlines processes. Ultimately, the potential benefits of AI can make the jobs of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals much easier. If medical professionals can work smarter and perform their duties in an easier fashion, the patient, in turn, will benefit and experience an improved level of care.
Even the administrative and “business side” of healthcare is sure to be impacted, and experience benefits from AI, with alternative payment models and insurance plans as natural points of integration for the technology.
The potential of AI in healthcare is great. Regardless of what form these technologies take in hospitals and other facilities, they are sure to change the way the world views, practices and experiences healthcare.