Can Artificial Intelligence Humanize Patient Care?

One of the big battles being waged in healthcare today centers around the limited amount of genuinely personalized care available for a large number of patients who need it. The challenge requires physicians and facilities to extend their reach while somehow also deepening it.

Artificial intelligence could be healthcare’s unlikely rescuer. With its innate ability to predict events, AI has the potential to connect patients to the right providers at the right time, reducing inefficiencies and boosting health and overall patient experience. 41% of healthcare executives expect AI to be the most effective technology of the near future, and many providers are already investigating how to use it to expand their services.

Why AI could be the best doctor, you never had.

Perhaps it’s strange to suggest that artificial intelligence could bring a human touch to patient care. But with healthcare providers stretched thin like never before and a more significant number of patients anticipated — particularly in the Baby Boomer generation — AI holds promise in helping those who would otherwise miss out on timely treatment.

Healthcare made up 18% of GDP expenditures in the U.S. this year: It’s clear that we have excess within the system. Identifying where those excessive areas lie is the tough part. AI and aligned technologies bring precision to the discovery side of healthcare, allowing providers to quickly and accurately target the right patient with the right therapy at the correct level of care and, later, trim anything unnecessary.

Machine learning, in particular, will give healthcare the breadth to reach more patients outside of traditional healthcare settings like clinics and hospitals, primarily through the use of remote patient monitoring (RPM).

The numbers don’t lie: The RPM market is expected to reach $31.326 billion by the end of 2023. The way a healthcare system collects data from patients — via connected healthcare devices (Internet of Medical Things, or IoMT) — and uses it to inform interactions allows care to be proactive and personalized instead of reactive and generic.

In this way, AI’s unique features could be just what healthcare is crying out for if only we could innovate into the right areas and issues.

The potential future of AI-enhanced healthcare.

To successfully bring AI into the realm of patient care, providers must innovate according to patient needs. We must use data to make processes quicker and more accurate, with an understanding of how to provide patients with a truly curated experience. Here are a few ways this could happen:

1. Seamless appointments based on testing: Imagine: A patient sits on her sofa, relaxing with a morning coffee. She receives an auditory prompt from her virtual care assistant, notifying her that a ride service will arrive that afternoon to take her to an appointment scheduled by her provider. The pickup and appointments have been scheduled based on recent test results, without the patient having to call or arrange a referral.

Predictive analytics makes it possible to turn patient data into a clear map of activity. Lab tests can inform scheduling intuitively, better integrating both preventative and emergency care into a patient’s life. Ultimately, it makes healthcare more manageable, more predictable, and more personal.

2. Enhanced member relationships: The other upside of remote patient monitoring? Members can receive more personalized care, no matter where they are.

Using data to identify high-risk homes and high-risk times, healthcare representatives can connect with patients before they’ve even identified a problem.

Having and using data for high-risk is getting ahead of potential low engagement and forging a much-needed trusted relationship.

Consider this example: A busy mom juggling four children puts off preventive procedures — like a mammogram, Pap test, or colonoscopy — in favor of taking care of her kids or working a second job.

In her case, remote patient monitoring would allow her care team to provide timely alerts, and if she needed assistance with scheduling or transportation, the team can help address those issues and proactively keep her in good health.

The move to in-home patient care is advancing, with remote solutions like digital evaluations making the list of new CPT codes expected in 2020.

3. Patients brought closer through the IoMT: Devices will play a crucial role in AI’s healthcare integration activity. Picture a patient going about his business wearing a smartwatch. This device reminds the patient to take medication, advises him of the nearest pharmacy, and gently encourages him to eat healthily and adjust his portion size, all within the scope of a day, without intervention by family or provider.

These connected devices have the power to lower per-patient costs and identify pathology faster than ever.

Increasingly, research departments are investigating smartwatches as tools to detect conditions like atrial fibrillation with a stunning degree of accuracy (and without first-line physician involvement).

Advanced technologies, like automation and machine learning, are here to stay. They have become a critical frontier in advancing the goals of healthcare leaders. How this tech is imagined and introduced will determine how we meet the increasing challenges of our aging population.

Health is an intimate domain, and people will always want the most personal care possible. However, it could be that machines are best placed to make that ideal a timely reality.

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