By Neil Huse,
Managing Director at Accenture focused on Healthcare within the Accenture Applied Intelligence group, President of Clarity Insights, now part of Accenture Applied Intelligence.

In a recent study, Business Insider Intelligence reported that spending on AI in healthcare is projected to grow at an annualized 48% between 2017 and 2023. That’s unsurprising, given how much work and financial investment has been put into the field by major players like IBM — and, more recently, Google — to continually improve technology offerings in preparation for more widespread adoption. 

As is fairly common knowledge, AI — and machine learning, in particular — improves as it is fed more information. AI that is being introduced behind the scenes now creates a foundation that can be built upon: where new studies can add nuance, new patient records can add variety and breadth of cases for matching symptoms for rare diseases, and personal health data will be richer with individualized context in order to make more informed decisions for wellness at people’s fingertips.

The importance of ethics to allow AI advantages to shine

While AI adoption in healthcare — and across industries, for that matter — is largely a consideration for executive decision makers, consumers are also paying attention. Data usage is something that requires more transparency than ever as part of due diligence and governance to assure patients that their data, in your care, is as much a reflection of your commitment to their well being as any other service provided (or they’ll be empowered to seek out providers elsewhere). 

The way AI is trained is one of the most important things technologists and businesses alike will face; the true litmus test of AI’s potential for growth in the industry and the foundation for its ability to positively impact health outcomes. Not only is the process of building algorithms and feeding information into systems for learning susceptible to bias, the data itself must be properly collected, its privacy upheld, and its storage thoughtfully considered for future scale. We are at a key crossroad, if the industry grows as it is projected to. The time is now to ensure your healthcare organization is ready for what’s ahead. 

What are the biggest areas of opportunity for AI in healthcare? 

Business Insider Intelligence’s latest report, AI in Medical Diagnosis, identifies three high-value areas of imaging, clinical decision support, and personalized medicine. These three topics correspond to respective benefits that are worth discussing in more detail, outlined below. 

Improving care through streamlined operations 

The same Business Insider Intelligence report mentioned above indicates that 30% of healthcare costs are associated with administrative tasks. High costs of care, though attributed to many factors, are most painful when they can be prevented by greater efficiencies within healthcare organizations at the onset. When administrative resources can be better allocated to patient well being instead of paperwork, patients benefit. This opportunity is something that will be palpable for healthcare professionals (who are strained and primed for burnout to begin with) as well as patients, even helping providers better comply with value-based care initiatives; it can change the baseline expectations of patient experience with the potential to alter the industry for the better.

Fueling personalization and convenience of care 

Patients are equipped to advocate for their own health and to take greater ownership of their health outcomes from the comfort of their home. Preventive care has been championed in recent years, but so too has the incentives — from insurance companies, employers, and even peer response — to learn what works for each patient individually. AI can confront these realities twofold: by using AI to offer customized treatments for individuals based on their symptoms, history and demographics, as well as to use wearable devices and other applications to automate suggested care paths that create checkpoints toward health goals that are both motivating and powerful for patient education, helping to reduce readmission and lifetime cost of care. The more healthcare organizations can communicate the value of AI as part of a broader wellness movement, the more public opinion of AI can reflect the advantages of its investment. 

Expanding and illuminating treatment options 

Perhaps most importantly of all, AI — through clinical decision support and innovations in imaging — are helping doctors see new treatment options that have the power to save lives. As another tool in their expansive toolkit for understanding the ever-growing repositories of research, trials and patient cases, AI is shaping the way doctors review information — faster, when time is not on their side, and with confidence that their searches are exhaustive, when so many new findings crop up across publications, hospitals and labs spanning the globe — so that patients receive the best care available to them. As doctors adjust to technological change, these benefits will take stronger hold, so that AI is a trusted go-to resource that aids them in doing what they do best: discerning the best course of action and executing care to best uphold the oaths they so hold dear.

I’m  just barely scratching the surface in this article as there is so much to discuss surrounding AI in healthcare. Want to dig deeper? Let’s talk.

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