Five Ways Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing Healthcare, and Why It Matters

By Mike Hilton, chief product officer for Accolade

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly transforming the way we live our lives. In fact, you may not even know it, but you are likely relying on AI on a daily basis already.

AI is the collection of multiple sophisticated technologies that enable machines to sense, comprehend, and act based on data learned about you over time.  It’s the behind-the-scenes magic that finds your favorite artists on Spotify, fuels your Amazon searches, allows the payment of bills from your mobile phone, and enables Uber drivers to find you on a random street corner.  AI is currently applied in almost every industry, and is changing the world.

So how will this powerful technology impact healthcare? In the coming years, just about in every conceivable way. It’s a good thing too, since the US healthcare system is in desperate need of leveraging technology to fix itself. Shockingly, we rank dead last in care quality, efficiency and access when compared to other industrialized nations.

The application of AI to the healthcare system promises to reinvent an industry that has historically been dragged down by some serious flaws:

  • It rewarded physicians based on patient volume versus the delivery of high quality care,
  • There were no incentives for specialists and primary care doctors to coordinate care, and
  • Doctors relied on a medical records system based on hand-written notes that could not be easily shared among caregivers.

Some exciting applications of AI to healthcare are quickly emerging, and promise to increase consumer satisfaction levels tremendously, and improve overall health while reducing costs. These include:

  1. Using real-time clinical data to manage chronic conditions – AI helps physicians deliver better outcomes by instantly analyzing real-time clinical data, uploaded by patients themselves or technologies that seamlessly integrate data. Increasingly, mobile apps are used by patients suffering from a chronic condition to transmit daily updates about their medical status, or engage with health assistants who capture critical learnings on both life and health. This information is used by physicians to monitor treatment plan adherence and adjust diet and medications as needed.
  2. Reducing hospital readmissions – Real-time evaluation of clinical information helps predict when a patient is likely headed back to the hospital for a re-admittance. Having access to this information allows treating physicians and health assistants to intercede with the patient proactively, avoiding unnecessary and expensive inpatient care.
  3. Increasing speed to market for new medications – AI technology is helping life science companies improve research and reduce the time it takes to launch new medications– meaning lifesaving treatments reach those in need much more quickly.
  4. Personalizing care using advocacy solutions – Employers looking to support employees in making better healthcare decisions are including high touch advocacy solutions as part of their benefits package. The most innovative of these solutions relies on AI to analyze data about each new interaction, continuously learning about individuals over time. By leveraging evolving insights, the technology enables the delivery of personalized recommendations, ensuring people feel supported and empowered to seek the right care at the right time.
  5. Improving diagnostic accuracy and treatment – You’ve probably heard of IBM Watson, arguably the most famous Jeopardy! player ever. Watson is a powerful AI supercomputer that has the ability to analyze zillions of data points in a nano-second, looking for key patterns that drive clinical insights. Watson’s capabilities were initially applied to the detection and treatment of rare cancers, but are now being expanded to include other clinical areas as well.

While the application of AI in healthcare is only in its infancy, it offers incredible opportunities to revolutionize the industry in ways previously unimaginable. Envision a future where the power of intuitive technology predicts when you’re going to get sick years before your first symptom – allowing you to make the changes necessary to avoid illness altogether and live a long and healthy life.


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