Partnering with the right technology can help make providers and healthcare systems more efficient and give them the tools they need to provide excellent patient care. Digital technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), could be an effective solution in healthcare, but it’s important to understand its implications before investing in and integrating it into practice.
Today, we know the rapid expansion of digital technology and AI in healthcare has privacy and ethical considerations. And while there are limitations to how AI and digital technology can be used in healthcare, an industry that needs to keep its human touch, there are still opportunities to leverage this tool.
There are benefits to patients, providers, and healthcare facilities that occur as AI and digital technology integrate into daily processes, such as improved patient experiences, more accessible care, reduced costs, and increased efficiency.
How AI and Digital Tech Improve Healthcare
AI systems can help patients and providers improve communication, which encourages better outcomes. For example, online patient portals powered by AI help streamline care by giving them a place to refill prescriptions, review test results, book appointments, and more.
Other AI tools, like automated text messages, remind patients about upcoming appointments or help them reschedule automatically. With AI, patients take back control over their healthcare communications and interactions.
Diagnostic Speed and Accuracy
AI has the potential to improve the patient experience exponentially, particularly when it comes to diagnostic speed and accuracy of diagnosis.
AI algorithms can process mass amounts of data rapidly and accurately. This function allows AI algorithms to provide real-time recommendations and data, scan imaging results for irregularities or anomalies, and more.
For providers, this cuts down on their workload and helps them get patients the answers they need more quickly. It can also help rule out certain conditions and encourage a better treatment plan earlier on in a patient’s care. Still, a provider does need to participate in this process and have a hand in the final diagnosis. AI is not infallible.
Another way AI is making strides is through remote monitoring and telehealth. For patients who live far from a healthcare provider’s office or who need online support, telehealth allows them to connect with their providers remotely.
AI-powered telehealth also provides additional benefits including home health monitoring. Remote patient monitoring detects changes in a patient’s health, reporting unusual activity such as falls or high blood glucose levels. Depending on the system, the AI may send an alert to the emergency medical service (fall alerts) or collect data for medical providers to keep up on patients’ health trends over time.
Another benefit that healthcare providers can’t overlook is how AI helps reduce costs for providers and patients alike. AI:
- Can perform more efficient data analysis for timely interventions and more accurate diagnoses.
- May reduce medical errors by flagging potential problems in real-time and/or supporting a provider’s decisions.
- May assist healthcare providers in optimizing their resources, tracking the number of beds being used, improving scheduling, and more.
- Can help automate patient education or health coaching. An AI chatbot, for example, can help patients with questions about their health decide if they need an appointment, should seek emergency care, or can wait to seek attention.
Each of these actions reduces costs for patients, providers, or both, and streamlines care for a better patient outcome.
Improved efficiency is another fantastic outcome of using AI and digital technology. Mobile apps can help with instant translations between people speaking different languages, while AI-powered healthcare systems offer faster diagnoses, optimized resource allocation, and the automation of administrative tasks such as billing and coding. In these situations, AI and digital technology can help providers offer better care and services to their patients.
Ethical Concerns for AI in Healthcare
Working in healthcare requires an eye on regulatory and ethical issues. Where AI has the potential to fall short is in three core areas:
- Bias and discrimination
- Human judgment
Each of these areas has to be addressed to minimize the risks to patients and providers using AI systems.
Bias and Discrimination
Artificial intelligence systems are only as good as the data they’re trained on. If the algorithms are trained on biased data, they could go on to perpetuate those biases within patient care.
For example, The Framingham Heart Study works well for Caucasian people but poorly for African Americans. Since Caucasian data makes up around 80% of all data in genomics and genetics, racial bias could exist within AI systems and lead to poor patient care among underrepresented groups.
AI systems require training on large data sets. It’s vital for our healthcare systems to regularly audit these systems to reduce the risk of data breaches and maintain adherence to regulatory guidelines. AI healthcare products could violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as well as other state privacy laws or regulations if de-identification isn’t used effectively.
De-identification is simply the removal of patient information that could be used to identify them as anything other than anonymous. Commonly removed information includes references to the patients’ names, dates of birth, addresses, genders, and other details. Problematically, however, removing some of this data could lead to bias and discrimination, particularly when using data to look at gender.
In addition to de-identification issues, this could be prone to data breaches and ransomware use, both of which could lead to monetary and legal consequences for healthcare providers and AI healthcare companies.
Finally, AI is not a replacement for human decision-making. In fact, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that AI models tend to make harsher judgments than humans, which could lead to problematic patient care.
Human judgment is needed in healthcare. No two patients are alike or respond to treatments in the same way. Additionally, what seems to be the best path forward for a patient could be the wrong choice for them based on elements such as their personal preferences, religions, or concerns.
AI is excellent at identifying solutions, but it is not necessarily able to replicate the personalized care provided by human interaction. That may be why 60% of Americans polled by Pew Research Center stated they would be uncomfortable with healthcare providers relying on AI to diagnose diseases or recommend treatments.
A High-Tech Approach to Healthcare
Digital technology is evolving to address healthcare challenges as well as meet the needs of everyone involved, patients, providers, and administrative staff included. At Supplemental Health Care, we stay up to date on technology trends and offer a high-touch, high-tech approach, so you can focus on what’s most important: patient care.
We believe there is a place for the integration of technology and AI in healthcare, but we also know that there are parts of the process that require a human touch. We’ve developed the SHC WeConnect mobile app for healthcare professionals to search for jobs, submit timecards, manage regulatory compliance, and more while still offering our caring team to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more!
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