In surveying 106 CEOS of providers, payers and life sciences companies, Health Evolution found that 53 percent of them are considering artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) among their top IT investments during the next two years. 1 That statistic may be surprising to you, but for us at Forcura – as well as many of our partners – it’s right on target. AI is a tool that helps our industry do more, and do it better, with less. Technology in general is easing the many new strains on the healthcare system, from the influx of aging baby boomers to new payment models and now COVID-19. So it just makes sense that AI should be augmenting today’s technical innovations where it can have the greatest impact.
A Mystery? Not So Much
Merriam-Webster defines artificial intelligence in two ways: 1) a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers; and 2) the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior. 2 While you can’t have the second without the first, for our purposes, the second definition aptly describes the many types of AI being tested or used not only in healthcare but in all kinds of business and industry applications.
Although the development of artificial intelligence and associated technologies began in the mid-1950’s, its implementation in the healthcare industry has evolved slowly. From disease diagnosis and treatment with rule-based systems in the 1970s to clinical decision support systems, to natural language processing for clinical documentation, to claims and payment administration, to surgical robots, AI has gradually found healthcare niches where its power proves beneficial. 3
AI isn’t some “black box.” Most people encounter artificial intelligence in their daily lives and don’t even know it. In fact, many chatbots are powered by this technology. The reaction to AI, particularly outside the scientific community, hasn’t always been positive. Many feel it’s too powerful and will take jobs or decisions away from humans. Nothing is further from the truth - replace “artificial” with “augmented” and the conversation changes. AI will never replace clinicians and other healthcare professionals; it will just make them smarter at what they do. As a decision support tool, artificial intelligence should always be secondary to the primacy of the human expert.
Imagine the Possibilities
Technology is an enabler, and AI is an extension of its capacity to help us cope with new challenges or make groundbreaking discoveries. Here are just a few examples of how artificial intelligence is changing our industry for the better:
- Expedited workflows
- Better wound care management
- Enhanced precision medicine
- More granular assessment of radiology images
- Smarter oversight of population health
In covering CDW•G’s AI Showcase at Rutgers University earlier this year, HealthTech highlighted some additional ways in which artificial intelligence is making a difference in healthcare. These include virtual assistants providing reminders of daily activities to Alzheimer’s disease patients, and robotic-assisted therapy for individuals recovering from strokes. 4
Our own first foray into AI, Referral Automation with IQ, is all about saving hours of time in the referral management process for onboarding post-acute care (PAC) patients. By immediately identifying and classifying referrals, and automatically extracting patient demographic information to match with entries in the client’s EHR, we’re allowing our clients to reduce manual entry and the probability of errors. Individuals can be transitioned into home health care or hospice much more quickly, cutting way down on delays in care. Thanks to AI, PAC agencies can be more responsive to their referral sources, while making the most of their staff time and output – and improving cash flow.
Embrace AI’s Potential
Realistically, the healthcare industry just can’t navigate everything happening today without technology. But the tech you choose must also be a good fit for the long term. Yes, AI will generate a sea change in many aspects of healthcare, as long as its implementation is well-balanced. As Daniel Newman wrote recently in Forbes, “It’s a time when AI and analytics can offer tremendous insights and answers, but when relying on those things alone will force all of us to fall short in serving our customers’ needs.” 5 Mr. Newman suggests that empathy, what he calls “emotional intelligence,” will enable us to achieve that balance, and be more appropriately responsive in our changing world.
As a company, Forcura is committed to empowering better patient care by generating new ideas and models, and then putting them into practice using the right technology and a caring nature. We believe that now is AI’s moment for healthcare, and especially post-acute care. We’re excited to be able to use it to make our clients’ businesses more efficient, and their patients’ lives easier right now - and by all the opportunities AI will drive to make a difference going forward.1 https://www.healthevolution.com/insider/the-health-evolution-ceo-guide-to-artificial-intelligence-and-machine-learning-in-health-care/
As Chief Strategy Officer, Annie Erstling is responsible for driving growth at Forcura. She oversees the company's strategic planning, product innovation, marketing and strategic partnerships. She has experience launching new brands, products and companies across the healthcare and technology sectors.