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AI Takes Aim at Healthcare Cost and Inaccessibility

WE Communications Blog: Health

9/26/2018
— Health Sector Team 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has influenced many aspects of our lives. Think about what life was like before we simply asked “Alexa” or “Siri” to play our favorite tunes or remind us to call our favorite aunt on her birthday. On the retail front, the Poshmark Alexa app, Stylist Match, uses AI to connect shoppers with some of the company’s stylist partners. Now, AI is finally making an impact on healthcare. Although some people may fear this development, the use of AI in healthcare is not meant to replace medical professionals, but rather make healthcare more accessible and reduce healthcare costs globally.

Toby Cosgrove, M.D., executive advisor to the Google Cloud Healthcare and Life Sciences team and former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, recently spoke with Sy Mukherjee of Fortune magazine about the role of AI in healthcare. According to Dr. Cosgrove, AI and augmented reality are critical for keeping up with the evolution of medicine.

Babylon Health, a U.K.-based healthcare company, is using AI to create greater access to healthcare across the U.K., in Rwanda and around the world. The company recently hosted an event at the Royal College of Physicians in London where its AI “doctor,” in a series of tests, achieved equivalent accuracy and safety with real-life doctors. Although some may immediately think that means human physicians are going to be eliminated over time, that is not the goal.

Babylon Health provides video consults 24/7 via a network of more than 200 NHS-registered medical professionals. The company also has deployed an AI-powered symptom checker that allows patients to investigate ailments and receive information. These tools are meant to empower patients and provide a first line of information. Imagine learning that you don’t need to incur a costly doctor visit because you were able to consult with an online physician or learn that you should get to the emergency room immediately because your problem is serious. It’s possible today and can improve healthcare outcomes and reduce healthcare costs across the U.K. and internationally. It also has the potential to revolutionize healthcare in developing nations where adoption of mobile technology is high.

Despite the promise and the clear need for AI in healthcare, there is still some resistance and fear surrounding it. This is why it is so important for companies in this space to articulate the benefits of AI and stress that it is not meant to replace physicians. Here are some tips for communicating the benefits of AI as it relates to diagnostic tools.

Lead with a physician engagement strategy

Eric Just, senior vice president for product development at Health Catalyst, which builds analytics and decision support tools for health systems, and Chris Manis, M.D., neurosurgeon and the co-founder and CEO of Viz, a deep-learning medical imaging company, participated in a panel at the 2017 Health Datapalooza conference in Washington where they stressed the importance of early physician involvement.

Physicians can help identify places where algorithms can be improved, and early involvement can help make them evangelists. As companies think about deploying this technology, having physicians already on board to help educate patients will make adoption easier.

Showcase the technology

Like Babylon Health did with the company’s event, showcase the technology and how it works to benefit patients. Once people understand and trust the technology, they’ll be more likely to embrace it.

Highlight real-world examples

Nothing is more convincing than real-world evidence. Use the power of patient and physician testimonials to highlight how effective the technology is and how easy it is for patients to use.

The da Vinci system, made by Intuitive Medical, uses AI to help doctors perform complex procedures with greater control than conventional approaches. It provides an overview of the technology and shares impactful patient testimonials on its website and in promotional materials.

Talk about costs

As more Americans are responsible for significant amounts of their healthcare costs, health tech companies have an opportunity. AI has the possibility to reduce costs associated with unnecessary care or alert patients when they need to seek treatment before an ailment becomes more serious.

A study by Accenture estimated an annual $150 billion in annual savings from key clinical health AI applications by 2026. AI has the potential to help move the healthcare system from a disease management system to an actual “health” system.

 

For more information about WE Communications’ experience working with companies in the AI space, please contact Boston Office Managing Director and Senior Vice President Stephanie Worrell.