The Future is Now: Using AI to Promote Patient-Centricity
It’s common knowledge that the healthcare industry has changed dramatically over the past decade. What used to take days, in terms of diagnostics, can now be completed within hours. Technologies such as clinical decision support (CDS) are widely used to increase the quality of care, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have revolutionised clinical data accessibility, and artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing many aspects of patient care by automating administrative tasks. Such technologies help improve access, efficiency and quality of care by putting the patient at the centre of the digital experience, driving empowerment and engagement.
Organisations are challenged by the increased demand for healthcare and must fight to meet the high expectations of patients. WE’s recent Brands in Motion Report, The Healthcare Mandate, identified a 30% rise in expectations placed on brands since 2019 to create stability in uncertain times – no small feat during a global pandemic. More specifically, of all industries, audiences thought that the health sector could have the most positive impact on social issues in the next 6 months. The pressure is on.
New challenges like increased regulations and globalisation also add to the complexity of the industry. Ultimately, increased demands placed on these companies and organisations lead to the risk of them spending less time focused on patients, having a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing. Technological developments such as AI are attempting to address this complexity and better meet patient needs – but how exactly will it impact the future of care provision?
Meeting the challenges of the healthcare industry
Healthcare is a highly regulated industry, with guidance designed to maintain the quality and safety of the care offered by providers. One of the greatest challenges facing our healthcare systems is the ability to remain aligned to numerous regulatory hurdles, approval milestones and administrative requirements.
It is important to note that as regulations increase, so does the time an average healthcare professional (HCP) spends on administrative activities rather than frontline care provision. Increasing administrative tasks divert time and focus from HCPs’ clinical duties and may prevent patients from receiving timely and appropriate care. AI can help overcome this by providing substantial efficiencies through its ability to automate clinical documentation and translate documents in a compliant manner.
As part of a panel at this summer’s GlobalLink NEXT conference, representatives from several pharmaceutical companies discussed how they deployed machine translation (MT) within their organisations. It was clear, as the conversation progressed, that the main reason for implementation of MT was to streamline compliance problems, reduce security vulnerabilities and handle patient data safely. Panellists estimated MT reduces the time taken to optimise assets by 50%, illustrating the value of AI within their organisation. Reduced turn-around time means the assets can be released sooner and meet the needs of patients faster.
WE’s Healthcare team has experienced the complex challenges of these administrative efficiencies first-hand with our involvement in clinical trial recruitment campaigns for rare diseases. Large-scale, international collaboration is required to increase recruitment efforts due to patient sparsity. Assets need to be approved in multiple languages and receive endorsement from a wide range of stakeholders.
Administrative challenges risk moving the focus away from important aspects of the project. They can generate extra costs and setbacks, ultimately resulting in delays meeting the needs of patients.
One of the key drivers for adoption of AI is the potential to reduce inefficiency through automation of administration. The ‘Top Three Trends in Pharma’ webinar at the GlobalLink NEXT conference discussed how AI tools can facilitate working with PDFs, transcription/translation of video assets and aligning tracked changes. AI tools can expand capabilities and relieve staff of time-intensive, manual tasks. This reduces burnout and helps focus time on high value tasks, from clinical research to content generation for disease awareness.
A great example is Babylon Health, a digital health provider based in the UK. It is deploying AI at scale to improve the efficiency of GP consultations. The tool is built to model a doctor’s brain and assist patients that need information but not a consultation. Health records databases and consultation notes are processed by the AI to help make decisions about cause of symptoms. The technology saves GPs time by cutting out unnecessary consultations and creating more time for those who need it.
Engagement with patients hinges on healthcare organisations’ ability to support behaviour change through effective communication. Content gamification can help drive sustained action on behalf of patients and trial participants, culminating in the formation of new habits. WE has partnered with clients to use this principle, designing user retention platforms. The platforms reward users with badges for completion of content and enables them to track their progress with leader boards.
The concept can be carried across to clinical trials where higher patient engagement translates to increased retention and compliance rates. Gamified content encourages participants to form new habits around protocol requirements and reduces the number of dropouts. AI can also be used to channel the vast amounts of patient data collected digitally into outputs that are both clinically meaningful and provide a fun, interactive experience for patients. WE recently worked with a pharmaceutical brand who used a smartphone game to encourage better disease management and trial adherence in children with type 1 diabetes.
Global impact in a post-pandemic world
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred-on the use of AI all over the world. In India, hit hard by the pandemic, AI-focused startup Haptik has partnered with the Indian government to release a WhatsApp chat bot capable of answering questions about coronavirus. The tool has now been adopted as the Government of India’s oﬃcial COVID-19 helpline and has been used by over 25 million citizens.
The potential benefits and challenges of technology have been acknowledged by the WHO in its first global report on AI in healthcare, released earlier this year. It expresses concern over the ethics of the system but concludes that if all stakeholders work to address those concerns, then AI can be a force for good and improve global public health.
Many of the changes made to healthcare regulation in the last year are unlikely to be temporary or reversed. The industry has witnessed the power of AI and the positive impact it can have on their projects.
WE’s report, The Healthcare Mandate, found that 71% of respondents believe brands have an obligation to engage with social and global issues when they impact the business and stakeholders. Companies need to realise the benefits of AI technology and examine how these tools can be integrated into their future projects, the efficiencies they can bring, and their potential to help tackle such issues. For them, this will mean a better return on investment in the long run, with automation of administrative and regulatory tasks maximising efficiency. Companies are empowered to strengthen their focus on an important stakeholder group: their patients.