Undoubtedly, AI is the buzzword of 2018, but it’s also a business reality. Gartner predicts the AI market will reach $3.9 trillion by 2022; and there isn’t an industry that’s not effected by the potential power of this technology. Given all the inefficiencies in healthcare, this may be the area with the most to gain from AI.
AI exists, but do clinicians care?
This theme was reinforced by every speaker and panel at last month’s World Medical Innovation Forum hosted by Partners HealthCare. While the potential benefits of AI in healthcare are innumerable, there are many barriers prohibiting it from being incorporated into a clinician’s day-to-day work. Repeatedly, speakers at this event discussed the same old needs: obtaining and organizing clean data and a commitment to an IT infrastructure which supports AI across the network. However, what really resonated during this event was the idea that a giant change management effort is needed for healthcare to truly embrace AI – do clinicians even want another technology, especially after dreadful EHR implementations? For the full potential of AI to be realized, you ultimately need clinicians who are willing to break their day-to-day work patterns and learn a new way of diagnosing and treating patients.
Current AI adoption
A late 2017 study found that most hospitals and imaging centers will be using AI technology by 2020. However, this same study found that more hospitals are adopting AI over imaging centers right now. This may be in part because of EHR use and the explosion of new data. The volume and velocity of available data is a double-edged sword – it holds the power to provide better insights and transform care, but no human could ever effectively analyze and mine that amount of information.
Can we really teach an old dog new tricks?
After listening to speakers at the Forum – from both the clinician and vendor perspectives – the answer is yes, we can teach clinicians new habits. Whether clinicians have been in the field for 30 years or three years, they are drowning in an overwhelming patient load and administrative responsibilities they never anticipated. One study suggests doctors spend about half of their time on administrative work and only 27 percent of their time with patients. While the true sea change will occur as medical schools and training hospitals embrace new technologies, like AI, as part of their curriculum, the change management required for broader AI adoption will hinge on small successes.
The successes created by smart AI companies in specific areas, like Robin in medical transcribing and Arterys in medical imaging, will gain momentum. Once clinicians see that a minor change in their work habits can create more time to see patients or more personal time, they will be willing to accept additional changes to their daily schedules. Although it may still take five years for this momentum to capture the attention of all providers and clinicians, it will be the combination of a newly trained medical workforce and the small gains of successful, self-executing AI solutions which finally put healthcare on the right track. So, let’s continue with these small wins and start creating real change!