How AI can increase the efficiency of healthcare organizations and reduce costs

Burnout has become an unfortunate daily reality for healthcare professionals. It is one that predates the pandemic, but has also been exacerbated by the crisis. Unfortunately, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that clinicians have been overwhelmed with their responsibilities since the outbreak began, and statistics reflect the magnitude of the problem.

According to the 2021 Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report — a survey of more than 12,000 physicians in 29 specialties, conducted between August 30 and November 5, 2020 — 42 percent of physicians said they had burnout. Those in intensive care (51 percent), rheumatology (50 percent), infectious diseases (49 percent), and urology (49 percent) topped the list.

The unfortunate truth is that this could become an even bigger problem in the coming years, given the expected shortage of clinicians. The Association of American Medical Colleges reported that by 2033 there will be a shortage of as many as 139,000 physicians. The International Council of Nurses – which saw its National Nurses Associations leave 20 percent increase in 2020 – projects that the global nursing workforce will shrink by at least 10 million nurses by the end of the decade. There are currently 27 million nurses worldwide, but according to ICN CEO Howard Catton it is conceivable that it could be halved by 2030.

While the abundance of patients with COVID-19 appears to be the main driver for the increase in burnout, the Medscape survey tells a different story. The main reason, respondents said, was “too many bureaucratic tasks”. Fifty-eight percent cited that as the cause, which isn’t much different from the 2016 survey. In contrast, only 16 percent of physicians who participated in the more recent poll said social distancing or societal problems associated with COVID-19 were the sources of their stress. , and only eight percent indicated that the reason behind it was the treatment of those infected with the virus.

So it seems to be a matter of reducing administrative burden – giving clinicians more time to care for patients (probably the reason they started in the beginning), rather than spending the time immersing in support tasks. In other words, putting people over paperwork.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the key means of achieving this, while also achieving greater efficiency, cost-effectiveness and patient outcomes. One study found that after the pandemic started, 84 percent of U.S. health care systems began using or plan to use AI by 2020, compared to 45 percent before the pandemic. The main applications were predictive analytics for early intervention, support for clinical decisions and improvement of patient care through collaboration between multiple specialists.

Another study found that AI for healthcare, valued at $3.9 million in 2019, could soar to $107 million by 2027 — a staggering 49.8 percent compound annual growth rate. As Steve Griffiths, the senior vice president of data and analytics at Optum Labs (UnitedHealthGroup’s research and development division), said in a company statement:

“The responsible use of AI continues to provide important opportunities for healthcare leaders to streamline administrative processes and deliver more effective patient care with enhanced experiences for both patients and caregivers. These leaders are not only users of AI, but they also have the opportunity to be seen as role models across all industries in their commitment to use AI responsibly.”

Deloitte defines AI as “computer systems capable of performing tasks that would normally require human intelligence”, pointing out that AI is no different from human intelligence in that it recognizes patterns and detects anomalies. Moreover, the more AI systems are used, the smarter they become.

Specific to healthcare, AI-powered systems such as natural language processing can be used to detect the critical elements in unstructured data and convert it into structured data that can be used to streamline a patient’s care and improve outcomes.

Think radiology. Nearly three in ten Americans who work in the field believe it can be made more efficient through the use of technology such as AI. Indeed, AI can make CT and MR scans more accurate, freeing technicians from image analysis and creating a more patient-centric experience.

Also consider how AI can be used to predict and manage patient flow through remote monitoring to determine where best to lead a particular patient based on the severity of their condition or bed availability .

As Henk van Houten, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Royal Philips, and Tina Manoharan, Global Lead Data Science & AI Center of Excellence, wrote on the Philips website: Such innovation is focused on the individual, not the technology. It enriches and improves the care pathway.

Van Houten and Manoharan underline something a CIO said to authors Edward Marx and Paddy Padmanabhan: “Digital medicine is just medicine, just like really good technology isn’t about technology. It fits into the fabric of our daily lives.”

While there are other factors contributing to the rise of AI in healthcare, that’s the bottom line: the people rather than the gadgets. It’s about simplifying clinicians’ lives, making their jobs easier, and ultimately helping them help patients achieve better outcomes. The need for this has become abundantly clear in recent years and the continued increase in demand indicates that this may continue to be the case in the coming years.


Joel Landau is the chairman and founder of The Allure Group, a New York-based healthcare group of skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers.

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