Doctors, data scientists, computer geeks, and patients often talk about AI when they discuss healthcare technology today. They want to know how to make sense of massive electronic health records (EHR—also known as electronic medical records, or EMR) and related data to improve health. For patients, however, the word AI can still make them feel disconnected, like it is from a science fiction novel, or a Jetson’s cartoon from the ‘70s. How are doctors using AI to help patients stay healthy and enhance their medical care?
1. AI Helps Anticipate Your Health Needs
All too often, our behavior as patients prompts doctors and their care teams to react to our healthcare needs. We often avoid seeing a doctor if we don’t feel well. Sometimes we hope that our symptoms will magically go away, or that we will just get better on our own. AI healthcare technology is starting to change this behavior. Instead of reacting to how we think we feel, doctors are starting to use AI technology to anticipate our care needs in advance, possibly preventing or delaying us from getting a serious illness. The rise of AI chat bots may help patient self-assessment as well as the collection of healthcare data.
Machine learning tools can quickly scan massive amounts of routine medical data in our EHR. Healthcare providers are using AI solutions to predict our risk for developing a serious illness or debilitating medical condition (e.g., cancers, diabetes, kidney complications) in the near future. Doing so during a time period where physicians can intervene and make a difference in patients’ care is ideal.
Medial EarlySign’s algorithms, for example, are designed to predict a patient’s likelihood of being at high-risk for developing an illness within 12 months or less. This is a relatively short window where doctors can intervene to potentially delay or prevent that patient from progressing to that illness.
2. AI Helps Doctors Spend More Quality Time with Patients
56% of doctors in the U.S. spend 16 minutes or less with each patient during their office appointments, according to a recent Medscape survey1. Physician who uses AI to predict whether you have a high near-term risk for becoming sick can then prioritize attention and resources on you – the patient – including your diagnosis and treatment plan.
At its annual meeting this month, the American Medical Association shared its own AI policy recommendations, including an expectation by physicians that it “will improve care, and…enhance patient-physician relationships.” Clearly, physicians are hopeful that artificial intelligence can improve the quality of time they spend with patients.
3. AI Helps Doctors Triage and Prioritize Patient Care
Like a hospital triage nurse, AI healthcare solutions can enable healthcare organizations to prioritize the urgency of their patients’ care needs. One of Medial EarlySign’s algorithms has been used in an integrated healthcare system to help prioritize patient care.2
The FDA’s recent approval of an algorithm that analyzes CT scans for “indicators associated with a stroke” is another example of computer-assisted triage. Viz.AI Contact’s clinical decision support software notifies neurovascular specialists if it identifies a large vessel in the brain suspected of being blocked.
4. AI Can Reduce Time Physicians Spend on Administrative Tasks
Natural language processing, or NLP, is one type of AI technology focused on making sense of enormous, chaotic unstructured healthcare data sets. In fact, most of our healthcare data is unstructured. This includes voice transcripts, handwritten notes, paragraphs describing a patient’s symptoms, images from EKG tapes, and more.
Physicians and their care teams spend a lot of time on administrative matters related to making sense of unstructured medical data. A 2016 research study found that physicians spent 27% of their time on direct face-to-face time with patients, and 49% on desk work and EHR-related tasks.3 NLP with AI can make an impact, freeing up more time for doctors to spend with patients.
5. AI is Helping Patients Schedule Doctors’ Appointments
Patients should not feel that they have to struggle to make a doctor’s appointment. Some healthcare organizations are making use of AI-based scheduling software to help them with this task. These products include appointment reminder solutions, scheduling software, and medication adherence platforms for better patient outcomes.
Artificial intelligence is already being used by healthcare organizations today to help anticipate patients’ needs, open up more opportunities for doctors to spend time with patients, and prioritize care.
The coming years will see big changes in healthcare delivery worldwide, and AI will be involved in many of these advances. You may not yet be aware of how these changes may already be helping doctors care, but you will soon.
1 Sample size of 20,329 U.S.-based physician respondents currently practicing at the time the online survey was conducted. 2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Survey .
2 Goshen, et al., Computer-Assisted Flagging of Individuals at High Risk of Colorectal Cancer in a Large Health Maintenance Organization Using the ColonFlag Test, DOI: 10.1200/CCI.17.00130 JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics – published online March 29, 2018. ColonFlag bears a CE mark and is not cleared for commercial use in the U.S. In the U.S.,Medial EarlySign commercializes LGI Flag, which identifies individuals at high risk of having lower GI disorders.
3 Sinsky, C, et al., Allocation of Physician Time in Ambulatory Practice: A Time and Motion Study in 4 Specialties, Ann Intern Med. 2016;165(11):753-760. DOI: 10.7326/M16-096