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How artificial intelligence is already paying dividends in healthcare

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Artificial Intelligence is everywhere. And we may not even know it. As a cohort of technologies that lets machines solve problems and execute tasks formerly reserved for humans, AI drives everything from smartphone location data to flagging email span.

The power of AI starts with large data sets, something that’s become more evident in healthcare. Automated patient records, information sharing across entities and the full digitization of business operations has ushered in the era of big data. Providers now are only beginning to determine how to use this new technology to create efficiencies, while also maintaining and improving the patient experience.

AI can be found across the care continuum. For example, at the patient level, Mount Sinai Health System is using AI to discover comorbid conditions previously unidentified in diabetes patients. We are seeing robots augmenting nursing care by assisting patients with mobility. At a large, national cancer center, AI has enabled a concierge service mobile app that provides intelligent interaction regarding quality-of-life needs, such as food and housing. Google AI is being employed to scan eyes for cardiovascular problems.

However, for many providers, looking at how AI can help support the business operations of healthcare may be a more achievable first step.

As a recent Advisory Report article stated, “AI works best when paired with humans.” The goal is to use AI to create efficiencies across the continuum that not only help staff in their roles, but that also free clinicians, caregivers and office staff to focus on more value-added activities. Put to work, AI can help augment and automate human tasks and functions where appropriate. It can even offer advice.

One form of AI—chat bots—can essentially fill the role of an office assistant by automating many tasks. By searching mounting amounts of data, it can make recommendations 20 percent faster than a manual search. Because it is voice driven, and studies show that humans can speak and hear three to four times as many words per minute than they can type, staff can work faster. Some examples from around the organization include:

Further optimizing the supply chain: AI can quickly answer employee queries on days outstanding, by supply, such as sutures from a certain supplier. AI can be used to track unused supplies, too, minimizing excess inventory. Accessible by nursing and other clinical staff, AI can also help alleviate the amount of time—and frustration—spent searching for supplies by not only providing location, but also automating future order and delivery.

Enhancing and expanding self service: For those healthcare employees without regular access to a computer, such as lab technicians, AI is a quick and accurate way to empower cross-functional self service.

Automating financial processes: In accounting, AI can augment the payment process, detecting payment, vendor and invoice patterns, and suggesting automating payments for a specific invoice that is approved 99 percent of the time.

Maintaining a restful environment: A quiet, healing hospital experience is key to patient outcomes and satisfaction. Employing AI to help manage and maintain hospital equipment can provide staff with needed insights, quickly, and thus ensuring something as simple as a squeaky equipment cart is fixed before it is rolled down the hallway. It can also work to set up a regular maintenance schedule to catch issues before they occur. AI can even root out common sources of noise before they become chronic problems.

All of this not only contributes to patients getting the restful sleep that they need to heal and recover, but may also in turn boost those patient satisfaction scores that can have an impact on a hospital’s reimbursement levels. When patients experience a less-than-restful hospital stay, it shows up on patient surveys, lower HCAHPS scores and can compromise value-based reimbursements.

Healthcare organizations are just beginning to unlock the potential of AI in healthcare. There are so many possibilities, but right now impressive results are being gained by supporting caregivers and staff to help them work better and smarter.

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