Hospitals are complex organizations, and AI excels at bringing order to complex systems. In this article we examine conversational AI in healthcare.
The US healthcare system is one of the most complex constructs of the modern era — and American hospitals everywhere reflect that complexity. Beyond hospitals’ primary responsibility to provide care for the public, hospitals must also contend with a torrent of non-clinical transactions and processes taking place between patients, doctors, labs and insurance companies every day. The good news is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can offer a better way for hospitals to handle many repetitive and complex processes and keep institutions focused on patient care, not administrative duties.
AI can automate complex systems with machine efficiency. Enterprise-scale autonomic frameworks like 1DeskTM, for example, inject unprecedented efficiencies into organizations by automating workflows across departments through a single unified platform. This is particularly impactful when partnered with a conversational AI solution like AmeliaTM, who has an intuitive comprehensive interface that allows users to independently locate information and resolve issues with little-to-no human intermediation. This frees hospital workers from many high-volume patient support tasks.
The transformational potential of AI is particularly timely considering the pressures being placed on healthcare systems around the world. Topics like these will be explored at this year’s Digital Workforce Summit (DWS) on May 8 in New York City, featuring insights from decision makers and thought leaders about AI’s potential to reinvent and transform a variety of industries.
As DWS approaches, let’s look at a few of the ways that AI could bring order to the administrative chaos within a modern hospital.
Strict compliance with all laws, government regulations and medical protocols is, of course, an imperative for any hospital or health provider. Lax compliance can lead to costly financial penalties or even criminal liability — not to mention long-term potential damage to a hospital’s reputation. However, rigorous compliance comes with a hefty price tag in regards to time and resources.
According to a report from the American Hospital Association, health systems spend nearly $39 billion a year on the administrative activities related to regulatory compliance in just nine key categories. The report went on to note that “an average size hospital” dedicates 59 full-time equivalents (FTEs) to regulatory compliance, more than 25% of which are handled by doctors and nurses, which means time spent away from caring for patients.
AI systems can automate many rote tasks involved with compliance and therefore free healthcare professionals from routine high-volume issues related to regulations. For example, AI can ensure compliance with HIPPA and other laws through the use of automated and intelligent checklists that are integrated with hospital systems. Furthermore, as regulations evolve over time, AI systems allow hospital compliance officers to update protocols and procedures instantly at scale.
Administrating / Billing
According to one study from Health Affairs, 25% of total spending on care in American hospitals is for administrative costs. The US is at the top of the list, but even those nations at the bottom – Canada and Scotland — spend about 12% of hospital expenditures on administration. A separate Health Affairs report found that for every 10 physicians that provide care, an additional seven people are engaged in billing-related activities. That’s a lot of resources that don’t have anything to do with patient health or care plans.
Fortunately, adding efficiencies to administrative processes is an area where AI can excel. Platforms like 1Desk can easily automate routine workflows and transparently manage transactions between relevant parties (patients, banks, insurers, labs, hospitals, etc.). Furthermore, a conversational solution like Amelia is able to automate high-volume customer-facing administrative tasks, such as answering billing questions (e.g., “Amelia, did you receive payment?” or “Amelia, how much do I owe on invoice number 324?”) or collecting information from patients (e.g., “Hello, Mr. Walsh, what’s your current insurance provider?). When hospitals spend less time and resources on administrative tasks, they can invest more in caring for patients and free up health care staff from non-clinical chores.
Diagnosis / Care
In the far future, AI technologies like deep learning and machine vision may prove useful in diagnosing ailments and provide a valuable head start for treatment regimens. The widespread use of AI could eventually lead to some degree of AI-assisted diagnosis by patients, without an initial evaluation from a trained medical professional. That reality is clearly years if not decades away.
In the near term, however, there is hope that AI could be used to augment treatment and make healthcare processes more efficient overall. An AI-powered solution on a mobile device that provides nurses and doctors with rapid information access on patient histories, drug information and interactions could have a real impact. When AI is used to lift much of the cognitive load, it could amplify the potential of a single caregiver to spend more time working directly with patients.
This year’s DWS will showcase how leaders across industries, including healthcare-related fields, are using AI to transform and redefine their organizations.