Health organizations rapidly boost use of AI in aiding operations

By | October 9, 2019

Healthcare executives have been ramping up their organizations’ adoption of artificial intelligence during the past year, according to new survey from Optum.

The survey of 500 executives shows an 88 percent increase in the number of organizations who said they have implemented an AI strategy, compared with an earlier Optum survey in 2018.

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Overall, the executives have high expectations as nine out of 10 leaders are confident they will see a return on investment sooner than expected, and one-half believe the return will come in less than three years as AI will streamline work and create more job opportunities for skilled employees.

Surveyed health industry leaders included hospitals, insurers, life sciences and employers. Leaders estimate they will invest an average of nearly $ 40 million during the next five years, which is $ 7.3 million more than Optum’s estimate from last year.

Surveyed stakeholders are quite confident in the path they are taking with half of respondents expecting to see a tangible cost savings in three years or less, compared to 31 percent in 2018.

Some 51 percent of hospitals and 52 percent of insurers expect to see a positive return in three years or less, while 38 percent of life sciences organizations see the return taking five years or more.

“These findings validate that AI is vital to transform healthcare,” says Dan Schumacher, president and chief operating officer at Optum. “It’s encouraging to see executives’ growing trust in AI to make data more actionable in making the health system work better for everyone.”

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When asked which health applications, if any, respondents would feel comfortable having AI support, four out of five of the top-ranked applications were administrative. That’s because administrative process improvements top the list of investment priorities.

The priorities, in order, include automating business processes such as administrative tasks and customer service, personalizing clinical care recommendations such as drug therapies, and accelerating research for new herapeutic or clinical discoveries.

Use of artificial intelligence to support non-clinical applications include:

  • 51 percent to automate prior authorizations.
  • 47 percent to provide individuals with relevant health actions using personalized communications.
  • 45 percent to manage electronic health records.
  • 43 percent to detect fraud, waste or abuse in reimbursement.
  • 38 percent to select appropriate care settings.

To better succeed with artificial intelligence, however, healthcare stakeholders still have some challenges ahead.

For example, most employees are not being trained quickly enough to keep up with the growth of AI—because as much as 50 percent of new roles will require experience working with AI.

To get help, stakeholders are establishing partnerships, creating training programs, working with consultants and postponing projects.

“In order to transform and modernize the health system through the power of AI, it is critical that organizations invest in developing talent throughout the enterprise to solve healthcare’s most complex challenges,” says Steve Griffiths, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Optum Enterprise Analytics.

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