Accenture sees big health IT roles for AI and emerging technologies in 2020

The medical doctor who heads the consulting giant’s global health practice foresees AI having a huge impact in healthcare this year, and is keeping his eyes on blockchain, extended reality and quantum computing.
By Bill Siwicki
12:12 PM

Accenture has a deep bench when it comes to healthcare expertise. And the consulting giant keeps a keen eye on healthcare information technology and the trends surrounding this IT.

This is why Healthcare IT News turned to Accenture for its view of trends in health IT this year and beyond. Dr. Kaveh Safavi, senior managing director, head of global health practice, at Accenture, offers his analysis and predictions, focusing on AI and emerging technologies.

AI will have the greatest impact

Accenture recently polled healthcare executives on trends they see on the rise in 2020. More than two-fifths (41%) of respondents ranked AI as the technology that will have the greatest impact on their organization in 2020 and beyond.

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“In 2019, there was a fundamental shift in how AI is understood,” Safavi said. “People started to realize that AI is best used when augmenting the work of humans, rather than substituting them. This will have a tremendous impact on how AI is utilized in 2020, and I see it becoming a self-running engine for growth across healthcare, helping clinicians make better decisions and extending their reach.”

"In time, AI will fundamentally transform the operational/business side of care, and ultimately the consumer experience."

Dr. Kaveh Safavi, Accenture

The healthcare industry currently is struggling with three big problems: There is a shortage in labor supply, the cost of care is growing faster than countries’ economics can afford, and citizens are increasingly expecting care on their own terms, he added. AI can play a significant role in solving all three of these problems by supporting human decisions and taking over non-routine tasks, he explained.

“In time, AI will fundamentally transform the operational/business side of care, and ultimately the consumer experience,” he said. “According to Accenture analysis, when combined with key clinical health AI applications, AI has the potential to create $150 billion in annual savings for the U.S. healthcare economy by 2026.”

DARQ: A set of emerging technologies

As digital becomes part of everything done in healthcare, organizations must master a set of emerging technologies to deliver convenient and effective care, Safavi contended. This combination of emerging technologies he speaks of is known as DARQ – distributed ledger (blockchain), AI, extended reality and quantum computing. These technologies together will become the foundation for a digital healthcare future, he predicted.

“According to Accenture research, 89% of businesses already are experimenting with one or more DARQ technologies, expecting them to be key differentiators,” he noted. “Each technology is at a different point on the adoption curve, but the first wave of companies using DARQ technologies to drive differentiation is already here. Next, we will need to grapple with each of these technologies becoming more and more complex and learning how to adopt them into the healthcare system.”

Accenture recognizes expectations from consumers are rising exponentially. It is through the adoption of new technologies, such as DARQ, that opportunities are created for organizations to better understand and serve their customers, he said.

“As healthcare companies continue to grow as digital businesses, executives are recognizing the ways in which this new technology is revolutionizing the industry,” he added.

Platform business models

On another front, platform business models will continue to grow and emerge in healthcare as they have flourished in other industries, such as transportation and retail, Safavi forecasted.

“Multiple health systems are discussing how to become a platform themselves,” he said. “In the past three to four years, this conversation has moved from the fringe into the mainstream. Ultimately, health systems are looking to use technology to mediate exchange between two parties, even if the assets are not owned by the health system.”

As for existing examples of facilitators of health services, ZocDoc is one example, he pointed out.

“The online appointment scheduling platform facilitates a connection between health providers and patients,” he explained. “ZocDoc does not own any assets – such as doctors or hospitals – but the company has built an inventory of health providers for patients to connect with.”

In 2020, Accenture expects to see more health systems creating these types of platforms themselves.

“For example,” he concluded, “how do we move care from the hospital to the home? Organizations will start to look at the business problem and see if creating a health platform could create more efficiencies in this model.”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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