Big tech poised to beat healthcare in reaping value from artificial intelligence, report says

By Nathan Eddy
10:10 AM
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Amid all the promise AI brings, a new report warns that healthcare payers and providers must move quickly to ensure they have the right talent and data to succeed.

Artificial intelligence will expose inefficiencies, improve medical decision-making and increase the quality of care, according to a new report from Boston Consulting Group. But the report also warned that companies in the traditional sectors of healthcare — payers and providers among them — risk ceding much of the value created by AI tools to technology vendors and consumers.

WHY IT MATTERS

With mounting pressure to contain or reduce healthcare costs and improve outcomes, AI is seen as a path to cost savings through greater efficiency — allowing providers to diagnose disease earlier and with more accuracy, for example.

Healthcare professionals could also use AI tools to create individualized treatment plans that support value-based care by reducing risk, improving outcomes and cutting costs.

The report noted that for healthcare providers, AI-driven resource scheduling, coding, and billing would improve operational efficiency, AI would yield major efficiencies in claims handling and other operations for payers, including improved fraud, waste, and abuse detection.

THE BIGGER TREND

A February report by Frost & Sullivan predicts hospitals and diagnostic labs will be among the biggest adopters of digital pathology tools, with AI making a big impact on how and where the digital tools are employed.

Just this week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a three stage competition it hopes will speed the development of AI technologies that can better predict health outcomes and boost quality of care.

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The Center for Clinical Artificial Intelligence, created by Cleveland Clinic Enterprise Analytics, recently launched a center for AI development, while Northwestern Medicine is validating algorithms to help more accurately screen for damage to valves with a digital stethoscope.

"AI is to some degree already being deployed across all incumbent sectors of healthcare today and will play an exponentially larger role in the years ahead," BCG partner Alexander Aboshiha, said in a statement. "Companies need to move quickly to harness this rapidly developing technology — including by ensuring they have access to the right data and the right talent to succeed."

Meanwhile, players like Google parent company Alphabet, IBM, Apple, Amazon, and Alibaba are making significant investments in developing AI-driven products and solutions including clinical decision support for providers, diagnosis tools for medical technology companies and population health management for payers.

ON THE RECORD

"AI will drive major advances in realizing the vision of value-based health care, Ryan Gallagher, BCG project leader, said in a statement. “It has the potential to detect connections and correlations between medical treatment and patient outcomes in a way that hasn't been possible before."

When it comes to remote prevention and care, AI-powered “virtual agents” could be used to conduct an initial consultation with a patient, screen out those who do not need to see a doctor, or provide important information to physicians about those who do need treatment.

In addition, the report noted AI applications in medical imaging and other clinical tests can help doctors identify conditions, while biopharma companies could use AI to leverage past screening results and clinical data to help identify and develop promising drugs.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.

Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com

Twitter: @dropdeaded209 

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