Healthcare C-suite bullish on AI, telehealth

Hospital and health plan leaders also see revenue cycle management as an area of innovation that's stood out during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from KLAS and CCM.
By Kat Jercich
01:05 PM
An X-ray machine display

A Center for Connected Medicine report released this week in consultation with KLAS Research found that a majority of healthcare leaders say they're most excited by artificial intelligence as an emerging technology.  

Healthcare organizations say that clinical decision support is their most common use case for AI, while they're likely to move toward using it for revenue cycle management in the future.  

Half of the respondents reported using AI technology to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, most respondents said they use less than 20% of their data for AI.  

"Most of the data being collected by health systems are not formatted for use by AI because they aren’t being collected for AI. They’re being collected for something else, and the AI has historically been secondary," said Pamela Peele, chief analytics officer at UPMC Health Plan and UPMC Enterprises. 

"Thus, getting data in shape for use by AI is a heavy lift and requires a big investment in talent and technical resources," said Peele. "Many health systems say they want to do AI, but few are making the investments needed to achieve it."  

WHY IT MATTERS

The report surveyed leaders in the healthcare field about their top innovations before the COVID-19 pandemic and how they'd changed.

Unsurprisingly, telehealth stood out, with nearly half of respondents saying they'd shifted to virtual care as an innovation priority.

"Within just over a week, we went from no telehealth to 2,000 telehealth visits per day. We are kind of just getting back into our original technology priorities," said one CMIO respondent.  

Nine in 10 respondents said they'd been fully able to meet telehealth demand for care, aided by relaxations in regulations around virtual care.  

Although most respondents said they'd continue or expand telehealth from their current deployment, several said they needed to consider what moves the government and private payers might decide to make regarding reimbursement.   

Others also noted that they wanted to improve integration, infrastructure and security with regard to their telehealth strategy.  

"We are focused on embedding more features alongside our telehealth offerings that provide the rich experience of the traditional in-person visit, but in the digital space," said Dr. Rob Bart, chief medical information officer at UPMC.  

"For example, it’s typical to provide questionnaires, surveys and educational materials before and after an in-person appointment based on a patient’s specific condition and what was discussed during the visit. We want to wrap that all into the telemedicine visit and make it integrated with our patient portal.  

"It’s a big task," he added, "but we think it’s essential for meeting patient expectations for digital health."  

Healthcare leaders also pointed to revenue cycle management as an area in need of disruption. They said they were looking for ways to increase the efficiency of RCM processes and workflows. Although technologies such as predictive analytics and AI were viewed as one solution, many leaders felt it wasn't the answer to the need for greater price transparency.  

THE LARGER TREND  

Artificial intelligence and machine learning – including AI-driven clinical decision support, electronic health record data preprocessing and diagnostics – have emerged as exciting areas of innovation in the healthcare sphere.

However, as experts have noted, AI isn't magic: Though it can vastly improve people's lives, its proponents shouldn't overstate its capabilities.  

AI, said Medical Realities cofounder and Chief Medical Officer Shafi Ahmed during the HIMSS & Health 2.0 Europe Digital Conference, is "one technology amongst many others … all coalescing to create better healthcare." 

ON THE RECORD  

"2020 has been quite the curveball for healthcare," said Adam Gale, president of KLAS, in a statement. "Thankfully the foundations for digital care had already been laid, allowing organizations to rapidly shift focus and continue to provide excellent care in our new, remote world.

"While we look forward to an eventual return to normalcy, I hope many of the digital advancements of this year aren’t forgotten," said Gale.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

More regional news

Digital Transformation

Top row - left to right: Dr Don Rucker, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), HHS Office of the Secretary, US, Tim Kelsey, SVP - Analytics, HIMSS, Australia and Dr Ahmed Balkhair, Saudi Arabia’s Digital Transformation Advisor, Ministry of Health. 

Bottom row: Dr Anne Snowdon, Director of Clinical Research - Analytics, HIMSS, Canada.

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Malaffi, COVID-19

Credit: Malaffi CEO, Atif Al Braiki

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