At HIMSS20, Optum sees AI, especially in administration, as paramount

The vendor surveyed provider organizations and found a walk-don’t-run approach to artificial intelligence – administrative, then clinical – unfolding across the industry.
By Bill Siwicki
11:44 AM
At HIMSS20, Optum sees AI, especially in administration, as paramount

Artificial intelligence will be blanketing the HIMSS20 conference and exhibition. It will be everywhere, in educational sessions and across the vast exhibit hall floor.

Health IT vendor Optum stresses to HIMSS20 attendees that AI is of paramount concern today. That the complex set of technologies can achieve quite a lot on the administrative side and on the clinical side. Though perhaps it’s best to stress the administrative first.

Robert Musslewhite, CEO of OptumInsight at Optum, had a discussion with Healthcare IT News in advance of HIMSS20. Following are his observations about AI and more, trends that HIMSS20 attendees should keep in mind at the show, according to Musslewhite advised.

Investments in AI

One promising development in health IT is the way healthcare industry leaders increasingly are embracing new technologies, including artificial intelligence, to improve care, Musslewhite observed.

“Last fall, we asked 500 U.S. health industry leaders including hospitals, health plans, life sciences and employers for their perspectives as part of the 2019 OptumIQ Annual Survey on AI in Health Care,” he said. “These leaders told us their organizations plan to invest an average of nearly $40 million in AI over the next five years.”

"We believe AI-driven administrative applications will continue to serve as the foundation for more comprehensive AI strategies that ultimately will include clinical and research applications."

Robert Musslewhite, Optum

Health systems, clinicians and payers told Optum they are starting to see tangible results and positive impact from their use of AI. This signals a broader, growing eagerness across the industry to apply advanced technologies and data analytics more broadly to critical decision areas, Musslewhite contended.

“As more healthcare organizations invest in and implement AI technologies, there is an increasing demand for AI talent – people who have experience working with and putting AI into action,” he added. “Many organizations seek deeper expertise on how to use these technologies and leverage ongoing breakthroughs and improvements. To meet this growing need, increasingly they are engaging and partnering with outside firms that can bring needed talent and scale.”

AI for administrative purposes

Another trend Optum observes is a higher level of trust in AI to support administrative needs versus clinical applications.

“This ‘walk before you run’ approach means organizations are more likely to apply AI to operational tasks first,” he explained. “We believe AI-driven administrative applications will continue to serve as the foundation for more comprehensive AI strategies that ultimately will include clinical and research applications.”

Findings in the 2019 OptumIQ Annual Survey on AI in Health Care reinforce this trend. Industry leaders told Optum they see AI as most pragmatic today for non-clinical applications, including a variety of administrative challenges such as automating pre-authorizations, managing electronic health records, and detecting fraud, waste or abuse in reimbursement.

“We look forward to continuing this dialogue with HIMSS20 attendees as Optum works to create healthcare experiences for everyone that are more compassionate, more responsive, higher quality and lower cost,” Musslewhite said. “We are energized by our growing collaboration with partners across the system to create a better-connected, high-performing health system.”

Integration and collaboration

On another HIMSS20 trends front, Musslewhite said that healthcare costs in the U.S. continue to rise at unsustainable rates.

“By 2027, they will approach $6 trillion annually,” he said. “A major driver of this trend is the rapidly growing number of people with complex and costly chronic conditions. To help all healthcare stakeholders – consumers, care providers, health plans and employers – effectively address this challenge, we need to turn a fragmented system into a more connected, efficient and seamless one.”

A more connected, effective and affordable healthcare system that delivers consistently better patient care and experiences is within reach, he insisted. It can be achieved by using information and technology to provide more effective and targeted care, reduce administrative burdens, eliminate redundancies, and decrease friction for all participants, he said.

“Optum is privileged to partner with participants across every part of the healthcare system to create a more integrated and collaborative experience,” he contended. “For care providers, this includes using technology, data and advanced analytics to deliver precise, actionable insights at the point of care. For healthcare payers it includes using modern technologies embedded across the system to make information flow more easily. And for employers, it includes digital innovations that make their employees’ healthcare experiences simpler, smarter and more compassionate.”

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