The Changing Landscape of the Healthcare Industry part 1

Imagine the amount of time you spend during a visit to the doctor. A majority of your time is spent filling out repetitive information that gets passed around by the receptionist, the nurse, and finally makes its way to the physician, who often asks you the same questions again upon meeting with you. This generally leads to you only getting about ten or fifteen minutes of face time with your doctor, though you’ve spent an hour or more at the doctor’s office. And since the American Journal of Medical Quality published a report that projects a shortage of 24,000 primary care physicians by 2025, it could get worse.

What if I told you that technology is coming to a point where these repetitive, mundane tasks could be automated in a way that would save you the headache and make room for you to have more time with your doctor to get down to the real issues. This, among many other use cases, is where automation is rejuvenating the healthcare industry.

Augmenting the human workforce in healthcare reduces the increasing pressure of medical staff and allows them to focus on the human aspects of their job and give patients more face time. Artificial intelligence (AI) is augmenting the human workforce in many industries and healthcare is no different. In healthcare, AI is being used to elevate patient care and enhance patients’ health and wellbeing.

The hesitation of AI in healthcare

Whenever a new technology is unveiled, it is usually welcomed with a mix of a lot of curiosity and equal amounts of fear. Such is the case with artificial intelligence (AI), especially in a field like healthcare that handles sensitive, personal information and must adhere to unique compliance requirements.

It is quite clear that humans are unlikely to place all their trust in machines when it comes to a loved one’s, or their own, life. People will continue asking questions, raising their eyebrows on the need for machines to take over their regular medical check-ups, and so on. Therefore, the benefits of AI must be realized in synchronization with existing healthcare practices. How the two integrate will define how AI-powered tech is perceived and whether it attains general acceptance. There are certain trends in healthcare that signal a shift in the behavior of people.

Increasing popularity of at-home care

Nowadays, people feel comfortable getting their medical care at home. This is not only beneficial to the patients but also to the new start-ups who are creating healthcare products to be used at home quite easily. These products are available at a fraction of the cost incurred if a patient were to go to a hospital for the same treatment. Machines like Blood Pressure Monitors, Glucose Level Meters, and so on, are available and easy to use.

A big problem with this is that there has to be a significant change in behavior for the patients who are used to receiving medical care from certified professional doctors and nurses. However, with AI-driven products like Conversational Agents, this barrier has become easier to break. These agents can provide patients with human-like medical interactions, alerts for medicines, and even detect depression.

New-found love for wellness

With awareness spreading so fast, people are now more focused on their wellness than they were a couple of years ago. You can easily spot so many people wearing fitness bands or using the ‘health’ functionalities of their smartwatches or smartphones. They are not shying away from letting health apps record their sleep patterns, heartbeats, pulse, and so on.

Some apps are even able to tell if a person is feeling depressed or predict it in the future based on interactions with their smartphone.

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot Project is already live and is helping many organizations deliver a great conversational experience to their patients across the world. With Natural Language capabilities built-in, the bot helps with medical information, symptoms, complicated medical questions and so much more. From an organization’s point of view, the bot is customizable with their specific business cases, can be securely integrated with their database, and utilize their industry-specific use cases, among others.

Solutions like these are called Remote Patient Monitoring, or RPM. RPM addresses the trend toward in-home patient, as well as the decreasing number of physicians in the workforce, by using AI assistance to check in with patients. With RPM, an AI assistant asks patients questions about their symptoms, mood, and other important wellness questions to determine whether their treatment is working as planned. If the patient is struggling with common symptoms, the AI assistant can give them recommendations for how to lessen symptoms like pain and fatigue.

If the patient reports unusual symptoms or more severe symptoms than typical, the AI assistant will ask the patient if they’d like to chat with a clinician. From here, the AI assistant will contact the hospital/office and find an available clinician to chat. If no clinician is available, the assistant can access clinicians’ calendars and schedule an in-office appointment for the patient.

After the appointment is scheduled, a transcript of the conversation will be sent to the clinician who will take the appointment, so they know exactly what the patient is experiencing. Finally, patient data can be added to a dashboard, in compliance with HIPAA, so that hospital or office admins can analyze potential care issues and best practices.

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