Improving healthcare is a critical application for big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). Think of all that available patient information--from medical records, health monitoring devices, drug trials, genetics databases--there is no dearth of data. What is often lacking is a way to aggregate that trove of information and sort through it in a way that makes it useful. If that can be accomplished, patient outcomes could be improved. Given the incentives insurance companies have to keep people healthy (i.e.
Tech giant Microsoft is teaming up with Nuance Communications to use technology to solve a big pain point for doctors--too much time spent on documenting and administrative tasks. The two companies are collaborating to use ambient technology combined with artificial intelligence, automation and cloud computing to create an exam room experience where the clinical documentation "writes itself," the companies said in a press release. Physician burnout continues to be a significant problem in healthcare. A recent study shows that primary care doctors now spend two hours on administrative tasks for every hour they're involved in direct patient care. Physicians reported one to two hours of after-hours work each night, mostly related to administrative tasks.
Physician burnout is one of the most serious conditions in today's medical profession. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines the condition as "a long-term stress reaction caused by emotional exhaustion [and] depersonalization," among other factors. According to the American Medical Association, physicians suffer from considerable stress caused by facets of their job that have little to do with actually providing personalized patient care. The AMA reports that physicians spend up to six hours daily working with electronic health records (EHRs) to adhere to government and hospital documentation requirements. That's six hours not spent seeing patients, and thus not having the time to listen carefully and diagnose, empathize, hold a hand, speak with family members, or explain conditions and next steps.
Two of the most significant predictions for the new decade are that AI will become more pervasive, and the U.S. health-care system will need to evolve. AI can augment and improve the health-care system to serve more patients with fewer doctors. However, health innovators need to be careful to design a system that enhances doctors' capabilities, rather than replace them with technology and also to avoid reproducing human biases. A recent study published in Nature (in collaboration with Google) reports that Google AI detects breast cancer better than human doctors. Babylon Health, the AI-based mobile primary care system implemented in the United Kingdom in 2013, is coming to the U.S. Health-care is an industry in need of AI assistance due to a shortage of doctors and physician burnout.