AI Implementation Is Up 88%, Survey Finds

And health systems are investing more in the technology.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) implementation continues to soar, with new research showing an 88% increase in the adoption of an AI strategy compared with 2018.

More than 60% of healthcare executives reported implementing such a strategy, while only 33% did last year, the second OptumIQ Annual Survey on AI in Healthcare revealed. Of those with a strategy, 22% said they are at the late stages of implementation.

Healthcare executives also plan to invest more in AI — an average industry net increase of $7.3 million compared with last year.

“These findings validate that AI is vital to holistically transform healthcare,” said Dan Schumacher, president and chief operating officer at Optum. “It’s encouraging to see executives’ growing trust in, and adoption of, AI to make data more actionable in making the health system work better for everyone.”

The online survey included 500 senior healthcare executives from hospitals, clinics, health insurance companies, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare IT.

Healthcare executives reported high levels of trust in the use of AI technology for clinical and administrative tasks. When ranking specific applications, respondents selected more administrative applications (62%) than clinical applications (38%). Administrative applications made up four out of the five top-ranked applications, the survey revealed.

More than a third (36%) will invest in personalizing clinical care recommendations like drug therapies and 36% will also invest in accelerating research for new therapeutic and clinical discoveries.

AI can also create more employment opportunities and drive job growth, 52% of respondents revealed. In fact, when hiring potential job candidates, 87% of healthcare executives said it is a priority to find someone with experience in AI.

“In order to transform and modernize the U.S. health system through the power of AI, it is critical that organizations invest in developing talent throughout the enterprise to solve healthcare’s most complex challenges,” said Steve Griffiths, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief operating officer at Optum Enterprise Analytics.

While the adoption of the technology is increasing, the time it will take to see a positive return on investment (ROI) is decreasing.

Nine out of 10 leaders believe they will see a return on the technology sooner than expected. And half of respondents expect to see cost savings in three years or less as a result of investing in AI, compared to 31% in 2018. Specifically, 55% of hospitals and 52% of health plans expect to see a positive ROI in that time.

“If you’re a provider or a health plan that’s looking to build this capability, being thoughtful about where to access that talent, how to access that talent, whether to partner for that talent is going to be so important, and being able to link that to your clinical and business strategy will be really important as you think about your path forward,” said Tushar Mehrotra, MBA, senior vice president of analytics at Optum.

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