Healthcare Industry Using AI for COVID-19, Still Concerns with Tech

The industry may be poised to most benefit from AI technology.

Is the pace of artificial intelligence (AI) moving too fast? According to the findings of a new report released by KPMG, some healthcare executives believe that to be the case, but are still confident AI can help solve some of today’s toughest healthcare challenges, including COVID-19 tracking and vaccines.

Of the 100 healthcare executives asked about the top three biggest approaches for AI to add value, 44% said error reduction and improved medical outcomes for patients, while 41% cited greater patient engagement and one-third said administrative efficiency, Vince Vickers, principal, advisory, KPMG, told Chief Healthcare Executive™.

Life sciences and healthcare business leaders were overwhelmingly confident in AI’s ability to monitor the spread of COVID-19 cases (94% and 91%, respectively), help with vaccine development (90% and 94%, respectively), and distribution (90% and 88%, respectively).

“COVID-19 forced healthcare to accelerate a lot of its investments in technology, since many healthcare providers have had to create a digital front door to their facilities to contain infection risk,” Vickers said. “AI can be deployed to help with patient triage, whether voice technology helps with phone calls or patients communicate with providers through a chatbot.”

The technology can also be used to improve efficiency and help with supply issues, specifically in identifying potential PPE shortages.

Healthcare executives said their organizations are prioritizing their AI investments over the next two years on telemedicine (38%), robotic tasks (37%), and the delivery of patient care (36%).

AI is also helping to address operating risks like tracking staff credentials and predicting potential supply issues.

Still, data and security (life sciences) and/or privacy (healthcare) were said to be the biggest concern among those surveyed. Another major concerned was about bias from the data, according to half of healthcare respondents and 44% of life sciences respondents.

“There is a recognition among data scientists that some populations may be under-represented. This is particularly important in healthcare when it comes to under-represented populations. If you use datasets that only focus on populations that have commercial insurance, you are missing 44 million seniors and disabled people covered by Medicare, 77 million low-income people covered by Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP), and the uninsured, which account for nearly 11% of the population as of 2019,” Vickers said.

And challenges can arise from adopting AI. For some healthcare providers, cost can be a concern, and there are many competing priorities among healthcare providers for technology spending, especially cybersecurity.

Despite challenges and concerns, the healthcare industry has potential to be the industry to most benefit from AI technology.

“When an estimated 1/4 to 1/3 of all healthcare spending is viewed as waste, AI can have a big impact on an industry that accounts for approximately one of every six dollars spent in the U.S. economy. A lot of processes can be streamlined and care can be delivered in a more precise and personalized way, which also has a benefit of reducing waste. If healthcare were made efficient, it could mean hundreds of billions of dollars being deployed to more effective uses in the economy,” Vickers concluded.