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Healthcare reimagined: Harnessing AI to transform administration | Viewpoint

Opinion
Article

Artificial Intelligence is reshaping healthcare, demanding decisive action from industry leaders to harness its unparalleled benefits.

In the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, the promise of AI has captivated industry leaders.

Image credit: WNS

Gauri Puri (Image: WNS)

Imagine a future where routine administrative tasks are completely automated, allowing healthcare professionals to prioritize direct patient care. This vision is not far-fetched; it is the easier quick wins in administration that could be the game-changer.

A recent survey underscores this excitement, with 63 out of 79 healthcare executives identifying AI as the most thrilling emerging technology. And it is not just industry insiders - 51 percent of Americans share the optimism that AI will enhance healthcare by 2024. From crafting personalized treatment plans to automating mundane administrative tasks, AI stands poised to revolutionize healthcare.

AI's ascent is undeniable, especially with the industry's growing emphasis on data integration and interoperability. Picture healthcare professionals armed with AI-led systems, gaining comprehensive patient insights at the very point of care, transforming decision-making and treatment plans.

Yet, progress is nuanced. While planning and budgeting for patient-facing AI applications are underway, ethical standards, patient privacy and safety guidelines remain focal points.

AI's role in enabling quality care and compliance

AI systems can assess and ensure care pathways adhere to prevailing standards and regulations. These systems can analyze heaps of data to identify deviations from established protocols, enabling compliance and minimizing the risk of liability. With adverse events on the rise, AI can be pivotal to pharmacovigilance – enhancing patient safety and helping healthcare organizations comply with regulations.

AI can facilitate the integration of electronic medical records (EMR), DNA and epigenetic data, enabling healthcare providers to unlock insights that drive personalized medicine. AI excels at identifying patterns and anomalies in large datasets. This capability allows for early detection of errors in diagnosis and treatment plans. This will, in turn, enable health plans to deliver higher value to the patients at lower premium costs.

Addressing labor shortages

Human-in-the-loop models are now standard, ensuring optimal outcomes through collaboration between AI systems and healthcare professionals. AI can not only automate administrative tasks like appointment scheduling, billing and record-keeping but also assist in faster clinical decisions, determining medical necessity and enhancing patient experience. This will enable medical professionals to dedicate more time to direct patient care.

AI optimizes supply chain management, forecasting demand, reducing wastage and ensuring the availability of essential medical supplies. AI-led communication tools, such as chatbots and virtual assistants, handle routine inquiries, appointment reminders and follow-up communications.

As healthcare enterprises seek to integrate AI, how can they best position themselves for tangible success?

1. Ensure data quality and a robust IT infrastructure

AI's effectiveness hinges on the quality of the data it processes. Therefore, healthcare organizations must meticulously organize and manage data to achieve impactful outcomes. This entails thorough evaluations of data quality, accessibility, harmonization and integration.

Yet, even with impeccable data management practices, the lack of a robust IT infrastructure can impede AI deployment. The absence or immaturity of features such as data lakes, which serve as vast reservoirs for diverse data types, poses a significant challenge. While enabling AI, it is imperative to ensure compliance with the ever-changing regulations around healthcare data.

2. Foster a culture of innovation

Integrating AI within an organization necessitates a comprehensive approach to workforce development. Training staff to effectively utilize AI goes beyond acquiring technical skills; it requires a transformative shift in mindset and a commitment to embracing innovation.

Organizations can complement internal training with external expertise. This could involve the strategic hiring of individuals with specialized AI skills and a proven track record in leveraging technology for business growth.

3. Map potential applications of AI

Companies must recognize AI's limitations and carefully select applications that can have the maximum impact with minimal effort.

Moreover, deploying AI can transcend clinical boundaries and trigger regulatory considerations. Balancing innovation and regulation is crucial to ensure responsible AI use. Organizations that adopt a proactive approach to compliance will be well-placed to navigate the evolving landscape of AI governance.

4. Engage with industry partners

Consultants with deep domain expertise can offer insights into industry-specific challenges and regulatory considerations. This knowledge is invaluable for tailoring AI solutions to meet the healthcare sector's unique needs and compliance requirements. Such partners can help mitigate risks associated with AI implementation.

Rather than investing in building and maintaining an internal AI team, organizations can optimize resource allocation by leveraging external expertise. This can be cost-effective, especially for specific projects or during the initial phases of AI adoption. Collaborating with external experts can also include knowledge transfer initiatives. This helps build internal capacity, allowing the organization to gradually become self-sufficient in managing and expanding its AI capabilities.

In conclusion, the successful integration of AI in healthcare demands strategic planning, investment in talent and technology and a cultural shift toward innovation. By focusing on efficiency enhancements in administration, healthcare leaders can unlock the full potential of AI, ultimately improving treatment times and enhancing patient care.

Dr. Gauri Puri is business unit head of healthcare & life sciences at WNS, a business process management company.

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