AI Will Transform Healthcare for the Better. Here Are Four Ways How.

Few could have predicted the AI frenzy when OpenAI released ChatGPT, its flagship product, and the arguable forbear in the arms race that proceeded. A mere two months after its launch, ChatGPT became the fastest application to surpass 100 million users. A year later, OpenAI’s for-profit arm projected annual revenues at over $2B, placing OpenAI in the rarefied air of other tech behemoths like Facebook and Google as one of the fastest-growing tech companies ever.

The speed with which AI, specifically generative AI (GAI), has consumed the public consciousness has been breathtaking. The companies most responsible for ushering in this AI revolution – OpenAI, yes, but also Anthropic, and Perplexity, among others – seem to have awoken incumbent tech giants like Alphabet, Meta, and Amazon into a new era of innovation. Each new entrant into the market has brought with it similarly ambitious, self-righteous, and borderline messianic mission statements indicating how they will “ensure artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity” (OpenAI), or create AI that “becomes an extension of the human will” (Anthropic).

So where do all these grandiose visions and paradigm-rending expectations of the future leave us?

AI undoubtedly has the potential to reshape our world and the way we live in it in untold ways, similar to the mobile revolution that preceded it. For all the echoes of past advancements or promising breakthroughs, the fact is that this time, it feels different. Not since the dawning days of the Industrial Revolution in the early 20th century has so much promise been coupled with fear and uncertainty.

Is such trepidation justified? Or will the benefits of AI far outweigh any of these initial concerns? We believe the answer to both questions is “yes.”

Already, we’re seeing early worrying signs that AI might be a significant driver in layoffs and job cuts. February 2024, for example, saw the greatest number of layoffs of any month since the Great Recession, and some feel AI is to blame.

Of course, all progress inevitably comes with some costs and may even cause disruption and turmoil in the short term. But for AI to live up to the promise and the missions of its creators, it has to do more than just increase productivity and make companies or individuals more efficient. It will actually have to have a positive effect on our health and well-being. In short, AI will have to improve both the way we receive care and the care we receive. To do so, the people and companies building these AI solutions will have to proceed cautiously and thoughtfully while also trying to move quickly to take advantage of the opportunity ahead.

While we can’t predict the future and all the many ways in which AI will transform our lives, we believe that there are four key areas where AI could have an immediate and lasting impact on the current state of our healthcare system.

4 Key Areas for AI Impact

1. AI to Address Provider Burnout

Healthcare providers are the backbone of our healthcare system. Yet, they are increasingly burdened by overloaded schedules, a high volume of patient interactions, and the relentless pressures of profit-driven healthcare models. A recent report published in the New York Times details “a dire staffing crisis in the nation’s health workforce,” citing the hundreds of thousands of medical workers that have left their jobs in recent years. The alarming rate of burnout among medical professionals compromises the quality of patient care, which further feeds another negative trend of patients’ declining trust in their providers. Without drastic and systemic changes, many fear this unvirtuous cycle will feed on itself, causing the provider shortage to worsen.

Enter AI. With its capacity to handle routine inquiries and provide clinically vetted medical advice, many see AI as a viable solution to this crisis. By automating certain aspects of patient care, AI can significantly reduce healthcare providers' workload, allowing them to focus on cases that require their expertise and human touch.

2. AI as a Navigator for Patient Care

AI also has the potential to provide a new and improved interface for care. Navigating the healthcare system can be a daunting task for patients, often fraught with uncertainty about where to turn for help with their health concerns. Not every issue requires a visit to the doctor—sometimes, a nurse practitioner or even straightforward health advice is sufficient. AI stands to remove these barriers by offering personalized guidance on the appropriate level of care for each patient's unique needs. Through sophisticated algorithms and access to vast medical databases, AI can provide instant recommendations, directing patients to the most suitable care pathway, whether a specialist consultation or home remedies. 

By targeting specific medical databases on which to train LLMs and providing strict boundaries and rules to ensure privacy and safety, next-gen AI tools like Hippocratic seek to provide medical advice that is both safe and trustworthy. Unlike medically trained humans, these tools wouldn’t require scheduling a visit and can scale infinitely. 

Far from feeling cold and impersonal, there’s currently evidence that AI tools often outperform human physicians in terms of their bedside manner and in making fewer errors in clinical diagnosis.   

As AI continues to mature and evolve, its capabilities may take on an ever-expanding role in providing patient care.

3. AI's Role in Streamlining Care Coordination

The complexity of scheduling appointments and finding the right healthcare providers often discourages patients from seeking care until it's too late. Here again, AI can step up to act as a scalable "digital front door." By leveraging AI's capabilities, patients can effortlessly find and schedule appointments tailored to their specific health concerns and preferences with the right providers. This not only improves access to care but also enhances the overall patient experience, making healthcare more accessible and less intimidating for everyone.

According to Authentix, a company building out AI language analysis capabilities, “AI can identify patterns and trends in appointment scheduling, such as common scheduling conflicts or bottlenecks that may be causing inefficiencies. With this information, targeted changes can be made to streamline scheduling processes, reduce wait times, and enhance patient satisfaction.”

4. Medical Breakthroughs Powered by AI

Finally, AI stands as a formidable ally in the quest for medical breakthroughs, uniquely poised to accelerate the pace of discovery in ways previously unimaginable. At its core, AI excels in its ability to digest and make sense of vast datasets—far beyond the capacity of human researchers—uncovering patterns and insights hidden within the sprawling digital compendium of medical knowledge. This capability is not just about handling volume but about integrating and interpreting diverse types of data, from genetic sequences to clinical trial outcomes.

Such comprehensive analysis can significantly shorten the timelines for drug development, moving promising compounds from the lab bench to the bedside more swiftly and efficiently. Moreover, AI's analytical might offers hope for unraveling the complexities of diseases like cancer and diabetes. By sifting through data layers, AI can identify potential causal factors and therapeutic targets that might remain elusive under traditional research methodologies. In this way, AI isn't just another tool in the medical research arsenal; it's a catalyst for a new era of healthcare discoveries, driving our understanding and treatment of some of the most challenging diseases facing humanity. According to McKinsey, AI’s use as a tool for cellular and gene therapy is “at a tipping point supported by an explosion of biological data, increasing computational power, next-generation in vitro models, wet-lab automation, and strong initial clinical proof points.”

Managing the Risks of AI: Navigating Privacy Concerns

As we embrace AI's benefits in healthcare, we must also navigate the ethical and privacy concerns that accompany its integration. While the digital age has seen a shift in generational attitudes towards privacy, many valuing personalized care over traditional privacy constraints, the need for secure and trust-building measures in AI technologies cannot be overstated. Ensuring the safety and confidentiality of patient data is paramount, and robust security frameworks and transparent practices are required to foster trust and confidence in AI-driven healthcare solutions.

Conclusion: The Future of Healthcare with AI

The journey of integrating AI into healthcare is filled with potential and promise. As we stand on the brink of this new frontier, it's clear that AI holds the key to unlocking unprecedented levels of access, efficiency, and personalization in healthcare. By addressing provider burnout, simplifying patient navigation, and streamlining care coordination, AI can significantly enhance the healthcare experience for patients and providers alike.

Yet, as we chart this course, we must remain vigilant of the challenges that lie ahead, particularly in safeguarding privacy and ensuring the ethical use of AI. Embracing innovation while upholding the highest standards of care and confidentiality will be critical as we move forward.

At Orderly Health, we’re leveraging AI within multiple facets of our products to create a platform that supports many of the use cases outlined above. With AI at the core of our solutions, we are among the companies leading the charge that, we hope, will accelerate the adoption of other AI use cases that our platform can enable. By fostering innovation and driving forward-thinking solutions, we aim to improve access to care for all and make healthcare more efficient, accessible, and responsive to the needs of our communities.

We hope you’ll join us on this exciting journey towards a healthier, AI-powered world.

About Our Guest Author:

Kevin Krauth is the Co-Founder and CEO of Orderly Health. Kevin started his career in Corporate M&A with Blackstone before transitioning to his role in enterprise product management with Upsight, where he was instrumental in driving insights and analytics strategy for Ignite Health, Kaiser Permanente, and others. Kevin received his BA in Public Policy and Economics from Duke University, holds a certificate in ML from MIT, and is a CiviCO Program Fellow, a program designed for civic-minded leaders in Colorado in collaboration with McKinsey & Co. You can follow Kevin’s missives and misadventures on Linkedin, X (fka Twitter), and Threads as he skis, cycles, and backpacks through his home state of Colorado while trying to raise a family to build a better healthcare economy.

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