Data, Analytics and AI in Healthcare: What’s Ahead and Beyond?

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is disrupting many industries, and healthcare is no exception. But when it comes to data, AI and analytics, what’s on the horizon for the healthcare industry? How can healthcare organizations get better at using technology to empower their organizations for success? What are the latest advancements?

“The healthcare industry has done a very, very good job of collecting data, especially with the implementation of electronic medical records,” says Susan Reese, Director of the Healthcare Practice Group for Kronos. “It has enabled healthcare to collect a tremendous amount of information. But just collecting information doesn’t improve anything.”

The next step for healthcare organizations is using that information to improve workforce management and workflow, she says.

Here’s how healthcare employers can stay one step ahead when it comes to the changes that AI and data are bringing to the industry.

Transforming Workflow in Healthcare

While the healthcare industry has gotten good at collecting data, it has lagged behind when it comes to effectively managing this data. “One of the things that has happened with the implementation of technology in healthcare is we’ve built all these tools that are intended to improve patient care, but we’re realizing that many of these tools actually have an adverse impact on patient care because they take the caregiver away from the patient,” Reese says. “We’ve created an electronic burden for workers like nurses by increasing the administrative burden through technology.”

The industry needs to leverage AI and machine learning to create intuitive tools so caregivers can get back to the bedside, she says. “The task now is how do we re-evaluate the technology that we are providing for the nurse and create technology that is intuitive and supports the workflow of healthcare workers?”

James Costantini, CEO of the AI-driven chatbot company Medical Intelligence Learning Labs, agrees. “We need to make it very easy for healthcare providers to access this data and understand what it means,” he says. Chatbots, text-based notifications and interactive, AI-based systems offer easier ways to access and understand key patient data, he says.

Reshaping Healthcare Workforce Management

AI is also having a real effect on healthcare workforce management, Reese says. “We’re capturing so much data about the workforce and about how that workforce is deployed that we can now use AI and machine learning to help us make better decisions about workforce needs for the future,” she says. “If I can better forecast what my workload requirements are for tomorrow, I will most likely make better decisions in terms of how I’m going to staff tomorrow.”

New tools allow healthcare organizations to maximize workforce utilization and improve patient care at the same time, she says. “With AI, we can refine predictions to not only know how many patients may need to be taken care of but also what kind of patients they are and what staff credentials are needed in order to provide the best care,” Reese says. “Using artificial intelligence is going to improve our ability to match the right worker with the patient to provide the best outcome.”

Costantini says the use of AI to help identify the best doctor or practitioner for a particular patient is an emerging technology that large healthcare organizations are increasingly using. “Smart alerts and smart routing can be very, very effective in sending the right information to the right person within the organization to find the best provider,” he says.

Creating Flexible Working Environments

AI also plays an increasingly important role in staffing in healthcare, Reese says. “In the healthcare industry, we’ve seen a rush of mergers and acquisitions so we have very large health systems in many places,” she says.

AI allows large organizations to share their staff to meet workforce needs in a way that’s flexible for both the employer and employees. “In a geographic area with a tight job market with a pool of predominantly younger workers, staff want the flexibility to call the shots in terms of what hours they’ll be available,” Reese says. “They want variety in the work setting. The walls of the facility are no longer the boundaries.“

In the near future, the healthcare organizations that use AI, data and analytics to improve workforce management, drive positive patient outcomes and give workers flexibility will enjoy a clear competitive advantage. 

Bryan Barajas

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Data, Analytics and AI in Healthcare: What’s Ahead and Beyond?