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Why Artificial Intelligence is Important in Healthcare

Why Artificial Intelligence is Important in HealthcareWe know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic right now, yet on the flip side there has been criticism around its hype, especially at HIMSS17 this year. However, we need to continue to invest into AI Research and Development so we can maximize the benefits, such as lower healthcare costs, improved provider efficiency, more accurate billing, and safer patient care.

It's unlikely that robots and computers will totally take the place of doctors and nurses, but AI can't be ignored in its efforts to revolutionize the healthcare industry. Not only does it predict outcomes and improve diagnostics, it changes the way healthcare providers think about how they provide care, says Forbes. The future possibilities are endless: industry analysts say that 30 percent of providers will use cognitive analytics with patient data by 2018.

Access to big data is essential. Think about how we grew up with the Dewey Decimal system. A trip to the library could take hours as we pored through the stacks trying to find what we wanted. Today, our kids are astonished that we didn't have Google at our fingertips to learn anything we wanted to know. With the advent of AI quickly taking over the horizon, our kids' kids will be the ones shocked that all their parents had to learn information was a simple computer and search engine. Just like that, the future takes hold even when we can't comprehend the next step.


The Reach of AI

There are many ways artificial intelligence is predicted to impact the field of healthcare. Personalized medicine is one major benefit. AI is part of a far-reaching, continually growing, adaptive connected digital infrastructure. However, access is limited because there is just so much information out there. With the help of AI, it will become easier than ever to process, analyze and bring up research, publications, studies and more than can put accurate, timely information into the hands of the user. Healthcare providers now have the ability to use this information as a tool to compare, compile and analyze patient files in order to come up with an accurate diagnosis.

In addition to quick access, precision is a critical piece of the puzzle as well. Because AI has the ability to tap into huge databases that contain information on anything from symptoms and analysis results to family history and similar diagnoses of other patients around the world. The evolution of pathology and possible treatments has suddenly been made precise. While AI can't prevent all errors -- at least not yet anyway -- it can drastically reduce them. This in turn will reduce operating room mix-ups, mis-diagnoses, and more.

That leads us to the next important component of artificial intelligence: prevention. With the focus being on preventive and predictive medicine, it's possible with AI to avoid injury and disease altogether.

The value of virtual assistants has already been explored and used within other industries, such as SEM and retail. The goal there is to put more power in the hands of the consumer. Why not empower patients in the same way?

Understandably, advances in big data and AI pose ethical debates, especially within the healthcare sector (think personnel shortages, legal responsibilities, privacy issues, potential misuse of the system, etc.). However, there are so many more benefits that can revolutionize the way we practice medicine, treat patients, and indeed view our entire medical future.

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Population Health vs. Public Health: The rising significance of Population Health

Population HealthAmidst growing concern over the health of the population as a whole, a shift is underway to focus less on individual care and more on managing the population's health. First, let's define what population health is. The term population health first emerged in 2003 after David Kindig and Greg Stoddart defined it as “the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group,” according to HealthcareITNews. Population health refers to the health incomes of a group of individuals, which can be divided not only according to geographic ties such as communities and countries, but also on a smaller scale as well, such as employees, prisoners, disabled people, and ethnic groups.

Policy makers are looking to the importance of the population's overall health as it regards to the distribution of health. Let's put it this way: marks for overall health could be very high IF most of the population is healthy, which underscores the fact that a small minority is less healthy in an effort to drastically reduce that gap. Many factors can influence health, from an individual's behavior and genetics to social and physical environments. Medical care systems also play a large role. Population health outcomes rely on the impacts of these factors as a whole.

Now what about public health? This is defined as the efforts of state and local public health departments to treat individual health through prevention of epidemics, the containment of environmental hazards and the encouragement of healthy behaviors. Public health encompasses what we do as a society to assure people in that society can be healthy. However, a gap exists here that does not account for major population health determinants like health care, education, and income, which are traditionally outside the scope of public health authority and responsibility, says Improving Population Health.

Problem is, with the traditional model, the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group, are largely ignored. That's where population health comes in, to focus on the interrelated conditions influencing health populations over the course of lifetimes where systematic variations and patterns are taken into account in order to create policies that improve the well-being of populations over time.

That being said, there is certainly an overlap of sorts where population health and public health meet in the middle, combining forces of population health activities within general practices, public health activities with the community, and leadership efforts in policy development. The goal of population health is to broaden the responsibility of policy makers to think outside the box rather than simply focus on a single sector or for advocacy groups to single out a specific disease. With the average American living much longer thanks to improved health care and healthy awareness initiatives, it becomes more important than ever to identify population health trends that will ensure the well being of large groups of people across various demographic, social and community ties.

A fundamental shift in our way of thinking about healthcare is underway -- not just in who it affects but how it is delivered as well. The traditional healthcare model is slowly but surely giving way toward a different way of thinking, a different way of approaching population trends that are transforming the world in major ways. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says it best: a focus on population health can help us improve the biomedical, economic, and behavioral issues that affect the universal human experience.

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