Why Healthcare Organizations Need an AI Strategy

Looking for the perfect gift this upcoming holiday season? You may want to skip over Amazon’s Echo Dot. Chances are good that your friend already has one. Last season, the Amazon Echo family had sales up over 9x compared to 2015’s holiday season and millions of Alexa devices sold worldwide in 2016 and 2017. The Echo Dot was the best-selling and most gifted item on Amazon.com.  It was so popular, the item sold out last year. The Motley Fool reported the stock shortage of the Echo devices was not a result of a poor supply forecast. Rather, it was as a result of astonishingly high customer demand. It’s clear to see that people are more comfortable with Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) technology than ever before.

The advantages of the technology are clear. Instant answers, service, and gratification with little effort put forth. As the general population quickly adjusts to the intuitive conversational technology, it will soon become a customer service expectation. Forward-thinking companies like Amtrak, Alaska Air, and Charter Spectrum are already using this type of technology to their advantage by delivering effortless and remarkable customer experiences. It’s only a matter of time before healthcare organizations do the same.

Before it’s too late, smart healthcare organizations like pharmaceutical companies, health plans, specialty pharmacies or ACOs, should be thinking about AI and how the technology can affect and benefit your organization.

Naysayers may think that the technology is too new. It’s not proven and it’s a fad. But the truth is, the technology is tested and it isn’t new. The only thing that’s new is the demand now that consumers are aware of its benefits. Just like Uber turned transportation on its head and video streaming annihilated Blockbuster, AI is here to disrupt healthcare and your organization should prepare by asking, “What is our AI Strategy?”

Here are some elements to consider when building an AI strategy:

Data

In healthcare, there is no shortage of information and data which is great for AI solutions. It now becomes the biggest asset to the healthcare industry. Unprejudiced, speedy and robust, AI-based technology shows favorable use cases in predictive analytics, clinical decision support, and precision medicine.

Other organizations are already using AI as engagement and management tools. When patients interact with the technology every day, it offers unprecedented opportunities to collect real-time qualitative clinical insights, and it puts health entities in positions to execute real-time interventions if needed.

AI is also being utilized to leverage medical data to try to predict at-risk patients. By utilizing the tech in this way, organizations use AI as a preventative medication of sorts.

Whether AI and Virtual Health Assistants (VHAs) are used to help mine data or to serve as a catalyst to report it, smart organizations will use AI to provide actionable insights, make or save money and drive better outcomes.

Domain Specific Knowledge

Healthcare is the perfect environment for AI-based VHAs. While virtual personal assistants like Alexa have a little knowledge about a lot of things, VHAs for healthcare require a sophistication and expertise – or deep domain understanding. Healthcare is so nuanced, not one Siri or Alexa could know it all.  To provide consumers with a trusted, easy and personalized experience, healthcare organizations should look to experienced platform providers, like Next IT, that offer conversational user interfaces (CUIs) built on deep domain knowledge and who will work with organizations to architect and design tailored solutions.

Better Service & Satisfaction

Are you seeing an influx of password reset requests or complaints from patients who are getting locked out of their online accounts?  Are scheduling requests taking up too much of your time?  An AI-based VHA can automate these processes and more. From scheduling provider appointments online to assisting patients with billing questions or helping members select insurance plans, VHAs are capable of addressing and handling simultaneous patient “customer service” requests instantly and accurately.

In particular, health plans face intensifying obstacles in providing service to their members. Under scrutiny to improve CSAT and net promoter scores (NPS) while lowering costs, more and more payers are turning to cognitive technologies, to provide exceptional, personalized and scalable service. According to Deloitte’s Cognitive Technology for Health Plans, one survey of 46 health plans representing approximately 60 percent of the 2013 commercial individual health insurance market, found that more than half of the surveyed plans intend to invest in providing virtual customer service via web chat over the next three years. Automating and scaling processes with VHAs is truly a win-win: your members get personalized, instant service and you get to increase your CSATs and NPS while lowering costs.

Better Engagement & Outcomes

As mentioned before, cognitive technology is already using data to understand and treat certain diseases and improve outcomes. It’s also being used to open the lines of communication between doctors and patients. According to one study, 51% of patients who interacted and were encouraged to discuss a specified health topic with their doctor by an Alme AI-based virtual nurse during prior exam room “downtime,” reported they engaged in a conversation with their physician about the health topic and 26% reported they had not talked with the physician about this topic previously. They also rated the technology as “easy to use and felt that they would use it again and that other patients would enjoy it.”

Outside of the office, clinicians are arming their patients with personalized VHAs as engagement and management tools. Whether it’s guiding them through workouts, journaling, meditation or diet, the AI-based tech guides patients to make healthier lifestyle choices like exercising more or eating better. This is especially important to patients who are managing chronic conditions like MS or diabetes. By engaging patients with a personalized VHA that understands your patient’s preferences, lifestyle, disease state and motivations, you help to support them with a successful management tool.

Pharmaceutical companies and clinicians are also working together to support patients with VHAs to improve prescription medication adherence. VHAs’ demonstrated “stickiness,” far exceeding traditional apps, builds relationships with patients, reminds them to refill or take prescriptions when they should, answers questions about their medication and even helps them get in touch with nurses or doctors when human assistance is truly needed. Conversational AI technology can also be built to include motivational interviewing techniques and gently remind patients why they need to take their medication as prescribed.

Cost & Revenue

Cost is a major concern in healthcare organizations. With total Medicare penalties assessed on hospitals for readmissions increasing to $528 million in 2017, $108 million more than in 2016, organizations need to be mindful of it. An AI-based VHA can help with that. By empowering patients with a VHA that uniquely knows their medical history and treatment plan, patients can ask their VHA questions about their symptoms, prescriptions or treatment plans and the VHA can frontline those questions instead of call-center nursing staff. In doing so, it helps keep them out of the hospital unnecessarily, keeping costs low.

While it’s known that VHAs cut cost by automating aspects of member services, cognitive technology is also being used by healthcare organizations to generate revenue. By guiding pricing and product strategies, the technology can analyze information like the cause of cost, segmentation, and customer sentiment to help guide appealing service or product bundles. It’s also being deployed in the sales and marketing process to arm sales teams with influential selling tools and by offering proactive recommendations based on preferences while shortening sales cycles.

In the healthcare ecosystem, all of these components often intersect. You lower costs by having the most accurate information and by keeping people happy and healthy. The world today is proving that they are willing to use AI technology to improve their lives and make tasks easier. It’s only a hop, skip and jump away until they require that from healthcare organizations. Will you be ready?

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