Artificial Intelligence, Health Tech

Healthcare execs going all-in on AI, survey shows

The survey, conducted by Optum, shows that healthcare executives’ confidence in AI is high, and most expect to soon see cost savings from implementing the technology. Further, a majority are looking to hire talent with experience developing AI.

Not only do a majority of healthcare organizations currently have an artificial intelligence strategy in place, more than half (59%) believe AI will deliver tangible cost savings within three years, according to a new survey from healthcare services group Optum.

Confidence in AI and its potential to improve healthcare operations and services is surging, as hospitals increasingly invest in these technologies and see returns. About 83% of the executives surveyed said their organization has an AI strategy in place, and another 15% are planning on creating one. The third annual survey polled 500 senior healthcare executives from hospitals, health plans, life sciences organizations and employers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further spurred investment in AI, with 56% of executive saying they accelerated or expanded their AI deployment timelines in response to the public health crisis. Of those who reported being in the late stages of AI deployment, 51% believe they’ll see a return on their investments faster due to their pandemic response. But 68% of respondents in both the early and middle stages of deployment said that it’ll take them longer to see a return on their AI investments amid the Covid-19 crisis or that the pandemic had no impact on their timeline.

Healthcare executives said that the greatest positive impact of their investment in AI will be improving health outcomes and the patient experience. The top three applications executives plan to tap AI for are monitoring data from Internet of Things devices, such as wearable technology (40%); assigning codes for accurate diagnosis and reimbursement (37%); and accelerating research for new therapeutic or clinical discoveries (37%).

As evidence grows that an individual’s health is impacted by a wide array of social factors, such as homelessness and food insecurity, healthcare organizations are working to combine that data with EHR and claims data to deepen their understanding of the populations they serve. Executives are seeing the value of using AI to interpret the large volume of information, and 59% of survey respondents said they have incorporated social determinants of health data into their AI plans to improve predictions about future health needs of their patient populations.

But healthcare executives have also expressed some doubts about AI, with 73% citing a lack of transparency in how the data is used or how the technology makes decisions. Another 69% said that the role of humans in the decision-making process is unclear, which is a cause for concern.

sponsored content

A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Looking ahead, 95% of healthcare executives said hiring talent with AI experience is a priority. While 51% are interested in hiring employees who can develop AI, 49% want employees who can apply the results.

“The need for skilled analytic talent in healthcare has never been greater,” said Steve Griffiths, COO of Optum Enterprise Analytics in a press release. “The growing strategic importance of AI means that organizations need to ensure access to this skillset, either by growing their own analytic teams or seeking out experienced partners.”

Photo: mrspopman, Getty Images