It’s all fun and games until you give a robot a stethoscope. All joking aside, there has been a lot of chatter about how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the healthcare field. Will we soon be visiting robots instead of doctors for routine health checks and preventative care? Probably not. However, that doesn’t mean that some cool advancements aren’t being made in technology that can be applied to the medical field. More likely than not, doctors will collaborate with AI tools to provide better care at a lower cost. With an average annual health care cost of $10,739 per person, that’s good news for the U.S.
Short of what we see in sci-fi movies or hear on Vice news, many aren’t sure exactly what AI is or does. There are a few different types of AI techniques, the most prominent being machine learning and deep learning. What these two can do is use algorithms to look at datasets, learn from those data sets, and then make brand new predictions from those data sets. Deep learning is especially adept at making predictions based on data patterns that the human eye would normally overlook.
Cool, right? But what does it mean for healthcare?
When applied to medical scenarios, these predictions can streamline care. For example, scientists have already tried using machine learning to predict whether certain cases would fall under a low-risk category or a high-risk category. While machine learning gets it right frequently, ti does have its shortfalls. That’s why it’s important that AI work in tandem with humans, who have the ability to make game-time decisions based on intelligence and experience.
While the power of AI in health care is very promising, there are several issues up for discussion in both medical and technology circles. Protecting patient privacy is a major hot-button issue that can arise when talking about data collection. It will be critical for researchers and medical professionals to look at how consent applies, especially in cases where patient data is used to train AI.
Since AI algorithms are not perfect, they will need to be audited to ensure accuracy and fairness. Since these algorithms could be applied across several groups of people, it will be important to ensure that biases are removed and fairness is applied across gender, ethnicity, age, and other factors.
Legal liability will also need to be explored as mistakes can happen. Applications will also need to be evaluated by perhaps more than one regulating body, depending on how and in what setting the technology is used.
Despite all the kinks to be ironed out, AI is promising to transform the healthcare industry in some pretty cool ways. Currently, developers are focusing on specific diagnostic applications. For example, AI algorithms can be used to sort through images to identify clues pointing towards skin cancer. Another potential application is the ability to diagnose more than one health condition at the same time. Already, tests have been performed that have verified that AI can sometimes diagnose diseases and ailments as well as or better than leading experts/physicians in some cases.
It may also disrupt the fee-for-service business model that has dominated care in the U.S. for so long. The question of “how, exactly” still remains to be seen, though. Consulting firm Accenture posits that AI could save $150 billion in the U.S. within the next seven years. The questions around how this may pan out depend on who will be driving the AI push in health care and how healthcare organizations will participate. For example, if AI promises to be more efficient at diagnosing patients but also brings in less money for doctors and healthcare organizations, how will that play out? Because the US health insurance industry is very focused on the fee-for-service model that seems to reward providers for tacking on tests, and screens, and procedures rather than treating the person, AI may face some stumbling blocks.
We’re all for anything that will streamline health care, improve outcomes, and lower costs. While it may still be too early to tell how AI will impact the industry, we’re excited to see if it can even begin to achieve those things. We also think that any step in the direction away from a fee-for-service model is a step in the right direction.
It’s a step we’ve taken ourselves by offering free direct primary care as part of all our health plans. That means that when you sign up for Decent’s Pathfinder plan or our Trailblazer plan, you get to see your primary care doctor as often as you’d like. For free. We believe in the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. We also believe that doctors should be incentivized to see you less (aka keep you very healthy). Rather than making you pay copays or out-of-pocket costs associated with seeing your doctor or getting preventative care, we offer it at no cost. We do this by wrapping a monthly flat fee into your premium. That flat fee goes to your doctor each month, making it ideal for them to keep you as healthy as possible. Less tests and treatment means the more of that flat fee they get to keep. See how that works?
We’re really excited about the future of healthcare and our role in it. If you’d like to join our family and see how our plans can benefit you, get a free quote today.