How intelligent automation is changing healthcare

Advances in artificial intelligence have changed how many businesses operate, helping to streamline processes while freeing up employees from repetitive tasks. It's no surprise that these advances are helping to create a new generation of healthcare products that will improve the patient experience. 

In a recent webcast, consulting firm Accenture identified the top digital health trends that will have major impacts in 2016. One of these major trends is intelligent automation, or using machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve processes in patient care. The areas that these improvements focus on are often bottlenecks or areas of frustration in the the healthcare industry. 

Some examples of this automation include:

  • Digital avatars interacting with patients to streamline the intake process. 
  • Virtual clinicians answering patient questions based on symptoms. 
  • Embedded microchips analyzing a patient's biological data. 

As MobiHealthNews reported, intelligent automation solutions "eliminate some human effort from the healthcare system – without eliminating humans." As an example, a British company called SilverCloud Health understands that mental health patients usually prefer engaging with a person when discussing their symptoms. SilverCloud has developed a platform that, while using algorithms to recommend treatments for each patient, is also used by the therapist so the patient still gets that personal touch. The platform provides support to patients in between visits, optimizing the process so therapists are able to see more patients in a day. 

"Intelligent automation can be applied to help doctors identify trends and cut to the most relevant data."

'Combining people with technology to get a job done'
Thanks to the "Internet of Things," embedded chips, wearable devices and other new medical products are capturing an extensive amount of data on patients. This data can be used to develop more personalized, effective treatments for each patient.

The sheer amount of data can be overwhelming for a doctor. That's where intelligent automation comes in – it can be applied to help doctors identify trends and cut to the most relevant data, weeding out excessive information. The clinician is presented with the most relevant information so he or she can make a better educated decision for the patient. Senior Global Director of Accenture Health and author of the firm's report, Dr. Kaveh Safavi, referred to this as "combining technology with people to get a job done—either in a more effective way or a more productive way."

Clinical decision support
Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has stated that 80 percent of what doctors are currently doing will be replaced by intelligent automation in the near future. This includes monitoring symptoms, diagnosing ailments and prescribing treatments. While this may concern some, Khosla goes on to explain that human doctors will continue to have an integral role, but they'll be spending their time differently: "Eighty percent of what they currently do might be replaced so the roles doctors play will likely be different and focused on what they do well, like helping with empathy or ethical choices." 

"Treatments will be more personalized to each patient."

In this scenario, data-gathering will be less expensive, treatments will be more accurate and the overall healthcare workflow will be more streamlined. Treatments will be more personalized to each patient thanks to this data, and doctors will be more available to help patients make decisions based on this information. Intelligent automation means that "hundreds of thousands or even millions of data points may go into diagnosing a condition and monitoring the progress of a therapy or prescription, well beyond the capability of any human." In short, this intuitive healthcare technology will improve the overall treatment in a holistic, personalized manner. 

It won't happen overnight, but intelligent automation should take great strides over the next year, helping to make healthcare workflow more effective for everyone. 

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