Digital Health Lead, ABHI (Association of British HealthTech Industries)
Healthcare was once considered a slow adopter of digital technologies, but a new wave of investment and advances in AI is set to change that perception.
AI is assuming a more central role in countless aspects of business and society, but healthcare is an area of contradictions when it comes to AI implementation. While other sectors embraced digitisation and AI, healthcare was considered something of a laggard.
However, that is now changing rapidly with significant investment being attracted into the sector. Healthcare AI “deals and dollars” saw an increase in the third quarter of 2020, with companies raising $2.1bn in equity funding across 121 deals — a quarterly growth of 37% and 38%, respectively with funding reaching a record high.
Benefits to patients and health systems
Driving this growth are advances in AI that have the potential to impact on the significant challenges facing major health systems: earlier disease detection, demand management and efficient delivery of services. The capabilities of AI could transform patient experience, patient outcomes and system efficiency.
A recent report2 from Deloitte highlighted that annually, 380,000 to 403,000 lives can potentially be saved, and 1.8 billion hours freed up every year, the equivalent of having 500,000 additional full-time healthcare professionals.
Driving this growth are advances in AI that have the potential to impact on the significant challenges facing major health systems: earlier disease detection, demand management and efficient delivery of services.
Wide range of uses for AI
The breadth of possible applications, from patient wearables and apps, image recognition for cancer diagnosis, through to population management and disease prediction, will mean that AI will impact on multiple touch points along a care pathway.
Today, AI is primarily used to supplement the health workforce by automating repetitive, low skilled tasks, enabling the increasingly scarce, and highly trained, professionals to concentrate on the higher value tasks.
However, that is likely to change in the future, with the AI becoming more autonomous in its application and having wider scope of the patient journey. This should bring significant benefits in patient access, experience and outcomes, it will also bring further challenges on the use, sharing and regulation of data and the AI enabled service.
Alongside developing the technology, we also need to develop the services and governance to ensure that digital exclusion is minimised and that algorithms are free from bias.