The healthcare industry is known for holding on to data – and for good reason. With valuable insights and patterns to be derived from patient information, more is more. Where healthcare IT departments run into issues is when this data becomes unmanageable: disorganized and siloed and partially stored in dusty offices with the rest sitting exposed on outdated legacy systems. My point? With more than 30 percent of the world’s data generated by healthcare systems, it’s growing impossible for overburdened IT teams to keep up using traditional manual data management processes alone.
To combat the unique set of challenges faced by healthcare organizations, IT leadership must look to emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline data management, which can effectively reduce pressure on IT teams and benefit the entire organization. Below are three practical applications for AI in healthcare settings and their benefits to IT teams, healthcare workers and patients alike.
AI creates operational efficiencies, minimizes human error and better defends data against threats
In healthcare, time is essential to patient outcomes and well-being. When staff are tied up with digging through old patient files or requesting data from other departments, everyone suffers. Valuable patient data can also be held in old records that are improperly categorized or buried in the cloud, inaccessible to frontline workers. To address this, AI can speed up and streamline the process of analyzing, sorting and categorizing data so information can be appropriately stored for easy access, archived for occasional use, or deleted if it’s no longer needed. AI makes data management less daunting and time-consuming than traditional data management. It also makes data more easily accessible for practitioners and hospital administration staff.
In addition to creating operational efficiencies, AI can help eliminate human error in managing data and improve data compliance and governance. Healthcare is a highly regulated industry and patient data comes with special protections and compliance rules. A simple error in storing patient data on the wrong server can open a hospital up to fines or other repercussions. By combining the data expertise of IT staff and AI-powered data management tools, hospitals and other healthcare organizations can meet be more confident that they are meeting regulatory requirements.
Ransomware continues to be a scourge on the healthcare industry. Unlike most other sectors, when attackers target healthcare organizations they are literally putting lives at risk. Key to defending against ransomware is anomaly detection, the ability to identify unexpected events that occur outside the norm. Detecting and understanding these changes to the environment provides an early warning system. With the rapidly evolving threat landscape, AI can play a key role in anomaly detection and response, autonomously adapting to new threat vectors and taking action to detect and stop an attack even without human involvement.
AI can reduce physician burnout
Healthcare workers spend a lot of time on administrative tasks like note-taking, reporting and reviewing past patient records to inform diagnoses. That’s time that could be spent on hands-on patient care. AI tools can quickly synthesize patient records to provide the most relevant information to nurses and physicians when they need it. By reducing administrative tasks and the stress associated with them, AI can contribute to reducing healthcare provider burnout and ensure clinicians have the information they need to treat patients and make care decisions.
In addition to spending more time with patients, spending less time on administrative work with the help of AI means physicians can also research topics they are passionate about and rest so they are recharged to meet with the next patient. With nearly two-thirds of U.S.-based doctors reporting signs of burnout, changes must be made to healthcare systems to address this epidemic in order to protect their staff. AI can help.
AI can increase positive patient experiences
When frontline hospital staff can spend less time on administrative work, everyone benefits. Research consistently reinforces that positive patient experiences correlate to positive outcomes. When nurses and physicians can dedicate more time to patient care, taking the time to educate the patient and interact with their family members, patients feel the difference. As highlighted above, this extra time can be increased by the efficiencies that AI brings to the healthcare industry.
Time is a valuable resource to frontline healthcare staff, and more time translates to more energy spent on clinical trials and research. AI can efficiently organize data across today’s increasingly complex multi-cloud infrastructure and the information can be used to identify patterns that can lead to future discoveries and improvements in patient treatment. For example, AI can analyze patient data to identify similarities in cases and treatment plans. These insights bring a data-backed perspective directly to frontline staff working on difficult diagnoses, resulting in a direct impact on patient care.
Responsible AI use is the future of healthcare
While many healthcare administrators may be hesitant to take the leap and adopt AI for practical applications in hospitals and healthcare systems, the benefits of AI benefits are undeniable. With effective development and enforcement of AI security and ethics policies, including responsible use guidelines, it is possible to take advantage of those benefits without taking on excessive risk. Therefore, as senior healthcare administrators consider IT budgets for next year and the years to come, investing in secure and responsible AI should be a priority.
About Rick Bryant
Rick Bryant currently serves as the healthcare chief technology officer at Veritas Technologies where he focuses on helping healthcare organizations improve their data management and protection. His 20 years of technical executive leadership includes previously serving as chief information officer at the Texas Children’s Hospital.