The HIMSS North Carolina 2023 conference was packed with innovative ideas and groundbreaking insights into the future of healthcare powered by AI. While it is difficult to boil down the valuable information shared at the event into just three key takeaways, there were themes that stood out prominently. Throughout the event, it became abundantly clear that no matter the topic, Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be the driving force to solve many of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry today.
Preventative Medicine: Harnessing the Power of AI for Preventative Care
One of the most exciting themes at HIMSS NC was the concept of preventive medicine, also referred to as lifestyle medicine, a medical approach that uses evidence-based behavioral interventions to prevent, treat, and manage chronic disease. While this is not a novel concept, it is one that has struggled to make significant strides throughout the care continuum; however, with the integration of AI, the idea is now more tangible than ever before. In fact, this specific topic is one that Antenna Group championed in a recent e-book in its Age of Adoption series, titled AI Paves the Way for Preventative Healthcare.
The keynote address kicked off the topic and focused on factors like nutrition, exercise, and mental health to prevent diseases. This was also a shared vision discussed during the NC Chamber event in September, as shared in a previous blog post, showing the concept is truly making rounds among healthcare leaders today.
Throughout the two-day conference, many touched on the role that AI plays in this paradigm shift, enabling individuals to access their own health data and make informed decisions about their lifestyles. Some specific examples included wearable devices at the forefront of the movement, providing real-time insights into bodily performance. Other companies showcased wellness machines that use movements and individual baselines to “coach” individuals to minimize the potential for injury when exercising. The data collected by tools like these can also be used for a two-way conversation with providers.
Personalized Healthcare: Tailoring Treatment to the Individual
Personalized healthcare is another exciting development facilitated by AI. In the past, medical guidelines were often generalized, but AI is changing this by allowing for a more nuanced understanding of patients. AI-driven tools can quickly analyze vast amounts of data, enabling doctors to tailor treatments to individual needs. At the conference, a notable slide featured a quote from Sir William Osler, stating: “It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease the patient has.”
AI enables doctors to obtain a comprehensive view of a patient, combining wearable data with clinical and societal background, and more. What’s more, is that while it may seem counterintuitive to suggest sharing more data with an already overloaded provider, introducing this data can actually help reduce physician burnout in a number of ways, including:
- Personalized treatment plans that help the patient take a proactive approach to their health, therefore reducing the patient load.
- AI’s ability to handle some administrative work, saving providers time during which they can further interact with patients. Additionally, more 1:1 interaction can lead to more shared-decision making and increase patient adherence to treatment.
- Integrating AI into workflows with repetitive tasks can alleviate time spent on paperwork, during which providers can see more patients, and reduce the cognitive burden
Health Equity: AI Can Be an Equalizer
While AI brings remarkable advancements to healthcare, it’s crucial to ensure that these benefits are accessible to all and that the industry’s current challenges around health inequity are not exacerbated by the addition of this new technology. Fortunately, the industry is already finding ways AI can play a pivotal role in addressing these disparities.
One example at the conference was an AI technology that assesses data from patient records to identify at-risk patients, whether it be for comorbid diseases or hospital readmissions. The tech can then reach out to them via their preferred communication channels to set up appointments for screenings and/or deploy education materials. The efficiency of AI in this regard allows for broader coverage than what a typical human workforce can achieve – especially considering the recent staffing shortages across the industry.
Most know the famous saying by Winston Churchill, “Where there is great power, there is a great responsibility.” This statement should remain top of the minds of all leaders working with AI, and why the “human in the loop” concept is crucial, especially in healthcare. This human oversight is the cornerstone to ensure the AI is built on the right data, preventing biases, ensuring ethical decisions, and maintaining the quality of care. AI technology is only as good as the data you feed it, therefore it must be trained on diverse data sets to support diverse patient populations. Only then, can the time saved through AI-enhanced workflows be reinvested in building meaningful relationships with patients, fostering trust, and ultimately improving the overall quality of healthcare.
HIMSS NC 2023 showcased the immense potential of AI in transforming healthcare, from supporting preventative medicine to personalized care and addressing health equity. By striking the right balance between AI and human involvement, we can leverage technology to enhance health outcomes, while preserving the essence of human connection and compassion in medicine.
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