From diagnostics to care delivery, artificial intelligence (AI) would appear to be tailor-made for healthcare.
And in fact, it’s already had a substantial impact on the industry — just not the one we’d imagine, or hope for.
“AI has been revolutionizing medicine over the last few decades. The problem is that it hasn’t been doing it in the ways that we care about,” Adrian Aoun, CEO at Forward, tells PYMNTS for the new series “The AI Effect.”
That’s because past applications of the technology often focused on the insurance aspects around care delivery, rather than the core of healthcare itself.
“Every insurance company has 9 million algorithms … but at some point you realize, maybe we shouldn’t be innovating on that. Maybe we should be innovating on the care parts of healthcare,” Aoun said.
With the advent of sensors and modern computing, combined with a significant shift in the capabilities of generative AI when it comes to processing vast amounts of medical research and delivering understandable insights to consumers, the time has never been better for care-focused types of innovation.
“It creates a world where healthcare can be at our fingertips, the same you can now book plane tickets in five minutes online rather than having to call up a travel agent,” Aoun said.
While acknowledging that AI won’t replace doctors, Aoun suggests that for a majority of cases, modern technology can effectively address healthcare needs, particularly when it comes to playing a role in providing relevant personal health information or preventive care.
“I wonder if healthcare might get to a place where you might not need a $250,000 a year and up professional, except when you’re going through tough moments — except for those scenarios when having a highly educated and competent professional is important,” Aoun said.
“Technology can be scary in the abstract, but what if I told you a robot is going to start commanding you around all day — that’s Google Maps — or the robot will tell you where to eat — that’s OpenTable — and the robot will even tell you who to mate and date — that’s Tinder,” he said. “When the robots do come about, they are in service of you. AI isn’t in service of its own mission, it is in service of your mission.”
Aoun breaks down the traditional role of physicians into three components: the heart, the hands, and the brain.
He said AI can significantly contribute to the cognitive aspect by processing complex medical data and providing insights. Additionally, advancements in technology are allowing consumers to take control of certain aspects of healthcare traditionally reserved for medical professionals.
From medical imaging to telemedicine, Aoun envisions a future where technology augments and streamlines physician workflows.
“One of the reasons AI hasn’t gotten into the business of care is that everything goes through the doctor. There’s not an operating system for everything to plug into. So, you realize things need to be built for a world of AI in order for that AI to work and scale,” Aoun said.
One of the challenges of AI-powered care delivery is the behavioral reluctance of some individuals to trust AI in healthcare. Aoun attributes this hesitancy to the fear of the unknown and emphasizes the need for education, underscoring that the lack of a standardized platform for various stakeholders is the biggest problem hindering the seamless integration of AI into healthcare and care delivery.
“Think about why the mobile computing revolution took off — it was all because within the iPhone Apple brought together a Broadcom chip, AT&T cell towers, Corning Glass, an LG screen, with a powerful operating system in the middle so that developers from around the world don’t need to think about hard drives. They don’t need to think about connectivity, they don’t need to think about cameras. They can just have an idea and ship it out to billions of people,” Aoun said. “And you start to wonder, what does the iPhone for healthcare look like?”
Another obstacle hindering rapid innovation and improving the rate of technology adoption within healthcare is a longstanding one: the sector’s ongoing fragmentation, data silos and general lack of usable interoperability.
And add to that a general lack of benchmarking.
Aoun also challenges the existing healthcare payment model, suggesting that the current focus on keeping employees at work rather than keeping them alive is flawed and envisioning a shift toward prioritizing healthcare payments based on long-term outcomes, rather than short-term workforce productivity.
Looking ahead, Aoun envisions essential innovations that can streamline the fragmented healthcare system and make care delivery and preventative measures more accessible and personalized, as AI reshapes the patient experience.