How the intelligence-based health system will become critical to meet patient needs today and post-Covid-19

AI, machine learning

As we continue to navigate and learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, we can reflect on the past few months and how the healthcare landscape has evolved. Across the industry, we are seeing significant shifts for health systems globally. Furthermore, the pandemic has accelerated industry-wide trends with implications for the future of care delivery. It’s now time to apply these trends to our work and prepare for the new world ahead. In the near term, the industry will gravitate toward intelligence-based health systems given Covid-19 surges require hospitals to rely on modern technologies and efficient transfers of data to manage operations and the challenges that we now face.
Rapid Deployment and ImplementationOver the past few months, we’ve experienced a heightened sense of urgency to rapidly deploy artificial intelligence (AI), resource management and prediction technologies. To maximize care for patients with Covid-19, clearing hospital space, quickly identifying available equipment and remotely managing equipment and patients became paramount for health systems. While this has been a challenge, we can rise to the occasion and minimize strain on healthcare providers.
Virtual consultations also quickly emerged as an efficient solution when health systems were forced to postpone procedures that were not deemed critical. Researchers estimate more than 20 percent of all medical visits will be conducted via telemedicine in 2020, and up to 72 percent could be virtualized by 2023.
These are only a couple of innovative solutions being used to maintain and expand access to care. The need to maintain quality of care for patients should not falter due to the rise of Covid-19, and it is our responsibility to continue this work with the knowledge that virtual care options are here to stay.
Identifying VulnerabilitiesThe pandemic has highlighted areas within our existing infrastructure that would benefit greatly from intelligence-based health systems. For example, once siloed lung scan data from different modalities, such as X-ray and CT, can now be aggregated by AI algorithms to create quicker detection of the virus in patients. Additionally, hospital systems struggling with resource management can now be organized using technologies that seek out inefficiencies, identify available space and track down equipment for critical patient care.
This technology can also help connect and manage equipment and patients virtually and remotely, including remote operations. We can track critical patients in ICUs and monitor patients remotely from their homes to complete the care continuum while allowing clinicians to operate remotely. We can also enable clinicians to collaborate inside and outside their institutions more efficiently. The data that we can collect and harness will help us continue to move forward in a more effective manner.
Data, Data, DataExpanded data access requires a modernization of the current health system infrastructure. With the new connected enterprise, operations within a health system – whether processing imaging results or managing lab tests – can be collocated with population cohorts. This requires increased support from innovative technological solutions. AI, analytics, cloud and connectivity are becoming more central than ever to capturing, storing and analyzing the vast amounts of data to deliver better patient care.
Health data is forecasted to grow exponentially in a post-Covid-19 world. To meet this growth and ensure that providers and patients can receive the most value from data, data repositories will need to move out of the provider boundaries and into the “public domain.” The public domain can be thought of as secure and compliant data vaults – where health systems, imaging centers and outpatient clinics would be able to escrow patient data. Patients would hold the key or access token to their individual data, giving them greater control and flexibility to move between providers of their choice.
Technology will also need to enable more efficient and collaborative interactions between clinicians, machines, machines and patients, and machines and technicians. In a scan performed today, the interaction is between the device and the technician. In the future, the tech, radiologist and clinician might all be remote. With AI running at or near the device, the scanner itself may be able to interact directly with the clinician through one set of AI models, while interacting with the technician through another. 
Taking ActionAs these technologies take hold, there needs to be a deliberate effort to continue making the virtual hospital experience better for patients and clinicians alike. Providers must partner with academics, regulatory bodies and governments to continuously evaluate, improve and share best practices.
To reap the biggest benefits from data, it needs to be processed at a large scale and in real time, requiring sophisticated data analytics and AI capabilities. Natural language processing, text to voice, multichannel communication and technologies like 5G will help drive this end-to-end play. As scan volumes come close to 90 percent of what they were pre-pandemic and many procedures continuing online, the ability to deploy AI will have an immediate and significant impact on patient triage and population health, helping providers prioritize and provide the appropriate care remotely.
Modernizing HealthcareThe Covid-19 pandemic demanded a sudden and dramatic change in healthcare operations. It’s important to understand that while our communities will eventually rebound and recover, our society will look different than it did before early 2020.
This presents us with a unique opportunity to chart the path forward. In the case of healthcare, data, connectivity and the ways in which we process data can enable greater health access across the social spectrum. To enable greater health access, the healthcare industry must modernize. We cannot go back, as we have present and future patients who will demand new standard of care. We need systems rooted in intelligence for a healthier tomorrow.
Photo: Andrez Wokkicki, Getty Images

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