If 2020 was the year that health systems embraced telehealth out of necessity and then discovered its many benefits, what might 2021 and beyond hold?
For health systems looking to further improve the cost savings and other advantages of telehealth, the new horizon is augmented intelligence: or, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as machine learning, to assist and augment the capabilities of medical teams.
These tools can help with both routine administrative tasks and higher-level work, such as diagnosis, treatment, and patient monitoring.
Below we look at just a few of the helpful augmented intelligence tools that already exist in telehealth, preview potential future applications of augmented intelligence, and advise health systems on how best to take advantage of this new era in medical innovation.
Examples of augmented intelligence tools in telehealth and remote patient monitoring devices
The last few years have brought to market many remote patient monitoring devices that utilize augmented intelligence, enabling both hospital care staff and physicians to focus on other tasks while knowing that their patients are being continuously evaluated.
For example, EarlySense offers a sensor that is placed under a patient’s mattress and tracks multiple data points, including heart and respiratory rates. The sensor uses AI to analyze this continuous data stream and to detect early signs of deterioration, which the care team can then correct.
Similarly, Myia collects data from at-home patients with chronic conditions and uses machine learning to surface patients needing a clinical intervention.
Somatix offers the SafeBeing system, which is a remote patient monitoring device that relies on a wearable that uses AI to monitor gestures and passively collect biofeedback data. Somatix’s cloud-based system analyzes this data in real time to provide insights and alerts, such as an increased fall risk, for the care team. Somatix’s system works well for nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Other companies are using AI to develop a more holistic portrait of patients’ health. Recognizing that clinical care accounts for only a small percentage of a patient’s health, with social determinants of health and behavior being major factors contributing to wellness, Innovaccer developed an AI-driven social vulnerability index that helps health systems see a fuller picture of both individual and population health.
We have also seen this type of technology being used to help with administrative tasks throughout various AI healthcare workflows.
For example, natural language processing, augmented by AI, can be used not only to transcribe patient-provider conversations during phone or video visits, but to assess which were the most salient points of the interaction and worthy of further attention. The resulting notes inform the provider’s care plan and also remind the patient of what was discussed.
In addition, as the Advisory Board wrote last year, at Providence St. Joseph Health in Washington and other health systems, system administrators have deployed chatbots to screen patients and direct them to the right resources, thereby discouraging the so-called worried well from unnecessarily coming into hospitals.
Future possibilities for augmented intelligence in healthcare
The possible future applications of augmented intelligence or AI in healthcare workflows are limited only by our collective imagination.
A Government Accountability Office Report envisioned that dermatology video visits may one day involve augmented intelligent patient care that assesses the patient’s skin for lesions and assists dermatologists in detecting precancerous and cancerous growths.
In this Becker’s Health IT article, a technology and data specialist with the University of California, Irvine, predicts that in the future individuals will have a digital health “twin” made up of all the data about an individual’s health. This twin’s data will continually be updated, and augmented intelligence tools will reveal health trends and trajectories for the individual as well as suggest personalized steps to better health.
Here, at Caregility, we predict that combining augmented intelligence with wearables and two-way video will be a game changer for virtual care, specifically when it comes to remote patient monitoring. Each of these components has had varied success to date in individual use cases, but when they are combined into a comprehensive virtual platform, providers will see the greatest benefit in improving care and reducing costs.
Taking advantage of the augmented intelligence revolution in telehealth systems
So, how can your health system benefit from all the latest applications in augmented intelligence in telehealth and be ready when new innovations reach the market?
To build a foundation for telehealth-enabled augmented intelligence technologies, the most critical step is adopting a flexible telehealth platform, capable of integrating with third-party apps and systems. Those who don’t start planning for the coming augmented intelligence healthcare transformation now may find themselves suddenly out-smarted and out-maneuvered: not by a human competitor, but by a learning machine.
For more on trends coming in the new year and beyond, check out our latest telehealth news roundup.