In the 70s and 80s, digital clocks were probably the most advanced-looking technology visible in doctor’s offices. But nowadays, when you look around in medical facilities and hospitals, digital clocks are now built into the anatomy of the many technical devices ticking and running rapid. In fact, you probably couldn’t look more than ten feet without seeing some sort of advanced technology. For the past several decades, technology has been advancing at exponential rates, which in effect is feeding and strengthening Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Artificial Intelligence is comprised of technologies such as deep/machine learning, heuristics, pattern matching, and natural language processing that train machines to solve problems that are typically performed by humans, and to solve problems too complex or difficult for humans. In the simplest terms, Artificial Intelligence is the ability of computer-based systems to think, learn, and behave like humans (Laudon & Laudon, 2018). Even though AI concepts and theories actually first emerged in the 1940s, during the last decade, a perfect storm of big data generation, cloud-based storage and processing, and refined algorithms and techniques have fused together to create an AI explosion. Artificial Intelligence is no longer a science-fiction notion. Its presence is now almost everywhere…even alongside (or in place of) your beloved doctor, nurse, and their supporting staff.
Even though Artificial Intelligence is still in its infancy in the medical field, it has already had great positive effects in this industry and is expected to explode profoundly over the foreseeable future. Robot-assisted surgeries and the IBM Watson system have been in existence and hugely successful for a while now, but new technologies such as virtual and digital assistants, chatbots, and wearable health trackers have surfaced only in recent years and have yielded positive results thus far. There are many new exciting, cutting-edge medical innovations in development that are expected to dramatically change people’s lives for the greater good such as the artificial pancreas for diabetics that will continuously monitor blood sugar; a brain implant to improve memory for those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy, and tooth sensors to monitor and track food intake…and those are only just a few.
These astonishing, rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence applications in healthcare are already yielding better patient outcomes, optimizing processes, increasing productivity, improving efficiency, empowering patients, improving the patient experience, saving time, and optimizing revenue. Savings currently realized from utilizing Artificial Intelligence in healthcare include reduced labor costs, less medical waste costs, increased output and efficiency due to AI’s continuous operations with higher capacities, and better effectiveness over time. According to a report from Frost & Sullivan, the use of Artificial Intelligence tools in the healthcare industry could potentially improve outcomes by 40%, while also cutting treatment costs by 50% (Duclos, n.d.).
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a theory about how the world economy has recently started the transformation from combining the physical, biological, and digital worlds because of explosive development and growth from disruptive technologies and trends such as robotics, virtual reality, automation, the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, machine learning, facial recognition, self-driving vehicles, and Artificial Intelligence (Schwab, n.d.). This new revolution is building from the digital technologies that resulted from the Third (Digital) Industrial Revolution of computers and information technology by developing new methods in which technology becomes rooted within societies and the human body (Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2018). This is the fourth major industrial period since the first one back in the 18th century, but this revolution significantly differs from the other three because of the unprecedented, accelerated rate and extent at which new technological breakthroughs are emerging, and because of all the radical changes expected.
The foundation of The Fourth Industrial Revolution is its advancement in communication and connectivity. The whole world is going digital, and Artificial Intelligence is powering it. Artificial Intelligence is embarking on all industries with its incorporation of robotics and virtual reality capabilities in place of human labor. Experts predict that Artificial Intelligence will have more of a positive effect by enhancing and improving people’s lives rather than causing chaos and destruction, and it will help organizations become more proficient.
Some organizations are more accepting and embracing of Artificial Intelligence than others, but this conversion is now becoming a necessity in order to stay afloat because of the digital world around us which is only to get more and more prevalent and necessary. Artificial Intelligence has embarked on the healthcare industry with mostly positive outcomes so far. It has helped streamline and improve operations in the healthcare value chain, i.e., patient admissions, diagnosis/treatment/care, and health monitoring/checkups (Value Chain Of Hospital, n.d.). The adoption of AI is predicted to vastly improve the patient experience, improve outcomes, and empower patients to take better control of their health. If AI innovation is not implemented, there will be a notable decrease in the quality of care being provided, mostly due to the vast number of patients that will need to be provided for over the next several decades.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are so advanced that they are being programmed to mimic and augment human actions. As a result, this will reshape the way people live, work, and interact with each other, and it will eventually impact all lines of work, economies and industries, which could create both opportunities and dangers. Some people even fear it will challenge what we think it means to be human (Marr, 2016). Economists are unsure of the outcome of Artificial Intelligence – it could be a double-edged sword. These technological developments are intended to improve people’s quality of life and to improve organizations’ efficiency levels; however, these technological disruptions also bring the fear that human jobs will be overtaken by these automation, and some extremists think machines will eventually become smart enough to outsmart and overtake humans, causing unconceivable mayhem. Therefore, the world could transform into either a nirvana or dystopian state, depending on the outcomes from this new revolution that will unfold over the 21st century. The future state depends heavily on how well world governments plan and manage its new capabilities to ensure security (Spacey, 2016).
The digital transformation in healthcare is already in full swing. According to a 2016 report from CB Insights, approximately 86% of healthcare provider organizations are already using AI in some form (The Impact of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, 2018). Physicians are starting to trust and rely on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to help make their job easier, less stressful, and decrease burnout. By using its deep analytic capabilities, AI can quickly search through massive amounts of patient data in their electronic medical records to help clinicians with diagnosing and choosing appropriate treatment plans. Artificial Intelligence is making great progress toward the capability of early disease detection and serious conditions through imaging diagnosis. Digital assistants and chatbots can assist patients with appointment scheduling, insurance verification, billing, and be programmed to answer patients’ basic inquiries.
The fusion of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning is creating the ability for non-humans to do human tasks. AI is causing a paradigm shift in healthcare by its increasing availability of data and its rapid progression of analytic methods. Today AI in healthcare takes this capability even further with the incredible ability to read medical images and to diagnose health problems (e.g., IBM’s Watson system). Of course, these advancements in technology are incredible and amazing, but they are not totally foolproof yet, especially to entrust to something as important as someone’s health, or even their life. Even though patients are increasing their comfort levels and trust with AI technology, that does not decrease the value they put on a face-to-face encounter with an attentive, caring human physician. Robots do not have moral values and they are not capable of emotion or empathy when talking to patients or their families about conditions or treatment options, so they cannot offer support or comfort if the patient’s condition is serious.
Artificial Intelligence such as digital assistants and chatbots, help with tedious clerical functions such as scheduling and confirming appointments, verifying insurance, and billing. On a nursing level, virtual nursing assistants can perform basic tasks such as assessing a patient remotely (a.k.a., telehealth) by posing simple questions to determine whether their symptoms are severe enough that they need to come in to see a provider. Artificial Intelligence supports clinicians by performing their routine, mundane tasks such as EMR documentation, administrative reporting, and triaging CT scans (Arguing the Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, 2018) so they can devote more time to doing the clinical tasks they enjoy and were specifically trained for, and most importantly, so they can spend more valuable one-on-one face time with their patients. Robots assist surgeons with certain types of surgical cases. On a management level, AI’s ability to filter through massive amounts of data can assist hospital administrators to optimize performance, drive productivity, and maximize the use of existing resources, which generates savings for cost and time.
We are only beginning to see a glimpse of the potential of Artificial Intelligence. It is definitely here to stay. It is expected to continue to develop at extraordinary levels, so its future appears to be bright and full of endless opportunities, only bound by human imagination. The Artificial Intelligence healthcare market growth is anticipated to grow to $6.6 billion by 2021, which is a 40% compounded annual growth rate; and in the next five years, it is expected grow more than ten times (Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, 2017). There are innumerable astonishing technological innovations in the works that are expected to surface which are projected to deliver healthcare in even faster, better, and less expensive processes, and will enrich and empower patients. Artificial Intelligence has tremendous potential to allow people better access to quality healthcare by freeing up clinicians’ attention so they can focus on higher valued problem-solving responsibilities while still ensuring a consistently high quality of performance. Even though there is the possibility for AI technologies to be abused and to transform into menacing machines, the greater likelihood is that they will instead help children with learning, make driving safer, and extend and enhance people’s lives.
As Artificial Intelligence continues to mature and it gains more experience, its capabilities will continually lead to more improvements in efficiency, precision, and outcomes, which will positively impact the bottom line for organizations (Healthcare AI poised for explosive growth, big cost savings, 2017). According to a study from Accenture, by the year 2026, the United States healthcare economy can potentially generate $150 billion in annual savings from using Artificial Intelligence (Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, 2017). It is predicted that Artificial Intelligence will vastly improve the healthcare industry from its assistance with informed decision-making, detection and diagnosis; cost-saving; and automation of processes and repetitive tasks. Expected results include: reduced emergency room wait times and fewer trips to the clinic because of telehealth, fewer cases of misdiagnosis, fewer accidental deaths which will decrease lawsuits, patients will be healthier and more motivated, decreased human errors, decreased amounts of medical waste costs, and increased quality, productivity, and profitability to a broader range of people. Organizations that embrace, understand and utilize Artificial Intelligence will be the winners. Those who reject it will be the losers.
To prepare for the invasion of Artificial Intelligence in organizations, their leadership should review and revamp their processes to include procedures on how to work with Artificial Intelligence and to foster an AI-educated workforce and culture prepared to embrace and adopt AI to enhance quality, productivity and profitability. As Artificial Intelligence technologies are improved and perfected, they should actually make people’s jobs easier and more productive. Many people worry that automation will overtake everyone’s jobs, creating massive unemployment. However, experts believe that Artificial Intelligence will instead positively influence the future of the workforce by AI working in tandem with people and their jobs, a redesign of current jobs, and even the creation of new jobs. It is more likely that a friendly R2D2-type will be working harmoniously alongside humans rather than a menacing Schwarzenegger-looking Terminator cyborg.
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