There’s no longer any doubt that healthcare is benefiting from advancements in communications, big data, the Internet of things, and artificial intelligence (“AI”) learning algorithms. The moment of convergence is seemingly upon us. Healthcare organizations are now investing heavily in AI-driven telehealth technologies and their implementation because they now know, definitively, that their use can reduce healthcare costs dramatically and improve system efficiencies greatly. The end game, better patient outcomes, is no longer in doubt when it comes to telehealth.
To move things along, there is a new telehealth organization focused on artificial intelligence, robotics and automation in healthcare, “The Partnership for Artificial Intelligence and Automation in Healthcare (PATH)”. This new platform is meant to unite health systems, industry, payers and regulators to find out how technology can improve the delivery of medicine, reduce costs and expand access to healthcare services to millions of people across the globe. “AI and related innovations have already enabled industries such as banking, aviation, and entertainment to grow, provide higher- quality products, and allow consumers greater choice,” said Jonathan Linkous, a co-founder and CEO of the group. “With spiraling costs, increasing need, decreasing resources, and rapidly advancing technologies, healthcare desperately needs to catch up.” (See: https://www.healthcare-informatics.com/news-item/innovation/former-telemedicine-leader-launches-artificial-intelligence-group.)
According to the blog, Capterra, five trends will define the use of AI in telehealth: 1. Making better diagnoses; 2. Recommending treatments; 3. Solving logistical challenges; 4. Helping with eldercare; and, 5. Preventing practitioner burnout. And there is strong evidence of the growth of Telehealth and demand for it. In the U.S., more than 6,500 locales have too few medical professionals to meet patients’ needs. In Congress, senators and representatives have recently introduced four bipartisan bills aimed at expanding Medicare coverage of telehealth and remote monitoring services. Loosening the restrictions could save Medicare $1.8 billion on net over the next decade. In 2016, Teladoc in partnership with Becker’s Healthcare surveyed 179 U.S. hospital and health system executives and other key telehealth stakeholders on the current consumer telehealth landscape. They found that by December 2018, 76% of hospitals will have or will be implementing consumer telehealth. Of the organizations that already have consumer telehealth in place, 69% plan to expand their programs, and 83% of respondents who work at organizations that plan to implement consumer telehealth rate it as a high-priority initiative. Last year the National Business Group on Health surveyed 133 large companies employing 15 million Americans about their benefit practices. Respondents at 90% of companies said their employees will have access to at least some telemedicine services this year. Nearly all of them say they will by 2019. (https://blog.capterra.com/artificial-intelligence-is-impacting-telehealth/)
So who are some of the players in the telehealth software landscape? Of course IBM, Google, and GE are weighing in with huge head starts in AI learning algorithms and assistive devices that use voice recognition and learning algorithms. Some of the new companies on the scene are: Doxy.me, an easy-to-use telemedicine solution that is free for individual clinicians that provides video or text chat with patients; Zoom, another videoconferencing app that offers HIPAA compliance; Sherpaa, a platform employers and individuals contract with to provide telemedicine that has its own practitioners and doctors; American Well, that offers a SaaS which enables medical practices to provide telemedicine; and, WeCounsel, which is aimed at behavioral health providers and practice. (https://blog.capterra.com/telemedicine-software-compared/).
Welcome to the future of AI driven medicine. Whatever your viewpoint, there can be no doubt that telehealth has reached a point of rapid growth due to the impact of improvements in artificial intelligence. Now the Federal Government is embracing and approving its use. Federal regulators have just approved an app that uses artificial intelligence to analyze CT images for signs of a stroke, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an app that uses computer-aided triage software to search for large vessel occlusions in brain CTs. (https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/fda-oks-mhealth-app-that-uses-ai-to-spot-strokes-alert-specialists).