Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in telehealth can be a win-win for both patients and providers, streamlining and accelerating the healthcare journey while improving patient outcomes through data-informed decision-making.
Not only this, but Fierce Healthcare research shows global investments in AI healthcare increased more than 140% from 2020 to 2021 — and over 80% of all healthcare executives have future AI plans in place. Although many of these technologies are still in their developmental stages, it’s clear that AI’s capabilities will grow quickly in the coming years.
How Can AI Be Applied in Telehealth?
AI helps improve patient care, access and outcomes through data analysis and collaboration, intelligent diagnoses, remote symptom monitoring and more. Among the most promising aspects of AI is that it aids medical providers with decision-making at the point of care. Machine-learning capabilities and advanced algorithms use existing patient data to narrow down and personalize findings from broad, traditional scientific research. In this scenario, data is usually housed in cloud-based software with two interfaces: one for providers, and one for patients. Here are some advantages for both parties, as well as the benefits to businesses.
Improved Health Outcomes
AI puts a surplus of information and resources at medical providers’ fingertips, allowing them to reach conclusions they may not have found on their own. Patients can also avoid misdiagnoses, as AI reminds providers to check for a full scope of symptoms that frequently go unnoticed. This minimizes trial and error and re-testing. For example, BMC Medical Informatics reported AI has already helped radiologists nationwide reduce diagnostic errors by up to 19%, saving both healthcare facilities and patients time and money.
Especially useful in identifying new practices in therapies and procedures that align with the patient medical history, AI can be integral to clinical processes, as well. It also makes chronic care management more sustainable, as many chronic patients require a multi-disciplinary approach to continued care. Rather than having an entire care team conduct frequent, in-person visits, one provider can now remotely access the diverse knowledge of many specialists at once.
Improved diagnoses and time savings are just the beginning of AI’s benefits for patients. Secure, AI-based portals empower patients to take charge of their healthcare journey through a single, convenient entry point. They can interact on their terms while being guided to the right care at the right time. Telehealth already has a 93% satisfaction rate, and this number is expected to grow as AI further simplifies the care process.
Additionally, AI can lead patients to the best prescription prices. One Consumer Reports survey found that prescription costs could vary by as much as 10 times among pharmacies, even in the same city. New AI technologies can now eliminate guesswork by comparing prescription costs of all pharmacies in a specific area.
Streamlined Communication & Intake
Collecting and storing medical information with AI beforehand accelerates the intake process, so patients can immediately dive into important health issues without answering repetitive questions. In fact, Orlando Internal Medicine found AI-based intake saves doctors an average of up to 15 hours per week that would otherwise be spent taking notes. With AI, patients can be seen faster, receive more specialized care and focus their attention on what matters most.
Not only does AI gather data regarding the patient’s symptoms and medical history, but it also funnels this information into subgroups that help providers pinpoint the root of the problem faster. The result? Appointments centered around quality care — not a repetitive questionnaire.
The pandemic has led to burnout among many medical providers, which can result in haphazard patient care. Helping them bypass some of the day-to-day intake so they spend less time staring at a screen eases anxiety and can shorten notoriously lengthy workdays. For example, manually creating a schedule can take upward of 75 hours per month; AI-based scheduling tools reduce this time to just 14 hours, according to new data from American Society of Anesthesiologists. Some up-and-coming AI programs can also detect signs of burnout among medical providers and predict how many patients they can visit before becoming exhausted. Well-rested, focused providers are essential for accurate patient diagnoses and positive health outcomes.
Higher ROI for Businesses
In an age of ever-skyrocketing healthcare costs, telehealth programs help businesses save money and take better care of their employees. AI bolsters these benefits. Improved patient experiences, less time away from work and a reduced need for repeat appointments give companies new opportunities to save money and improve their bottom lines. Telehealth is already less expensive than traditional care, but AI will continue reducing costs by allowing providers to treat more patients in less time.
Upcoming Trends in Telehealth AI
AI is constantly evolving for the better, with new opportunities arising each day. Soon, we expect to see the following AI capabilities come to fruition on a wider scale.
- Capacity Management: Some up-and-coming AI programs inform healthcare workers of patient inflow, the need for extra beds, high-priority cases and other crucial capacity insights.
- Drug Recovery: Those recovering from addiction can benefit more from group therapy, as AI matches patients based on shared attributes conducive to ongoing support and success.
- Lab Testing: AI could gradually reduce the need for some third-party laboratories, making it easy for patients to take an increased number of tests at home. Some remote clinical testing companies have begun using AI and computer vision to gather at-home results for chronic kidney disease, UTIs, pregnancy and more.
- Augmented and Virtual Reality: Mixed reality provides an interactive environment that yields more accurate diagnoses. It can also help chronic pain and physical therapy patients visualize movements and practice real-time exercises with doctors.
AI in telehealth is expanding rapidly and here to stay. Incorporating these new features into employee telehealth programs will help businesses maximize ROI while simplifying the overall healthcare experience for patients and providers alike.