The AI-enabled trends in healthcare to look out for in 2019 IBM MSP Blog

75% of healthcare enterprises are planning to execute an artificial intelligence (AI) strategy.

Indeed, most people working in healthcare believe it is a sector that will benefit most from AI technologies.

In addition to innovations such as AI-assisted robotic surgery, cloud technology is already being used to back up documents and photos. However, AI data analysis comes with its own challenges, due to ethical concerns regarding a huge number of legacy systems containing highly sensitive data.

Despite this, healthcare industry trends prove that AI has a valuable role to play.

It can improve quality of care, reduce costs and speed up procedures.

And, perhaps more importantly, it can now enable a higher level of interaction with patients.


Transforming current trends in healthcare

Healthcare is swiftly moving on from what was largely a paper-based system to one of increasingly digitised medical records.

Currently Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems continue to be the default choice for health systems looking to improve patient engagement, despite their well-known lack of user-friendliness.

What’s to be done with all this EHR data? How can the explosion in new data be handled?

Traditional EHR systems and other forms of data must be integrated, enabling the implementation of advanced analytical capabilities. This will lead to the predictive and preventive care models offering a superior experience while lowering costs.

Big Data must be converted into Small Data: a means of paring down the mountains of data where necessary to ensure it’s all more accessible. The technologies capable of gleaning meaningful insights will also have to be integrated seamlessly into clinical workflows and care pathways, with the aim of optimising clinical decision-making.

Larger health systems are already forming associations to share data and develop common insights, reducing diagnostic errors.

This is a model for the future and one of the major healthcare trends to keep an eye on.


Optimising caregiver productivity

Ample studies have proven that current trends in healthcare to deploy EHR systems and technology have increased the workload for caregivers, including physicians.

Thankfully, the new wave of technologies is reducing the burden.

As artificial intelligence releases caregivers from their more mundane tasks, it allows them to focus on more exciting and value-added procedures. This is invaluable in terms of long-term sustainability, for healthcare already suffers an acute shortage of skilled caregivers.

Moreover, Electronic Health Record systems can now be augmented with AI-enabled clinical decision support. These are systems enabling better, evidence-based care decisions.

They can alert attending physicians to data and research that had previously escaped their attention.  They can also catch and highlight potential safety issues, such as duplicative treatments or medication interactions.

Naturally, this will have a tremendous impact on both quality of care and safety. What’s more, as 80-90% of all healthcare spending is driven by the decisions of physicians, it will also lead to a lowering of total costs.

Now that’s a healthcare industry trend we’d all like to see.


Healthcare trends for better after-hospital care

Readmissions to hospital are a problem for everyone concerned, not just the patients and their families.

Artificial intelligence is almost at a point where it can predict which patients are most at risk of getting sick during and after a hospital stay. Rapidly sifting through patterns in patient data, it can instigate an early intervention.

When combined with Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, the systems can read complex medical literature. This will provide doctors and clinicians with the information to make the right choices regarding diagnosis and treatment options.

For example, a patient’s unique history can be set against and compared with data on the latest treatments. A patient battling a chronic condition would be linked with the programmes most likely to effectively manage the problem.

As an extra addition to patient safety, current trends in healthcare highlight the increasing adoption of AI and machine learning to quickly and accurately identify the superbugs that continue to be a real concern for physicians and patients.

These technologies can also identify the patients most susceptible to the superbug uncovered.


VUI Personalised patient-driven engagement

Voice User Interface (VUI) technology, or voice-driven communications, could revolutionise after-hospital care.

Working in combination with Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, it takes home healthcare to a new level. It enables remote monitoring through a perfectly natural interface with patients.

The patients feel they’re talking with a real human, granting them a much-needed sense of reassurance.

They feel more empowered about making informed decisions about their health, while suffering less anxiety as they recover from surgery.

The systems help them keep to their prescribed care plan, prompt them to schedule appointments for vital screenings, or ensure they’re preparing for any new procedures.

It can also help them identify a nearby urgent care centre and arrange an appointment.

‘Digital diaries’ are created as every minute and every second of the conversations is logged, ensuring nothing is forgotten or repeated.

Machine learning integrated into the system can eventually pick up the tones, inflections and other elements of the patient’s mood and condition that lead to informed judgements.

Through analysing data at the ‘end point’, and sending it on to a back-end system, cognitive technologies reduce the time involved in alerting caregivers to medical emergencies.


Coming to terms with Blockchain

Although most physicians have heard of AI, few are aware of the term ‘Blockchain’.

A Blockchain network improves as more people join it. Essentially, then, it requires a suitable number of participants to work at its best.

Unfortunately, current trends in healthcare demonstrate low adoption levels. These will only improve once tangible benefits have been demonstrated.

And yet Blockchain can solve two of the biggest problems in healthcare – data quality and interoperability.

Data quality has long been an issue in healthcare, leading to the massive digitisation of patient medical records.

It is the very creation of so many diverse EHR systems that has culminated in an interoperability challenge. In other words, they’re incapable of ‘talking’ to each other.

Stand-alone information systems slow down processes, create redundant work, and result in inefficiency and waste.

Blockchain technology ensures a more secure and efficient storage and management of data.

It also optimises revenue cycle management, creates a more fluid supply chain, and enables a sharing of clinical trials.

One advantage of all this will be significant reforms along the drug delivery chain.

Fees, rebates, discounts, and other funds flowing between drug makers and other members of the drug supply chain will become wholly transparent.

Some would say this could be one of the most important healthcare industry trends of all.


Future healthcare trends

Healthcare industry trends are undoubtedly pointing towards an increasing adoption of AI and data-based technology initiatives in all sectors.

The growing importance of AI capabilities is underlined by a change already taking place in many healthcare departments as new positions and roles are created. For example, Chief Innovation and Chief Data Analytics officers already play a crucial leadership role in measuring the impact of innovative technologies on patients.

These roles can only expand as, with every passing year, the advances in cognitive computing impact ever more sectors.

Would you like to know more about how your sector could be improved by AI?

Then explore the potential of IBM Watson Health here.

You can also discover more about Blockchain trends in healthcare here.

Related content


Moorfields Eye Hospital launches first virtual assistant to connect with patients


Moving the healthcare industry forward through technology

Back to top