Artificial Intelligence (AI) can have far-reaching uses in healthcare, ranging from researching new treatments to predicting when hospitals will need personal protection equipment (PPE).
“AI is definitely a top three thought process for all of our major stakeholders in healthcare. And I couldn't have said that even as little as three years ago,” said KPMG Healthcare Technology Leader Vince Vickers.
Healthcare leaders are making big bets on AI. According to our findings in a new KPMG research report, healthcare business leaders express confidence in AI's ability to help solve major industry problems, particularly those we are facing today: track the spread of COVID-19 (91%), help with vaccine development (94%) and distribution (88%).
Healthcare business leaders say their organizations are prioritizing their AI investments during the next two years on telemedicine (38%), robotic tasks (37%) and the delivery of patient care (36%), according to KPMG’s survey. COVID-19 has heightened new demands around patient access, infection control, supplies and improving operating efficiency after elective surgeries were put on hold for a large portion of 2020.
KPMG Managing Director Melissa Edwards said AI is also helping to address operating risks, ranging from tracking staff credentials to predicting potential supply issues.
With many healthcare facilities curtailing elective procedures, AI effectively played a role in acting as the digital front door for hospitals. Technology used for voice recognition or to uncover keywords in chatbots enabled calls and messages to be routed to the most appropriate source. Use of these technologies has more recently been important in vaccine management to improve communications and more proactively inform adversely impacted populations.
Edwards says this can also help address physician burnout with electronic health record (EHR) communications tools. One of the most major complaints about EHRs is that the communications tools will routinely ping physicians about matters such as scheduling that could be handled by practice administrators. AI can be deployed to route messages to the most relevant contact.
A challenge for healthcare providers is that the sector, for the most part, is a low-margin business with a lot of competing demands for technology spending, particularly around cyber security. This is because healthcare information tends to be a ripe target for identity theft and hackers can hijack a hospital’s information systems with ransomware.
Edwards and Vickers said some healthcare organizations fall into the trap of treating AI like a pet project that does not move beyond pilot stages nor does it align with broader transformation programs.
“What healthcare does a lot is, I don't want to call it a rogue, but it's departmental-level investments and that kind of stuff,” Vickers said. “And when you do it that way, you become very inefficient as an organization. And that's a big, big challenge that we have in healthcare. It's one of the cultural dynamics of healthcare. AI must be thought of as an enterprise investment with appropriate structure and governance and the market leaders who organize around it that way will see much greater returns than we have seen to date.”
To speak with Vickers or Edwards about AI in healthcare, please contact Melanie Batley.
The KPMG study, Thriving in an AI World, is an evolution of a study KPMG originally released in early 2020. The findings are based on feedback from a range of 950 full-time business decision makers and/or IT decision makers* with at least a moderate amount of AI knowledge and at companies with over $1 billion in revenue**, across seven industries (150 respondents+ per industry): technology, financial services, industrial manufacturing, healthcare, life sciences, retail, and government. The online survey was fielded between January 3rd, 2021 and January 16th, 2021. The margin of error (MOE) for the total sample at the 95 percent confidence level is +/- 3.2 percentage points.
*Only government respondents included IT decision makers.
**Healthcare and life sciences respondents were from companies with over $100 million in revenue. +Healthcare and life sciences respondents only had 100 respondents per industry.