The future of work: healthcare’s integration of human and AI workforces

Artificial intelligence is being rapidly adopted in healthcare, spurred on by technology gaps made highly visible due to the coronavirus pandemic. As healthcare leaders work to implement these advanced technologies throughout the hospital in both clinical and administrative functions, it is worth examining the impact AI will have on the future of work for healthcare

The future of work is a buzzword across all industries as leaders and executives navigate the “new normal” and define how their organizations will deploy their human workforces. Certainly technology plays a tremendous role in these decisions, from the capabilities of video conferencing to the tasks that can now be automated through AI and intelligent automation. Luckily for us humans, experts predict that AI will not replace entire jobs, but will only replace certain tasks. Increased adoption of artificial intelligence will enable our human workforces to perform at a higher level, shifting job descriptions and creating entirely new functions. 

In healthcare, the demand to cut costs while improving patient care outcomes means that artificial intelligence is desperately needed. Healthcare captures and creates huge amounts of data, creating opportunities for AI in both clinical and operational settings. On the clinical side, AI can provide insights and predictive analytics that can improve care. Administratively, intelligent automation will shift humans from data routers back to humans, so employees can spend their time on patient care and higher-level administrative tasks. 

Together, AI and humans will improve healthcare for everyone. But to realize the full potential of artificial intelligence, healthcare leaders need a vision for the roles of both humans and AI, and how to integrate these separate workforces at their specific organizations. Becker’s Hospital Review and Olive hosted a recent roundtable discussion with health system executives about their organizations’ experiences and views on how AI has evolved their workforce. Participants included: 

  • Bradd Busick, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, Wash.
  • Vic Buzachero, Chief Human Resources, Officer Emeritus & Senior Vice President, Scripps Health in San Diego
  • Randy Gabel, Senior Director Revenue Cycle, OhioHealth in Dublin
  • David Jones, Chief Human Resources Officer, Stanford (Calif.) Health Care
  • Roberta Schwartz, PhD, CEO, Executive Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer – Houston Methodist
  • Troy Spring, Vice President, Revenue Cycle, SCL Health in Broomfield, Colo.
  • Phillip Young, CEO, Northeast Baptist Hospital, Baptist Health System (San Antonio)

Here is some of what they had to say:

Leaders have already implemented AI across a wide variety of applications, clinical and administrative

Healthcare has many facets, and therefore many different opportunities for AI deployment exist across clinical and administrative functions. As a clinical example, at Northeast Baptist Hospital, all of the system’s ICU patients across six hospitals are monitored in a central “eICU.” A predictive analytics application pulls data directly from the EMR to predict each patient’s likelihood of a status change, improving ICU teams’ response time. The program has led to improved outcomes and a shorter average length of stay. This is a clear example of AI optimizing the human workforce’s time while improving patient care and hospital metrics.

On the administrative side, participants cited examples across HR, revenue cycle management and cybersecurity. One such use case was Scripps Health, who, after setting up an ACO, used AI to assess Medicare patients’ claims and proactively set up wellness visits to collect data on patients’ risk. This has helped maximize reimbursement and manage capitation risks.  

Many more examples of applications were shared that showed just how many opportunities there are for health systems to optimize and automate processes, improving the efficacy of their human workforces by pairing them with artificial intelligence. 

The integration of AI can elevate the success of the human workforce

One of the main concerns addressed on the call was the workforce implications of artificial intelligence and how the leaders are communicating with their human employees about new technology. The executives acknowledged that the fear and initial hesitation from employees was real. They all tried to be clear with their employees that the plan was to use AI to augment their human workforces, not replace them. The intention is human-machine collaboration, not competition. 

“We try to characterize it as the human plus the machine. Technology augments the person; it doesn’t replace them. It helps people be more effective and more efficient and able to do more higher-value work and get better outcomes.” – Philip Young 

Through communication and collaboration with employees and successful deployment of AI, the roundtable participants have all seen positive workforce implications. They have seen nurses with more time to spend on patient care and employees with the new ability to upskill and specialize. By investing in their humans as well as their AI, they are able to maximize both sides of their workforce.  

AI is seen as a central component to the future of healthcare

While each executive on the roundtable had different current applications and AI roadmaps, it was certainly clear that each saw AI as a central component to the future of healthcare. By augmenting our human workforces, AI will enable better patient care, boost innovation, decrease waste, reduce costs and increase staff satisfaction.  

To learn more about the future of healthcare and integrating human and AI workforces, download the full whitepaper. 



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