These technologies stand to change healthcare forever, and they already exist

November 22, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to many challenges in the healthcare industry, exposing care delivery and equality gaps in the U.S. healthcare system. Healthcare rushed to meet the challenges of the pandemic with technology, but no technology was more aptly suited to assist in continued care delivery than telehealth.

The technology powering telemedicine had been available for many years, but regulatory and reimbursement challenges stood in the way of widespread adoption. However, when patients needed to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, telemedicine technology came to the forefront as a top tool for patient care.

But it shouldn’t take a pandemic to push healthcare to embrace technologies that can address industry pain points. Big problems like clinician burnout and cybersecurity breaches can be addressed through the adoption of existing technologies — and we shouldn’t wait until a massive industry-wide breakdown to put them to use.

1. AI and automation technology reduce burnout for providers.

According to the 2021 Survey of American physicians, 61% of physicians report often experiencing feelings of burnout — a trend which has increased in recent years.

However, the high levels of data entry and administrative work can be reduced and improved with automation technology.

“In IT they have the saying, ‘Automate anything that can be automated,’” says Esteban Rubens, principal of the healthcare AI practice at NetApp. “It's about allowing people to do what they do best: to add more value doing higher-level things — and then for lower-level things, let machines do them.”

Implementing AI throughout healthcare organizations enables healthcare workers to more effectively meet the quadruple aim, Rubens says. According to the Internet of Healthcare Report, produced by the independent research firm Wakefield Research on behalf of Olive:

  1. Healthcare executives believe if automated AI processes replaced repetitive, manual data entry, an estimated 93 minutes could be saved per worker per day. Streamlining processes lessens the time required for administrative tasks, thereby reducing costs.
  2. Options to improve the patient experience include making patient history accessible to any medical professionals a patient visits and offering 24/7 access to care services from home — which can be powered by smart investments in automation.
  3. 95% of healthcare executives think AI will connect data systems to provide better insights and patient outcomes. Leveraging clinical data can help reduce errors in misdiagnosis and improve population health.
  4. 92% of clinicians believe administrative work is a major contributor to employee burnout. Automation is therefore key to lessening the burden of paperwork and data entry. The technology enables providers to spend more time on patients, reducing burnout for healthcare workers and bringing back the joy of practicing medicine.

While AI and automation offer direct benefits for healthcare operations, 55% of healthcare executives also feel cybersecurity will benefit from the adoption or expansion of AI.

2. Proactive cybersecurity is key to protecting healthcare data.

There is an immediate opportunity to better leverage technology for healthcare cybersecurity, Rubens explains. Though massive data breaches have led to increased regulation and federal action, healthcare organizations are still vulnerable targets — a concerning prospect considering 30% of the entire world's stored data is estimated to be health-related, containing large quantities of protected health information.

With cybercriminals continually uncovering new ways to exploit structural weaknesses, healthcare organizations will never be able to avoid data breaches or cyberattacks indefinitely.

Rather than trying to avoid the inevitable, healthcare should build systems focused on remediating an attack and getting back into production quickly. Rubens encourages the use of immutable snapshots that are “unchangeable [so] no amount of spear phishing, social engineering or elevated access with administrative credentials can corrupt it.” Healthcare should implement steps to “remediate an attack and go back into production [after] something happens with the smallest amount of data loss and corruption,” says Rubens. “We have the technology.”

These defensive measures are possible with today’s technology. By recognizing the dynamic landscape of cybercrime today, healthcare organizations can act accordingly to proactively protect their massive data stores.

Technology offers a bright future for other areas of healthcare.

Looking to the future, there is also a key area where today’s technology has not yet begun to offer its full potential. As wearables and remote patient monitoring become more widely used, it’s Rubens' hope that healthcare will soon leverage the data gained from these devices and incorporate it into EHRs. The data is already available, but the next step is to use AI technology to make it broadly accessible to healthcare organizations and patients.

AI technology offers immediate and positive impact for the healthcare industry, and healthcare leadership must employ today’s current technology to do more.