AI driven health care

Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) acting as a catalyst for giant leaps in health delivery? Hardly a day goes by without one news story or another extolling the virtue of AI. For example, at the time of writing a quick search of articles issued in the preceding few days brings up an article in Forbes on “Generative AI: The next frontier in healthcare” and in The Parliament magazine on “How artificial intelligence is revolutionising healthcare.”

The use of AI as a transformative factor in health care has long been predicted although perhaps only now are we getting to grips with its potential. Indeed, an article in Science Direct in 1992 commented that three key factors were preventing AI from delivering its potential. These were “physician disinterest; the low priority assigned to Al among healthcare information systems executives; and the relatively new competitive market pressures affecting health services delivery.”

Perhaps at that time we were unable to fully comprehend the AI potential. But nowadays that reluctance is long gone with a 2019 future healthcare journal article commenting that AI “technologies have the potential to transform many aspects of patient care, as well as administrative processes within provider, payer and pharmaceutical organisations.”

Important as those giant leaps are, we should not lose sight of the fact that most revolutions are made up of a mixture of big steps and little ones and that those smaller steps can play a vital role in delivering change. Nor should we let our excitement at the use of new technologies blind us to the fact that patient delivery sits at the heart of health care. And what that means is that it is vital that health providers take every chance to help people to embrace technological change.

This is where some of the ‘small steps’ can play their part. Digitising client records may seem like a very small step in the overall scheme of things but it could open up the way for an enhanced patient/ health practice partnership. So the news that over 80% of GP practices have given their patients online access to their records is encouraging. According to NHS data, as a result in October 2023 more than nine million people viewed their records through the NHS App. This has led to a reduction in patients having to contact their practice for routine interactions such as viewing test results, making an appointment, or ordering repeat prescriptions.

The more that people become comfortable with digital interactions, the greater the potential for the benefits to be spread more widely across all health practices. On line patient data can help multiple agencies to view records more quickly than before. And when people feel comfortable with online appointment booking, practices can save on administration time.

Of course, there will still be times when people would prefer to speak to their health provider on the phone. For those times, the ability to switch phone calls to a dedicated virtual assistant service can be invaluable to a health practice; enabling it to concentrate on patient delivery whilst providing a personal service which their patients might need.

AI driven health care is here to stay. But as we are making digital strides forward we should not forget the importance of putting people at the heart of delivery.