Divergent CIO

An innovative, transformative, and digital leader experienced in Technology and Executive Leadership

Why Artificial Intelligence is Important in Healthcare

 

We know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic right now, yet on the flip side there has been criticism around its hype, especially at HIMSS17 this year. However, we need to continue to invest into AI Research and Development so we can maximize the benefits, such as lower healthcare costs, improved provider efficiency, more accurate billing, and safer patient care.

Will Robots Replace Us?

It's unlikely that robots and computers will totally take the place of doctors and nurses, but AI can't be ignored in its efforts to revolutionize the healthcare industry. Not only does it predict outcomes and improve diagnostics, it changes the way healthcare providers think about how they provide care, says Forbes. The future possibilities are endless: industry analysts say that 30 percent of providers will use cognitive analytics with patient data by 2018.

Access to big data is essential. Think about how we grew up with the Dewey Decimal system. A trip to the library could take hours as we pored through the stacks trying to find what we wanted. Today, our kids are astonished that we didn't have Google at our fingertips to learn anything we wanted to know. With the advent of AI quickly taking over the horizon, our kids' kids will be the ones shocked that all their parents had to learn information was a simple computer and search engine. Just like that, the future takes hold even when we can't comprehend the next step.

The Reach of AI

There are many ways artificial intelligence is predicted to impact the field of healthcare. Personalized medicine is one major benefit. AI is part of a far-reaching, continually growing, adaptive connected digital infrastructure. However, access is limited because there is just so much information out there. With the help of AI, it will become easier than ever to process, analyze and bring up research, publications, studies and more than can put accurate, timely information into the hands of the user. Healthcare providers now have the ability to use this information as a tool to compare, compile and analyze patient files in order to come up with an accurate diagnosis.

In addition to quick access, precision is a critical piece of the puzzle as well. Because AI has the ability to tap into huge databases that contain information on anything from symptoms and analysis results to family history and similar diagnoses of other patients around the world. The evolution of pathology and possible treatments has suddenly been made precise. While AI can't prevent all errors -- at least not yet anyway -- it can drastically reduce them. This in turn will reduce operating room mix-ups, mis-diagnoses, and more.

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Wearables and Your Health: Where Do They Intersect?

 

Both sides of the health technology debate

Last week, we talked about what to watch for in the way of wearable technology this year. Now we'll discuss how this innovative form of technology can be used to promote a healthier population. We all know that health insurance payers give out incentives to providers for healthy patients; to obtain these incentives, healthcare providers must gather more data, communicate more effectively with their patients, and get them engaged in managing their own health. Why not use technology to automatically gather this data and send it back to the patient's medical record? This method ensures accuracy, efficiency, timeliness, and accountability -- things that can be sorely lacking in today's healthcare management system.

The use of wearables, once a practice driven solely by individuals hopping on the "cool" factor of a FitBit, is now moving into the realm of employer- driven incentive as part of their health and wellness programs. Research has calculated a clear ROI on those who use wearables vs. those who do not. In fact, as part of a study conducted by Springbuk, employees using wearable technology cost $1,000 less on average for a company than those who didn't. 

Undoubtedly, wearables are ideal for tracking and monitoring ongoing health and daily fitness activities. In fact, many companies are already boasting they can achieve this (you may have heard about Apple's recent announcement of a patent for a device that can gather and process electrocardiographic measurements; or perhaps you've heard of wearable pregnancy trackers). Wearable devices, along with mobile health apps, have made health data collection extremely convenient because they integrate with patients’ daily activities and reflect that activity in a quantifiable way. The information that can be collected from patients can play a critical role in how the world of medical advancement will look in the future, with wearables allowing both patients and care givers to measure a variety of indicators and generate feedback on anything from everyday health to specific markers for disease.

This can also aid in medical research; in effect, future generations can benefit from information gathered directly from users today. Healthcare professionals can gain insight into how diseases progress, which treatments are effective, how symptoms improve with certain treatments, etc. The availability and capability of the data that can be collected is mind numbing if you stop to think about it all.

Bridging the Gap

However, just because the technology is here doesn't mean there aren't other issues or obstacles that can stonewall the real-world integration of these technologies to the Electronic Health Record, such as:

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Population Health vs. Public Health: The rising significance of Population Health

 

Amidst growing concern over the health of the population as a whole, a shift is underway to focus less on individual care and more on managing the population's health. First, let's define what population health is. The term population health first emerged in 2003 after David Kindig and Greg Stoddart defined it as “the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group,” according to HealthcareITNews. Population health refers to the health incomes of a group of individuals, which can be divided not only according to geographic ties such as communities and countries, but also on a smaller scale as well, such as employees, prisoners, disabled people, and ethnic groups.

Population Health Importance

Policy makers are looking to the importance of the population's overall health as it regards to the distribution of health. Let's put it this way: marks for overall health could be very high IF most of the population is healthy, which underscores the fact that a small minority is less healthy in an effort to drastically reduce that gap. Many factors can influence health, from an individual's behavior and genetics to social and physical environments. Medical care systems also play a large role. Population health outcomes rely on the impacts of these factors as a whole.

Now what about public health? This is defined as the efforts of state and local public health departments to treat individual health through prevention of epidemics, the containment of environmental hazards and the encouragement of healthy behaviors. Public health encompasses what we do as a society to assure people in that society can be healthy. However, a gap exists here that does not account for major population health determinants like health care, education, and income, which are traditionally outside the scope of public health authority and responsibility, says Improving Population Health.

Problem is, with the traditional model, the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group, are largely ignored. That's where population health comes in, to focus on the interrelated conditions influencing health populations over the course of lifetimes where systematic variations and patterns are taken into account in order to create policies that improve the well-being of populations over time.

A Fundamental Shift in Healthcare

That being said, there is certainly an overlap of sorts where population health and public health meet in the middle, combining forces of population health activities within general practices, public health activities with the community, and leadership efforts in policy development. The goal of population health is to broaden the responsibility of policy makers to think outside the box rather than simply focus on a single sector or for advocacy groups to single out a specific disease. With the average American living much longer thanks to improved health care and healthy awareness initiatives, it becomes more important than ever to identify population health trends that will ensure the well being of large groups of people across various demographic, social and community ties.

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My First Blog

 

Welcome to my first blog!  If you've read my bio, resume, or seen some of the other content on my site, you now have a better idea of who I am, hopefully.

As a busy Healthcare Executive and Chief Information Officer, I do have some time to do get involved in projects and activities outside of work.  Currently, I sit on two boards. The first is a successful start up company in the food industry, and I also serve as a board member on the HITECH Advisory Board at Johnson County Community College.

As a father of three brilliant young adults, I coach and encourage my kids around their work and college lives.  Coincidentally, my kids are also involved in technology and healthcare.

I do stay current in technology and tinker with new gadgets. Most notably web, digital, and security technologies (this website was built by me!).

Of course one must stay well balanced in a busy life.  I exercise regularly, and am currently pursuing my 3rd Degree Black belt in Taekwondo and 1st Degree Black belt in Hapkido.  Time permitting, I continue to advance my status as a national/international certified USAT referee.

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