The Robots Are Here

July 19, 2018 Doug Williams

We’ve long heard the phrase “the robots are coming,” but it’s about time we change the phrase to “the robots are here.” Robots are everywhere–mainstream news often touts their cool capabilities, and we certainly see artificial intelligence (AI) more integrated into our entertainment and daily lives. Not far from now businesses and quite possibly individuals will have their own R2D2 and C-3PO. If you are skeptical think about how quickly we’ve adopted and integrated AI in the form of SiriAlexaCortanaLucida and Bixby.

The healthcare industry is also integrating robotics and artificial intelligence; and healthcare companies are changing workflows and infrastructure to prepare for this new infusion of efficiency and data use maximization. Startups are rapidly leveraging machine learning to help clinicians, patients and payers–with big payoffs. Patients benefit from exoskeleton devices that assist with movement, as well as robots that disinfect rooms, answer questions and even empathize. Clinicians use robots to do precision surgery, accurately deliver medications and monitor patients. And payers are integrating AI that speaks intelligently to patients and billing offices with systems that learn as claims are processed–enhancing accuracy and identifying fraud and abnormalities with greater ease.

Leaving aside more sensational debates about machine intervention–-whether it is as good as or better in its care, whether it replaces jobs or makes the jobs we have even better, whether these machines will replace humans in an apocalyptic decision; the reality is that AI can solve some of today’s most costly healthcare problems–-the errors and omissions that lose payers about $100 billion dollars per year, and the medical mistakes that are the third leading cause of healthcare-related deaths behind heart disease and cancer.

AI can bring the same level of discipline and protocol to medical treatment and billing practices, with the ability to “learn” in new situations. Healthcare providers willing to integrate AI as early adopters will be far ahead of their peers. Medical and billing staff will learn to interact with technology in an expectant way–-seeing possibility in machine learning and aligning the information flow to maximize the investment.

What can healthcare organizations do now?

  1. Start to socialize staff with the technology available. Staff will be more prepared to work with the machines if they know they exist, how they work and how they will add value and help save lives. Just as a good team onboards a new team member to set everyone up for success, the robots will require the same. The more time we spend with them, the smarter and more helpful they will be.
  2. Work with companies that can ingest complex and voluminous data, use AI to quickly assimilate and understand it and make it actionable, and then quickly deploy the learning. Groom a staff that “gets” the value of AI to claims and billing and can train the machine for maximum success.

As with everything in healthcare, you can buy the newest machinery, but you almost always have to tailor it to your culture, your patients, your rules and your vision to maximize it. Treat AI the same way and you too could have a team of faithful ‘droids’.

HMS is teaching our people and systems to work with AI, are you?

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