AI and Healthcare: An Interview with Codrin Arsene
How will artificial intelligence transform healthcare? DAP's CEO, Codrin Arsene, talks with eHealth Radio Network’s Eric Michaels about the exciting ways in which AI is transforming the patient and hospital experience, while helping listeners separate fact from fiction.
Listen to the entire interview, below.
How healthcare and technology can work together
Michaels: What are the primary issues in healthcare that technology can help solve in 2018?
Arsene: As we’ve seen in the last couple of years, there’s been a significant shift in how medical and healthcare companies are looking at technology, and how technologies are being rolled out progressively to improve operational efficiencies, communication, customer service, billing and a lot of other practices that are critical to day-to-day operations in healthcare.
When it comes down to technology as a whole, we’re seeing direction and trends that are significantly impacted by what we call in the industry emerging technologies: artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, augmented reality—even VR headsets are now being used by doctors all over the world who are operating on patients. Just a few years ago, we saw the first heart surgery done entirely through a VR headset so that doctors and medical students could actually see it in action.
When it comes down to the primary trends that I see in healthcare this year, there’s definitely a shift towards improving operational efficiency, towards improving the accuracy of procedures and processes so that doctors, hospitals, and care delivery providers can provide better and faster care to patients all over the US.
On problems facing healthcare executives
Michaels: What should keep healthcare executives awake at night given the latest tech trends?
Arsene: Ultimately, IT executives [in healthcare] are in a very tough business. IT is a cost center, by definition. You have all of these different needs and processes that need to be in place—often on a shoestring budget. With the rise of artificial intelligence, big data, predictive analytics, IoT and more, IT executives can actually play a strategic role that goes beyond the current boundaries of their position.
As far as I’m concerned, if I were an IT executive, I would try to look at the current emerging technologies and think of them as being more than simply tools. It’s not just about rolling out a new initiative. It’s not just about creating value or making a process more efficient; it’s about a mindset.
I think the biggest opportunity for the current emerging technologies is that we can look at artificial intelligence or big data as being a mindset change—a completely different philosophy—versus just being a one-time project that is rolled out as part of the day to day operations.
The other thing that IT executives should understand is that these emerging technologies are only as smart as the people behind them. The reality is that most healthcare organizations usually do one of the following: they purchase new technologies and simply roll them out and implement them, or they create some product internally. But all of these decisions, the way they’re made, is very tactical.
What I encourage IT executives to think about is how do you holistically prepare for what is coming up in the 5 to 10 years. Because the next 5 to 10 years will be drastically different than the previous 100 years of how care in the United States and all over the world is provided to patients—how value is provided to patients—and how chronic conditions are managed.
Gartner predicts that by 2025, a significant portion of all care in the United States will be delivered virtually. The question is: what does this mean for an institution? What does this mean for a hospital? How should a hospital prepare itself structurally in order to really accommodate the emerging technologies they’ll have in place?
It’s not just a question of mindset; it’s a question of getting buy-in across the organization. It’s a question of getting the right infrastructure in place to support what is to come. You have to build a foundation.
And then, in addition to that, there’s a need to engage not only with your own institution but more holistically, even at the government level, with how emerging technologies can be retrofitted within the current paradigm of how healthcare is being delivered in the United States.
For example, many doctors want to provide care virtually; however, Medicare and Medicaid do not make this very easy.
2 different conversations need to occur. One is internal; within the hospital, the care facility, and the software companies that provide the medical solutions. The other is within our own government to ensure that we can continue providing medical care, regardless of the channel.
How the rise of big data and artificial intelligence will impact healthcare
Michaels: What’s the importance of big data and artificial intelligence in healthcare?
Arsene: We all know that data—any type of data—is power. When it comes down to healthcare, data is more than just a tool. Data means accuracy.
Let’s say someone, we’ll call her Mary, goes to the hospital for an infection. The reality is that Mary may have the same set of physical characteristics as thousands of other “Marys” dealing with the exact same condition.
What if you were able to use statistical data of patients from all over the world with the same condition? It would provide better care—more accurate care—and provide doctors with the insight they need at any particular given time.
A machine doesn’t get tired; big data will always work around the clock. Big data has the potential to aggregate different information from all available sources and present that to a doctor, who can then deal with a patient in ways that were never possible in the past.
Think of rare conditions. Rare conditions are just that: rare. Meaning, there is not a lot of information on them. Once you use big data, combined with the algorithms that power artificial intelligence, the information problem will no longer be the same. You will be able to make better decisions, faster, when it comes to patient care.
Of course, some skeptics have negative things to say about AI. But over the long term, it is amazing what big data and artificial intelligence can do together, when paired correctly with human intelligence behind it, to provide the insightful information that healthcare professionals need at the point of care.
On the democratization of data
Michaels: What does the democratization of data mean for the healthcare industry as a whole?
Arsene: Data in the United States has, frankly, been held hostage by antiquated processes and by government regulations.
Think about it. Let’s say you have a condition and need a second opinion from another doctor. What’s the current process in place? You get your folder, with your results, with everything that has every been collected by a doctor at any moment in time, and then you’re going to another doctor’s office.
That’s unacceptable. It’s not just unacceptable in the context of a patient doing these tasks, it is unacceptable even when it comes down to communication between doctors. See, doctors ask for referrals or consultations on a day-to-day basis. Doctors from all over the US are paging each other to get a second opinion regarding the difficult patient cases they’re working on.
As it stands, this is a very cumbersome process that involves manual paging and faxing. It’s very antiquated. And the reason why we’re still dealing with these processes, which ultimately make healthcare more expensive for us all, and doctors’ lives worse because they’re losing so much time in these bureaucratic activities, is because we don’t have a democratization of data.
Data should be passed freely in between hospitals and care professionals. But more importantly, a patient should have ownership of their data. They should be able to go from Doctor A to Doctor B, and with the push of a button or an electronic signature, get all their info passed to the new doctor.
Ultimately, it’s very simple. The democratization of data means better care across providers. It means faster care. It means saving more lives. It means freeing us from how we manage and share our own personal data.
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