5 Reasons why AI is Different in Healthcare

Healthcare is one of many sectors poised for AI transformation, but it poses unique challenges, opportunities, and considerations.

For those of us who have been working closely with artificial intelligence (AI) for many years, it’s a little shocking to suddenly hear “AI” on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Although it may be difficult for the technology to match the current hype, there are many valuable use cases across industries, and that number is sure to grow quickly as the technology improves and organizations begin to experiment with different solutions.

Healthcare is no exception, but while AI undoubtedly will help clinicians become more efficient and improve patient outcomes, the sector differs from other fields in these important ways:

  • ‘Good Enough’ is not good enough: In some fields, AI tools are going to perform slightly worse than humans, at least at first, and this is going to be okay. People are already using AI to draft response emails, for instance, and it’s not the end of the world if these tools fail to capture your tone and voice with perfect accuracy when confirming a video meeting. Basically, if an AI tool’s performance is only 90% as good as a human’s, but it makes a process significantly faster or simpler, that tradeoff will work for many people, workflows, and industries.

But this tradeoff won’t work in health care. Patients’ lives are on the line when clinicians change the way they deliver care, and providers simply won’t use AI tools that force them to compromise on quality—no matter how efficient those tools may be.

  • The ‘Quintuple Aim’: Although some companies truly are committed to social equity, corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize returns for their shareholders. This bottom-line focus stands in contrast to health care, where the idea of a “Triple Aim” – incorporating the patient experience, population health, and costs – has been widely accepted for many years. More recently, this has expanded to a “Quintuple Aim,” incorporating staff experience and health equity. The emphasis on equity, in particular, sets the goals of healthcare organizations apart from many businesses in other sectors. While corporations will often shutter stores in areas that have become unprofitable, health care has an ethical obligation to try to bring high-quality care to all populations, including in underserved locations. The AI tools adopted by the sector will reflect this emphasis.

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