Augmenting with AI

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The potent health tech combination for improved patient outcomes.

Today, the rapid innovation happening in the technology space has taken every industry by storm. The healthcare industry too has experienced these ripples of innovation, especially since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic came into being.

Artificial Intelligence, commonly referred to as ‘AI’, is one tech innovation that is transforming healthcare in a variety of ways. In a recent survey of 56 leading healthcare organizations, Tata Consultancy Services found that close to 86% of these companies had already adopted AI, and were looking to invest an average of $54 million on it.

Healthcare organizations are excited by the synergies between telehealth and AI. For example, clinicians are already using one of Google’s machine learning (ML) algorithms to remotely identify and tend to diabetic retinopathy.

However, there’s more to leveraging the potential of AI and telehealth in medicine. In this piece, we will be looking at how artificial intelligence and telemedicine can be used together to augment healthcare delivery and ameliorate patient outcomes.

1) Remote Monitoring of Patients

In today’s world, probably the best application of AI in telemedicine would be for improved patient monitoring. This has been developed to the point where it can easily imitate face to face interactions between physicians and their patients.

With the speed at which innovation is happening on the AI front in healthcare, the opportunities for monitoring a patient’s well being in a remote setting appear to be practically endless.

As telemedicine adoption soars, personal communications among patients and doctors will be greatly augmented with AI and connected medical devices. In fact, this is already happening as we speak.

VirtueSense Technologies’ VSTOne is a continuous remote monitoring and telehealth device using AI and machine learning (ML) to aid providers in acute and post-acute settings to more effectively care for chronically ill and COVID-19 patients.

The platform uses an array of machine vision and IoT sensors to monitor patient vital signs (movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, O2, etc.); artificial intelligence to recognize anomalies; and mobile applications to alert healthcare workers before a patient’s condition declines.

Research by the American Journal of Medicine suggests early interventions are the key to better outcomes, COVID-19 being no exception.

Many patients who arrive at the hospital by emergency medical services with COVID-19 do not initially require forms of advanced medical care. Once hospitalized, approximately 25% require mechanical ventilation, advanced circulatory support, or renal replacement therapy. Hence, it is conceivable that some, if not a majority, of hospitalizations could be avoided with a treat-at-home first approach with appropriate telemedicine monitoring and access to oxygen and therapeutics,” said Dr. Tom Hale, Chief Medical Officer at VirtuSense Technologies.

Therefore, it can be rightly said that the combination of AI and telemedicine technologies can easily be leveraged to monitor patients remotely, which results in improved patient outcomes.

2) Healthcare Information Technology

With the huge amount of healthcare data being congregated in data management systems on a regular basis, not only through manual registration but also through the use of self-diagnosing technology, healthcare organizations often face the issue of effectively retrieving and storing medical information.

Additionally, considering that the ultimate goal of telemedicine is to help care seekers overcome geographic barriers and connect with a medical professional of their choice irrespective of where they are located, there is a growing need to create a centralized repository for all the engaging institutions.

Leveraging AI-enabled automation for streamlining the data collected through telemedicine platforms can easily help healthcare providers with data management. Furthermore, integrating patients’ electronic health records (EHR) with telemedicine can greatly help providers utilize automation to its full potential.

This is a system that manages patient records in a more effective manner when compared with manual processes of examining patients’ vitals with the help of a questionnaire, recording it in files, and thereafter sharing those results to the doctor.

Automation speeds up the process manifold. This enables faster sharing of critical information such as prescriptions, electronic health record data, etc.

Also, the information processed by these AI systems can be stored on dedicated servers by healthcare organizations. Doing this, furnishes a supplemental layer of security for patient data and makes it interoperable as well as easily retrievable for authorized individuals from any part of the world.

Therefore, AI and telehealth can easily be used in conjunction to achieve seamless management of healthcare data.

3) Intelligent Assistance and Diagnosis

The most trending feature of AI-powered robotics technology in telemedicine at present is the addition of assisting mechanical components for improving patient diagnostics. This feature aims to assist patients in making intelligent health decisions, either physically, or by examining preliminary patient data to aid the current hospital system.

The robotics technology can function under the programmed application of neural networks and ML algorithms. This allows the technology to learn and develop itself continually by leveraging the results and additional information introduced into the system.

In recent years, there has been a surge in healthcare investment toward self-diagnosing devices and applications that quickly evaluate vital signs such as heart rate, pulse, breathing, sleep patterns, blood pressure, etc.

One fine example of this would be that of a company called Lemonaid Health, which developed an AI-powered model for evaluation and screening of patients through a questionnaire and other such requirements. Once basic information has been obtained, a patient is then categorized based on the complexity of his/her case.

Doctors and specialists associated with the app then assess the situation accordingly and conduct phone call consultations or send prescriptions directly, depending on whether the patient requires immediate intervention.

Another organization that is leveraging the potential of AI in its daily operations is Carbon Health. The company has developed a triage examination process using a chatbot interface. This process summarizes the patient’s information and schedules a consultation if needed. The program also monitors and follows up with patients on medication schedules or signs of recurring symptoms.

All in all, artificial intelligence, when integrated with telehealth, can be used effectively for intelligent assistance and improved diagnosis in the current scenario.

Closing Words

Artificial Intelligence and Telemedicine are two technologies that are here to stay.

Although the combined effect of these two state-of-the-art solutions can be easily discerned to soon create ripples of innovation across the care continuum, much of its potential remains currently unexplored.

It will be interesting to see what else these two technologies have in store for healthcare in the near future. However, for now, the combination surely appears promising for optimizing patient outcomes and transforming how care is best delivered as a whole.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Leo P. Langlois is an extensively experienced board certified physician and surgeon, graduated from brown university medical school, completed residency training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and fellowship trained at University of California Davis with over 27 years of experience treating chronic disabling conditions and chronic intractable pain who has run a successful private practice in Bakersfield, California since 2003.

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