Phew! If you’ve attended as many digital healthcare events as we have in recent weeks, you probably feel as inspired (and exhausted) as we are. From ATA to ViVE to HIMSS, it’s been raining events this spring, and it was fascinating to see which trending topics dominated the conversation.
Like seemingly every other industry, virtual care can’t stop chatting about ChatGPT and its potential impact. But at these events, the artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) discussion fed into broader issues. Are we prioritizing technologies that improve accessibility, transparency and trust in the patient experience? And do they benefit organizations by reducing administrative burden and delivering immediate ROI?
Charting a New AI/ML Frontier
In the HIMSS opening keynote, “Responsible AI: Prioritizing Patient Safety, Privacy and Ethical Considerations,” a panel of experts discussed the Pandora’s Box-opening phenomenon that is ChatGPT.
Clearly, everyday consumer use of generative AI is no longer on the horizon — it has arrived in full force. But how do we fold this revolutionary technology into healthcare responsibly?
For these experts, it’s about striking a balance between speed and safety. AI/ML is here to stay, and the sooner healthcare acknowledges and adopts it the better. It’s easy to see a near future in which implementing AI/ML in a way that truly supports patients and care teams will be critical to any organization’s success.
But the panel also cautioned against compromising safety on a mad rush into uncharted technological territory. Sure, we’ve all heard stories of ChatGPT’s “accomplishments,” like helping college students write term papers or job hopefuls compose cover letters. And as for its potent question-answering skills…eat your heart out, Ask Jeeves.
But do these admittedly impressive capabilities qualify ChatGPT to give medical advice?
AI clearly has the capability to make an immediate impact in reducing back-office administrative burden, but is it ready for patient-facing diagnostic use?
Most agree there is still much work to be done to reduce risk and ensure patient safety in diagnostic AI interactions.
As Dr. Taft Parsons III, VP at CVS Health, said at HIMSS, “[AI responses are] either too broad and general to be clinically useful or flat-out inaccurate.” And we need to better understand how AI could potentially worsen existing biases toward certain populations, both in healthcare and beyond.
Prioritizing Accessibility, Transparency and Trust in the Patient Experience
During the pandemic, we began to understand how virtual care can greatly improve our care experiences: better connection to our care teams outside of the clinic, better access to education, better peace of mind.
But implemented poorly, virtual care can just as easily create new barriers to accessibility, raise questions of data security and privacy, and increase patient administrative burden.
How can we ensure a positive patient experience? The importance of Human-Centered Design — driven by what the patient wants, not what the organization wants — was loud and clear at every event. What do patients truly value and desire? Designing toward that goal will distinguish tools that truly support patients from those that just get in the way.
Also, as user-friendly as the technology may be, patients will be hesitant to adopt it if they don’t trust how it is being used. A selling point of virtual care platforms is the integration of multiple data sources to drive patient adherence and provider visibility. But many patients want to know what is included in their data and who has access to it.
In a HIMSS panel titled “How Global Health Systems Are Raising the Bar on Virtual Care, ” Brad Reimer, CIO at Sanford Health stated, “Letting patients control what data they want monitored and what they don’t, and letting them know how that data is being used will help build the trust level.” As always, transparency will be key.
Most importantly, closing longstanding care gaps will require virtual care to be accessible to all populations, no matter who they are or where they live.
In the aforementioned HIMSS panel, Shannon Crotwell, program coordinator at Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart and Vascular Center discussed how they evolved their Perfect Care remote patient monitoring and virtual care program to be more accessible to all patients. After initially relying on Internet-connected devices, they moved to cellular networks to facilitate better access for patients in rural areas.
"I would say one of the biggest learnings that we had over the four year journey of launching this is just the feasibility of what works for one is not going to work for all," Crotwell said. "You have to have that custom package."
Crotwell and her fellow panelists agreed that, when patients can access technology in the manner that works best for them, the impact on their mental health is considerable. Knowing you can easily reach your care team and get answers to questions you didn’t ask in the office reduces anxiety on the road to recovery.
Crotwell and her team at Atrium Health have seen tremendous results with the Perfect Care program, driven by Carium’ s end-to-end virtual care platform. They’ve reduced 30-day readmissions by 40% and the average length of stay by a day. And more importantly than any statistic, they can rest assured that their patients feel truly cared for.
Delivering Immediate and Reliable ROI
Despite the clear potential of virtual care, first-generation telemedicine didn’t necessarily get off to the best start in the eyes of many care team members.
Limited point solutions were rushed to
market to solve specific problems, and they rarely worked well with each other. Plus, electronic health records, marketed as an improvement over traditional paper records, ultimately led to an overwhelming granularity of documentation. Care teams now spend more time entering data than ever before.
If that was the ultimate result of the last wave of digital healthcare solutions, wouldn’t you be skeptical of the next wave? Many burned-out care teams are convinced more technology will only make their jobs harder. That means vendors have to do a better job of delivering truly helpful solutions — and generating tangible and immediate ROI.
That was the cold, hard truth presented in many conversations throughout event season. While the patient experience will always be top of mind, these challenging economic times mean that any decision to spend money must come with a guaranteed return.
A comprehensive virtual care platform can deliver on all of the above — a human-centered patient experience that reduces the burden on short-staffed care teams and boosts an organization’s bottom line. Want to know how? Download our overview of five key business drivers you should consider when planning your health tech strategy.