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Predictions for AI disruption in health tech: Transitioning from defensive to offensive

By Chris Hamilton and Mike Drew

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Odgers Berndtson’s Chris Hamilton and Mike Drew give their predictions for an AI future in health tech.

Healthcare is the largest industry in the US, with hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and health and medical insurance among the top four US industries by revenue.

Even in the UK, where healthcare is largely public, hospitals are the fourth largest industry.

However, despite these industries leading in size and revenue generation, patient satisfaction in both countries is remarkably low; just 29 per cent in the UK and 27 per cent in the US.

Soaring costs, overwhelming demand, and critical challenges resulting in poor satisfaction, make healthcare ripe for AI disruption.

This disruption will ultimately move healthcare from its current state as a disease-driven defensive model, to a health-driven offensive model.

Within this, we see three areas AI will impact first – personalised health, predictive healthcare, and doctor-patient relationships.

Personalised health management

AI will be able to analyse large amounts of patient data, including electronic health records, genetic information, and environmental factors, to identify patterns and trends that are unique to each individual.

Combined with work out routines, daily habits, and nutrition information, physicians will be able to create personalised health plans and treatments.

This shift from reactive disease management to proactive health optimisation will lead to less pressure on healthcare services and help to reduce the cost of healthcare by preventing unnecessary treatments and procedures.

From a business perspective, personalised health will become a convergence point for health and technology.

Incumbent health providers will have some form of personalised health service or product, while health tech start-ups will provide entire offerings around this concept.

Predictive healthcare insights

By analysing patterns and correlations in health data from various sources, AI models will predict potential health risks before they arise, and suggest preventive measures.

Part of this, will include identifying individuals who are at high risk of developing certain diseases and recommend proactive interventions to prevent or delay the onset of the condition.

This will revolutionise early detection and intervention, with healthcare providers intervening before conditions escalate or even emerge in the first place.

As a result, the burden on public health services will reduce, while forcing private health services to adapt business models, and in the US, potentially driving a decline in demand for health insurance.

We’re already seeing the early signs of AI-powered predictive treatments, with the University of Oxford teaching AI systems to identify cardiovascular issues in CT scans and predict complications that could arise from them.

Elevate the doctor-patient relationship

AI will transform the doctor-patient relationship by providing healthcare professionals with real-time patient insights.

Physicians will have access to a holistic view of a patient’s health, including lifestyle choices, health metrics, and historical data.

This will enable personalised treatment plans, and greater patient engagement.

Doctors will be able to allocate more time to patient education and care, while routine monitoring and data-driven alerts will ensure timely interventions, enhancing overall healthcare quality.

‘Virtual wards’ are likely to be among the first beneficiaries of AI.

Combined with remote monitoring, it means patients can recover in their own homes, doctors can provide remote, and therefore faster treatment, ultimately freeing up their time.

With more hours and less time spent on manual searching and documentation, health care professionals will be able to focus on using clinical judgement and patient engagement.

Front line healthcare jobs are likely to become more interesting, making staff happier and more empathetic, creating a more positive experience for patients.

In fact, Tara Donnelly, former chief digital officer at NHSX and NHS England, predicts “doctors are likely to be perceived by patients as more compassionate and showing greater empathy when they are freed from the slavery of constant documentation.”

What does AI mean for healthcare leaders?

For healthcare leaders, AI will require fast-paced adaption and investment in digital transformation, retraining and educating staff, as well as self-education and learning about AI.

Collaboration between private and public healthcare sectors is likely to form the backbone of many AI healthcare solutions, so building partnerships and collaboration will be an essential leadership quality.

We expect the majority of both private and public healthcare leaders will need to adapt and adopt AI swiftly to capitalise on the enormous benefits it will soon bring to the global healthcare industry.

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