The Future of Healthcare


Adam Albright, Contributor

We are living in perhaps the most robust era known to date, and many of us don’t even understand the magnitude of it due to the fast-paced environment we live in. What I am talking about is the fourth industrial revolution, the age of digitization.

Sure, we are all aware that technology has grown over the years, but are we truly knowledgeable of the formidable presence it has in our daily lives, as well as the capabilities it possesses?

When I was younger, I thought the advancement of technology was the most fascinating thing. Whether it be a Gameboy SP or the latest version of interactive Wii gaming, it all blew me away how advanced the technology was and how the growth never seemed to come to a halt.

Later in the years after new technology had established itself in society, we started to witness technology become smarter. Automation started taking place wherever possible, virtual reality technologies started to emerge, and new forms of AI such as natural language processing (NLP) started to become a part of our daily lives, whether we knew it or not. Tools like Siri and Alexa have started to become more popular, and the once-believed notion of “big brother” watching over us has started to fade as youth have become more amenable to giving these technologies access to their personal data. Not only are these technologies present in our casual lives, but they have also allowed organizations to help us shop smarter and more efficiently as AI systems track our every click.

So while AI is present in almost every single industry at scale, the burning question is this: Why have we not supported the adoption of artificial intelligence in the healthcare industry, one where if we utilize the tools we can create more access to care and deliver better care all while reducing costs? Well, the immediate answer is that the healthcare industry is much different than others, and the stakes are much higher.

If intelligence has an error and something goes wrong, in any other industry the main negative result is based on convenience factors. In healthcare, on the other hand, we have privacy and lives at stake, and errors can prove to be fatal. According to a survey done by McKinsey & Company, healthcare is the second to last among the nine mainstream industries to adopt artificial intelligence at scale, even though it is expected to reach $19 billion by 2026.

This could be secondary to security concerns, privacy concerns, safety concerns, among others; however, I will be addressing why digital convergence within healthcare will not only be a boom but a necessity. Now, with that being said, I don’t mean to deter anyone away from the adoption of AI in healthcare; rather, I want people to truly understand the benefits it can provide while understanding the priority of safety and security.

Artificial intelligence in healthcare is starting to become more and more prevalent, and people are starting to understand just how revolutionizing the widespread adoption of AI in healthcare can be. Unfortunately, in healthcare, there is a common theme of change fatigue. Both physicians and physician extenders have been pressured with change throughout the years. Whether that be the adoption of NLP tools like Dragon to dictate EMRs, or just the change in electronic medical records themselves, physicians have been expected to deliver great care all while changing their processes.

I believe a great opportunity lives here. I have had the privilege of working alongside some of the best providers in the metro and our country in both emergency medicine and orthopedics. As someone who has been on the front lines, the last thing I want to do is mess up the providers’ processes, as I believe physician autonomy needs to be kept at all costs. But what I do believe is that there is great potential within AI, and if we simply provide physicians and other healthcare professionals the right tools, and the proper ways to adopt AI across the industry, we will reach a better, truly integrated healthcare system and allow our physicians to practice at the very top of their license.

Now that I have introduced my stance, just how much potential is there? According to Huron, Johns Hopkins has started to use augmented reality (AR) within its practice, which itself (AR) is expected to grow to $1.3 billion by 2023.

Students now can practice on an artificial heart through immersive touch and AR without the potential consequence of harming a live patient. These tools are learning opportunities no physician to date has had, and ones that could save thousands of lives.

Not only is AR beneficial for learning, but it has also allowed physicians to see through the lens of, say a rural physician extender, which can increase access to care tenfold all while holding quality intact. The telemedicine industry is expected to reach $130 billion by 2025–just five years from now.

Are we ready? Whether or not we’re ready for AI to penetrate the healthcare industry at scale these changes will not stop and will continue to grow. The best thing we can do? Be prepared, be accepting of the change, and be hungry to guide it in the right direction. After all, humans are still in control, and the choice is ours.