The Future Is Now: Enter Artificial Intelligence for Health Care

Data is a buzzword in the home care space, but using innovative tools to capture, interpret and relay that data will be key for providers across the continuum of care.

Enter artificial intelligence (AI), said leaders in health care innovation during the National Healthcare Innovation Summit on Wednesday in Chicago, regarding managing and making sense of big data.

“When we talk about data and medicine, it’s as if we’re thirsty in a sea of knowledge,” said Dr. Anthony Chang, chief intelligence and innovation officer at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. “There’s an excessive amount of data. By 2020, there will be 200 times the amount of any information that any human can absorb and process.”

The changing regulatory and reimbursement environment demands providers use data to show their value, but with so much data many providers are facing a conundrum.

“How do we take this tremendous amount of disparate data and turn it into knowledge and an intelligence network?” Chang said.

AI, while still in its infancy, is already making notable achievements in the health care landscape by transforming current practice into evidence-based care.

“The future is here,” Chang said, noting that public perceptions of AI are not always accurate, and robots and other technologies are meant to enhance the patient caregiver relationship, not replace it.

“Technology should not be visible [in a medical facility],” he said. “It should be omnipresent and give us the ability to get back in touch with patients again. The only way to do that is to incorporate AI in a creative and innovative way.”

Learning how to interpret big data and apply information gleaned from that data is one of the many capabilities of IBM’s supercomputer known as “Watson.” With the help of such big names as Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, IBM launched Watson Health, the company announced in April. The Boston-based dedicated business unit of IBM aims to take health care analytics to a new level by utilizing Watson to analyze a vast store of data.

Watson is able to provide predictive analytics for big data solutions, which can determine when users might be at most risk for a certain disease, or for hospital readmission, said Robert Merkel, partner and vice president with IBM Watson Group Healthcare Leader.

“A new era has been ushered in cognitive computing,” Merkel said. “And it’s moving quickly, at a breathtaking pace. Watson’s objective is to scale and enhance human expertise.”

Written by Cassandra Dowell