by Anna Elliott
Volume 9, Issue 6, March 22, 2022
The pandemic brought rapid and tremendous disruption to the healthcare industry, forcing the healthcare ecosystem to account for new pressures and challenges. The disruption also compelled many companies to halt or slow their short- and long-term plans and evaluate what they could do better and how they could achieve the improvements needed to support a struggling healthcare system.
As we transition out of the pandemic or continue to learn how to live with COVID-19, now is the time for healthcare providers and medical device companies to shift from responding to the pandemic to recovering from it. Organizations and companies that understand this evolving demand curve will need to substantially change the way they plan strategically, and that includes incorporating virtual components or expanding their usage of these solutions. What is apparent is that the recovery from the pandemic will be partly — if not heavily — fueled by the development and integration of new technologies, particularly those powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
I recently returned from the annual HIMSS conference. This meeting further reinforced my belief that AI, machine learning, natural language processing, and other like technologies are and will be dramatically reshaping the healthcare industry. While in attendance, I witnessed some incredible developments that were not possible even just a few years ago.
Here are 10 of the key takeaways concerning recent AI trends and developments.
The transformative potential of this technology to automate and optimize business processes in healthcare is more significant than in most other sectors.
AI also increases the ability for healthcare professionals to better understand the day-to-day patterns and needs of the people they care for. With that understanding, healthcare professionals can provide their patients with better and more timely feedback, guidance, and support for staying healthy.
AI solutions are providing the ability for healthcare organizations to rapidly analyze vast amounts of historic patient data. This data then allows for real-time support to clinicians to improve identification of at-risk and higher-risk patients and populations.
We are seeing silos coming down concerning interoperability in data sharing. This will inevitably help create new AI tools and allow us to solve longstanding problems throughout the ecosystem.
As the usage of AI and other similar technologies expand and decisions based upon AI decisions take on a greater role in influencing and impacting people's lives at scale, it is crucial for organizations to take a proactive, responsible approach to designing and implementing AI solutions. Architecting and deploying AI models that are trustworthy, fair, and explainable is key.
AI can enable healthcare institutions to produce more with their existing employee base — which is particularly important as organizations struggle with recruitment and retention — by removing inefficiencies in the care process and allowing caregivers to focus on higher-complexity tasks. We are seeing AI solutions improving patient outcomes and claims management.
The emergence of medtech vendors providing enterprises with tools and services has allowed early adopters of AI technologies to effectively move past some of AI's mysteries and instead focus on implementing specific use cases to generate business value. Additional examples of AI applications include clinician workflow optimization and decision support, digital/data security, and disease diagnosis and analysis.
Digital assistants are already experiencing significant usage, such as those leveraging voice technology and natural language processing to transcribe doctor-patient interactions and automatically sync this information with electronic health records. Now we are seeing digital assistants that can suggest medical codes corresponding to the patient visit based on contextual information gathered from the interaction. As the technology behind digital assistants improves, their usage will continue to proliferate.
Some medtech inventors are focused on tackling some of the most challenging problems, such as physician burnout, helping patients outside of business hours, and identifying high-priority patient questions. Expect to hear more about such disruptive technology in the very near future.
Many healthcare institutions are already putting AI into action or at least planning to do so soon. One survey showed that nearly 70% of health systems expect to invest more in AI initiatives within the next few years.
AI and like technologies are here to stay. They will not replace clinical experts, but rather serve as augmentative tools that make clinicians and the delivery of high-quality care more efficient. Healthcare organizations will play a crucial role in fostering innovation in these areas by partnering with companies that are committed to developing automation tools and maximizing the value of clinical data to better inform care decisions for individuals and patient populations.
AI will be expected to drive actions and efficiencies to help with everything from clinical evidence, to speed to market, to commercial decisions. We can expect more deal flow to center around AI as organizations and vendor companies understand and harness AI more effectively on the regulatory and evidence-generation side. We see more private equity investors looking to acquire companies in the AI medtech and digital space and investors expecting to see organizations already investing in or having a plan to incorporate AI into their operations.
To conclude with one of my favorite quotes from the HIMSS meeting: "We focus on return on innovation, not on investment any longer." — Eric Eskioğlu, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Novant Health
Anna Elliott is a Merger and Acquisition / Business Development professional with over 15 years of experience working in high-growth, healthcare technologies with specific experience in Deep Tech, SAAS, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Ambient Solutions, and healthcare companies.
As a specialist in healthcare for her entire career, a key area of expertise for Anna is to appeal to healthcare technology firms and industries that are growing or merging via Mergers + Acquisitions. She is skilled in microtargeting related to needs and opportunities throughout the entire process of business supply and demand. Her successes in this area have led to over $150 million in value to the organizations involved. In short, she is an expert in using technology to identify not only tasks that are at risk of failure but also opportunities that offer rapid, significant gains overall.
Anna furthered her career in M+A when she became a co-founder of a boutique Merger and Acquisition advisory firm in Pittsburgh, M&A Finders, where she found her passion for advocating on behalf of buyers and sellers with their M+A goals. She is excited to bring her skills and network to VERTESS where she has the resources needed to expand her footprint in the healthcare industry.