AI for health care: Supporting providers in delivering better care

Artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous potential to transform health care over the next decade. There is anticipation building that the financial impact could be remarkable, with one study estimating $52 billion in savings across health care by 2021. The impact on areas of disease diagnosis, patient treatment and health care operations is equally promising.

Capitalizing on those promises requires more than massive datasets and high-powered technology with AI. Success will only come if we apply AI to solve real health care problems: practical applications that automate repetitive tasks, connect patient data and remove inefficiencies can improve a patient’s health care experience and augment the way that providers deliver care.

For example, Optum is involved in a project that tests AI as a tool to aid in a specific disease diagnosis. Our goal is to predict which patients are more likely to have undiagnosed atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Our team partnered with WestMed Medical Group to develop an AI model that evaluates health insurance claims, clinical data and five years of electronic medical records. Then, we applied the model to a sample population of 1,000 patients. It detected 70 percent of the people who had in fact developed AFib.

Our next step in the project is to study how effective the model is at identifying patients likely to experience AFib. If successful, that opens the door for clinicians to provide proactive care, address situational risk and reduce patients’ chances of developing the condition.

Not that there won’t be challenges. We know it can be difficult for a doctor, nurse or allied health professional to trust a machine’s cognitive capabilities. That’s one reason I am so proud of the Optum investment in AI: We work with a highly skilled team of multi-disciplinary experts and customers, who help us focus on practical, proven applications of advanced analytics. AI is a collection of tools that can make health care more efficient and advance the practice of medicine. It’s not a magic wand to solve every problem.

AI’s real power comes from how people incorporate the technologies into their day-to-day work. You can read more about how we are using AI to solve some of health care’s biggest challenges in a recent conversation I had with Business Insider.


About the author:

Steve Griffiths Headshot

Steve Griffiths, PhD, MS
Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer
Optum Enterprise Analytics

Steve Griffiths has more than 20 years’ experience in health analytics management, and currently heads up the Optum Enterprise Analytics organization. His main focus is driving growth and innovation through Optum products and services. Steve has a master’s degree in biostatistics from the University of Washington and a PhD in health services research, policy and administration from the University of Minnesota.

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