Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next wave of revolution in the medical health care industry. The wide scale use of AI had been relatively limited until now, mainly due to the shortage of high computing power and advanced processors. AI used to be mainly limited to supercomputers for research processes rather than being available for the mainstream industry. But now that we have access to affordable and advanced computing, seamless connectivity and innovative developments in the AI sector, the healthcare industry stands on the verge of a revolution. Many visionary companies employing AI applications have already been a part of a funding and major M&A activities across the globe. All such startups and health firms have one objective in common- to implement a better and more affordable health care system.
The current state of healthcare expenditure
In a recent article published on Forbes, experts noted that the annual cost of healthcare for an American family of four has increased to $25,826 in the year 2016. These stats largely support the contention that most Americans can no longer afford good medical healthcare. The average deductible that workers need to pay before their insurance kicks in has increased from $303 in 2006 to $1,077 presently. In the same time period, the median household income has increased by a mere 0.026% annually. Stats from the Federal Reserve show that from 1973 to 2014, the hourly compensation for workers has increased by only 9.2%.
This unprecedented increase can be mainly attributed to the fact that the HealthCare industry runs on a regulated price system. Unlike other industries, costs cannot be driven down. HealthCare companies face pressure from their stockholders to show continuous growth in revenues and profits in their business cycles. This leads them to increase the cost of their services and the reimbursements by the insurance companies. The health insurers, on their part, pass these increased expenditures to private and public sector employers. And the employers pass these new costs to the employees, who are always on the receiving end of this vicious cycle.
How does AI fit in?
The healthcare sector will be the major employer in the US industry by the end of 2016, accounting for over 19% of our GDP. The major factor of the increasing medical care costs is a large number of the workforce employed. Replacing a large part of skilled and non-skilled manpower by AI applications can prove to be a blessing for us.
Companies and industry leaders need to shift from the conventional view of using AI in medical research, management and other background tasks to using AI as a major backbone of the workforce in the healthcare sector. The most obvious fear of many medical professionals is that they will lose their jobs if any such implementation of AI is carried out in the industry. This proves to be a major hindrance in the future plans for decreasing healthcare costs. And pioneers in the AI field like IBM realize this and are taking steps to work in collaboration with the medical professionals, rather than independent of them.
AI needs to be implemented as a basic aid for the skilled workforce before we proceed to a state when a new paradigm of healthcare industry can operate largely on an independent basis. And this is a major step that the industrial and political leaders need to stress on equally in order to achieve the last leg of the Triple Aim - to decrease the cost of health care. Otherwise, in the future, we will see the average costs of healthcare rising well above what even a financially well-off American can afford.