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Artificial Intelligence Can Improve Healthcare

Posted on July 20, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

In recent times, there has been a lot of discussion of artificial intelligence in public forums, some generated by thought leaders like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking. Late last year Hawking actually argued that artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race.”

But most scientists and researchers don’t seem to be as worried as Gates and Hawking. They contend that while machines and software may do an increasingly better job of imitating human intelligence, there’s no foreseeable way in which they could become a self-conscious threat to humanity.

In fact, it seems far more likely that AI will work to serve human needs, including healthcare improvement. Here’s five examples of how AI could help bring us smarter medicine (courtesy of Fast Company):

  1. Diagnosing disease:

Want to improve diagnostic accuracy? Companies like Enlitic may help. Enlitic is studying massive numbers of medical images to help radiologists pick up small details like tiny fractures and tumors.

  1. Medication management

Here’s a twist on traditional med management strategies. The AiCure app is leveraging a smartphone webcam, in tandem with AI technology, to learn whether patients are adhering to their prescription regimen.

  1. Virtual clinicians

Though it may sound daring, a few healthcare leaders are considering giving no-humans-involved health advice a try. Some are turning to startup, which offers a virtual nurse, Molly. The interface uses machine learning to help care for chronically-ill patients between doctor’s visits.

  1. Drug creation:

AI may soon speed up the development of pharmaceutical drugs. Vendors in this field include Atomwise, whose technology leverages supercomputers to dig up therapies for database of molecular structures, and Berg Health, which studies data on why some people survive diseases.

  1. Precision medicine:

Working as part of a broader effort seeking targeted diagnoses and treatments for individuals, startup Deep Genomics is wrangling huge data sets of genetic information in an effort to find mutations and linkages to disease.

In addition to all of these clinically-oriented efforts, which seem quite promising in and of themselves, it seems clear that there are endless ways in which computing firepower, big data and AI could come together to help healthcare business operations.

Just to name the first applications that popped into my head, consider the impact AI could have on patient scheduling, particularly in high-volume hostile environments. What about using such technology to do a better job of predicting what approaches work best for collecting patient balances, and even to execute those efforts is sophisticated way?

And of course, there are countless other ways in which AI could help providers leverage clinical data in real time. Sure, EMR vendors are already rolling out technology attempting to help hospitals target emergent conditions (such as sepsis), but what if AI logic could go beyond condition-specific modules to proactively predicting a much broader range of problems?

The truth is, I don’t claim to have a specific expertise in AI, so my guesses on what applications makes sense are no better than any other observer’s. On the other hand, though, if anyone reading this has cool stories to tell about what they’re doing with AI technology I’d love to hear them.

Putting Paper Charts into Perpsective

Posted on June 6, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

It was with a sigh of relief that the nurse at my daughters’ new pediatrician’s office handed me my youngest’s immunization records just minutes after I requested them. This was her first well visit at the new doctor’s office, and I wasn’t sure how easily everything would transfer over from her previous doctor. Thankfully, the nurse was able to pull them up within seconds via their EMR, and I was happy to see they were in a format I could easily understand. The fact that my youngest had previously seen a pediatrician within the same health system certainly helped record retrieval.

I had to jump through quite a few hoops to make sure my oldest’s were faxed from the old provider to the new provider. Consent and release forms had to be filled out and faxed. Multiple phone calls had to be made to each provider. It was just so time consuming! Oh, how I look forward to the days when health information exchange can make this process a little easier.

For all the complaining and nit picking I might do when it comes to the absence, delayed use  or misuse of electronic medical records, I (and pretty much everyone else in a first-world country) really have no reason to bellyache. This realization was driven home when I came across a recent Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog by Orin Levine. The title, “Records for Life: Saving Lives by Design,” made me think I was about to read an opinion piece of the importance of user experience in EMRs. The subject turned out to be much simpler, and so much more important, than my initial impression.

Levine, who provided aid in refugee camps while working for the CDC some years ago, was astounded that more than 60% of parents in the camps had their children’s paper health record with them. “What struck me was that these mothers and fathers,” he writes, “who were able to bring so little with them when they fled their homes, chose the child health record as one of the few possessions to take.”

His observation certainly puts things into perspective. How many of us would grab the folder filled with our children’s medical history, rather than the scrapbooks gathering dust in some rarely opened chest? Many of us, I’m sure, would assume these records are resting safe somewhere in the cloud, waiting to be accessed at our convenience.

Things aren’t so simple in other parts of the world, and it comes as no surprise that developing countries still rely on paper charts.

“These cards are particularly important in the developing world,” Levine explains, “where electronic health record systems are almost non-existent. Historically, these cards have been developed for national immunization programs by health care providers who have little, if any, design experience to maximize the cards’ utility.”

Perhaps the next time we watch our providers suffer through an extra mouse click, or toggle back and forth between screens, we can remind ourselves – and them – how fortunate we are to be receiving care with a roof over our heads and records at our fingertips.


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is launching an international contest to redesign the child health record. Guidelines for the contest are available here.

Bill Gates Puts a New Spin on the Great EMR Debate

Posted on May 13, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

I heard an interesting interview on NPR the other day with Bill Gates on the subject of polio eradication. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been working for a number of years now on the effort, and are intent on seeing that no child ever becomes paralyzed as a result of the disease. The interview got me thinking about money, as NPR host Robert Siegel grilled Gates about the cost of this hopefully final vaccination push in the three countries that still show cases of it each year – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

According to Gates, a nice tidy sum of $5.5 billion will be necessary to vaccinate enough children to finally push out the disease. The question arose as to whether or not this money will be spent wisely. Could it be put to better, more effective use fighting other healthcare conditions, such as malaria, that affect greater numbers of people? Gates made the point that once polio is eradicated, the enormous amount of money already being spent on fighting it can then be spent on these other issues – a statement that to me didn’t seem to sit well with Siegel.

Now, if you’re in healthcare, chances are money crosses your mind a few times a day. And if you use an EMR, you’ve likely voiced an opinion or two on whether it has lived up to its promised value. I think Gates’ point above on cost effectiveness of disease eradication – the most expensive disease gets eradicated first to free up its funds for other healthcare causes – can be applied to the EMR ROI debate.

Yes, healthcare is expensive. Yes, current and possibly future EMRs may not have the best interfaces or give the ideal user experience. But, given time (perhaps a lot of time), they will ultimately help springboard immense cost savings throughout the industry. I consider them the backbone of interoperability, especially when it comes to health information exchange and accountable care – two notions that might just become the norm once EMR utilization finally reaches critical mass.

Stage 2 Meaningful Use will likely see a shift in the market, and from what I’ve read thus far, is causing providers to think about Meaningful Use in a new way. It might be a hiccup in this journey to cost savings, but it will likely separate the wheat from the chaff as far as vendors go. Hopefully, only effective products will be left standing, which will in turn make it easier for providers to use EMRs in the most effective way.

Money will of course be on everyone’s minds at the upcoming HFMA ANI show in Orlando. This has got to be one of my favorite events as it is smaller than HIMSS but still has that bustling, breaking news vibe. I’ll be interested to hear from providers their opinions on the recent push for greater price transparency when it comes to hospital costs, and how they are feeling about EMRs as of late. It will also be interesting to see how vendors are helping these providers meet Stage 2 and patient engagement head on.

Will you be at the ANI show? Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know what you’re looking forward to learning about or seeing the most.

Bill Gates Talks About Electronic Medical Records and Healthcare

Posted on August 20, 2009 I Written By

From an Interview with Bill Gates of Microsoft. Some of his views about electronic medical records and healthcare. See complete article.

Mr. Gates was also critical of the United States government’s unwillingness to adopt a national identity card, or allow some businesses, like health care, to centralize data-keeping on individuals. “It has always come back to the idea that ‘The computer knows too much about you,’ ” he said. The United States “got off to a bad start” when it comes to using computers to keep data about its citizens, he said. Doctors are not allowed to share records about an individual patient, and virtual doctor visits are banned, he said, which “wastes a lot of money.” The United States “had better come up with a better model” for health care, he said.

I agree and disagree with Mr. Gates. We need more data sharing and more interoperability BUT confidentiality IS an important issue. Just look at how the drug tests became public about Major League Baseball Players when they were PROMISED it would be strictly confidential!!!! I don’t trust big government or big business. Question: How do you tell an attorney or politician or corporate executive are lying? Answer: Their lips or moving or their fingers are typing!

We have to make sure medical information about individuals remains confidential and remains in the control of the individual.