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The Power of Artificial Intelligence During a Crisis

The Power of Artificial Intelligence During a Crisis

artificial intelligence solving COVID problems
Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

Before the coronavirus, we were planning our conference schedule and looking forward to discussing digital health trends and artificial intelligence.  The pandemic has changed the environment and health technology, particularly AI, is at the center of it all.  

AI during COVID-19

AI has been growing in the market but a crisis is accelerating the adoption of AI and how it can help mitigate some of the trauma experienced in healthcare right now.  We are seeing solutions that can determine patterns of this new virus. During a crisis with unknown and rapidly changing variables, the power of technology in healthcare can be a difference-maker.  The goal of AI has always been to enhance efficiency and to mimic human behavior.

What we are seeing across healthcare systems is the rapid response to treating and finding innovation for an unknown quantity.  AI can bridge the gap between what we know and what is unknown to provide predictions and relevant recommendations for handling the crisis.  

These solutions can run the lifecycle from proactive wellness checks, alerting potential cases, diagnosis, treatment, and operational efficiency.  AI can help identify, track, and forecast outbreaks. Turn on the news and you’ve likely seen a heat map of where the virus started and moved. You and other frontline workers were confronted with a rush of patients and had limited ways to diagnose quickly. AI can help give concrete patterns to promptly triage patients correctly.  

The discovery process for drug treatments can be expedited with AI.  Drones can safely deliver medical supplies. Robots can clean hospitals or even deliver medicine.  Clinical support isn’t the only area overwhelmed by the crisis. Hospital operations and administration also are working in overdrive.  AI can automate patient communications, workflows, and process claims.  

With the many positive potential outcomes using AI, also comes scrutiny and skepticism.  Healthcare is known for its human-centered approach. In medical school, you’re taught bedside manner and how to communicate to and with patients. Can technology replace that dialog and empathy? How can you assure patient comfort, access, and care with tech? Is there a trade-off for efficiency and speed? These are some common questions and pushback surrounding AI.   

Human-centered design

I’ve been a tech enthusiast my whole life but my dad is a provider and I understand building tech that includes human-centered design.  In the midst of a crisis, automation can help give a sense of security and sanity. Working with our customers, I saw a shift from providers wanting to use AI to be proactive to needing it to help keep the operations running during a crisis.  

Our flagship product utilizes AI to fill schedule gaps with waiting patients who need care. The product has evolved as health systems and medical groups rely on QueueDr to automate the scheduling and rescheduling of virtual visits to bring patient volume up and keep the lights on. It works simply and in the background, connecting to EMRs via bi-directional API.  When an opening occurs, we find a match and text your patients. They accept via text message and we automatically move the patient in your schedule. 

Our AI model allows you to place your most valuable resource — staff– at the most critical or urgent tasks at hand. It also allows you to operate while under staff shortage, a situation that many find themselves in. Instead of scouring your calendar and looking for gaps and then manually reaching out, imagine if a software could do it using your own rules and data just as you would.  

This notion of being in the right place at the right time and delegating resources to the most critical areas is heightened during COVID-19. Staff shortages during this challenging time mean that AI needs to pick up the slack. There will soon be an influx of patients trying to get care as quarantine ends. Specifically, there will be patients cancelled during COVID-19 who need to be rescheduled, patients with “inessential” appointments, and all the other appointments already scheduled. AI, along with staff, can help solve the operational bottleneck, improving patient access and putting doctors back to work faster.

For example, QueueDr built a free product to quickly move in-person appointments to telemed appointments without staff work. Automation didn’t create a trade-off, doctors are quickly able to ramp up virtual volume, patients are moved to a new platform, and staff are able to focus on the patient experience without wasting their time leaving voicemails.

AI works best when it connects people to make a greater impact. Our goal isn’t to remove humans from the process but to connect people to care faster and let the staff be in the most critical place at the right time. 

From a patient care standpoint, patients want relief and answers from a trusted provider as soon as possible. Patients want to be listened to by staff and treated like a high-end consumer. Utilizing AI allows patients to have that positive experience with quick results and reassurance that they will get to see you sooner rather than later, while enabling staff to focus on the patient. This experience always matters, but during a crisis it takes on a higher meaning.

AI doesn’t displace human interaction, it creates stronger human interaction.