Sunday, June 23, 2024

Telemedicine, enabled with responsible AI, can improve the patient experience

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In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, the integration of virtual care has become pivotal in reshaping patient experiences.

Amanda Bury, chief commercial officer at Infermedica, a digital health company specializing in AI-powered systems for symptom analysis and patient triage, knows telehealth’s potential to enhance and optimize patient experiences and outcomes while emphasizing convenience, affordability and empowerment – tying in responsible AI innovation and strategies for enhancing engagement.

We interviewed Bury to discuss the aspects of a hospital’s or health system’s patient experience that telemedicine can touch, how telehealth can improve these aspects of the patient experience, innovation in telemedicine with responsible AI that can enhance patient engagement, and her definition of responsible AI and why responsible AI is so important.

Q. What aspects of a hospital’s or health system’s patient experience can telemedicine touch?

A. While the concept of the digital front door has been a popular topic in healthcare for some time, telemedicine has the potential to expand its impact beyond simply acquiring new patients or providing a digital entry point for care.

By leveraging telemedicine to enhance the patient experience, healthcare organizations can create a more comprehensive and integrated approach to care delivery that extends throughout the entire patient journey.

For patients enrolled in chronic disease management programs, telemedicine can be a game-changer. Instead of the time-consuming and often burdensome process of preparing for an in-person appointment, traveling to the clinic, and waiting to see their provider, patients can connect with their care team from the comfort of their own homes.

This increased accessibility can encourage patients to reach out more frequently with questions or concerns, leading to better communication and more timely interventions when needed.

Telemedicine can also help to foster a more personalized and efficient approach to chronic disease management. For example, a patient who has already completed their annual blood work may not require an in-person visit to discuss the results with their provider.

Instead, they could schedule a video call to review the findings, discuss any concerns, and make any necessary adjustments to their treatment plan. This targeted, patient-centered approach can help to optimize care while minimizing disruptions to the patient’s daily life.

By integrating telemedicine into the digital front door strategy and extending its reach throughout the care continuum, healthcare organizations can create a more seamless and engaging patient experience. This approach not only improves access to care but also empowers patients to become more actively involved in managing their health, leading to better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

Q. How exactly can telehealth improve these aspects of the patient experience?

A. Telehealth can significantly improve various aspects of the patient experience – particularly for those with chronic diseases – by focusing on the three essential “E’s” of healthcare: education, experience and empowerment. By providing a more accessible and convenient way to receive care, telehealth removes many of the barriers that can prevent individuals from seeking the care they need.

For example, patients who have difficulty taking time off work, finding transportation, or navigating physical challenges associated with their condition can benefit from the ability to connect with their provider from wherever they are.

It’s also helpful in establishing a more regular cadence of care for chronic disease patients. Ease of access not only encourages more frequent and consistent engagement, which can lead to better long-term outcomes, but also helps to foster a stronger, more positive relationship between the patient, the provider and the health system.

Telehealth can serve as a valuable platform for patient education. During virtual visits, providers can not only address patients’ immediate concerns but also share information about additional resources and services available to them, such as primary care, specialty care or online wellness programs.

By leveraging telehealth to provide more meaningful and comprehensive engagement, healthcare organizations can help patients navigate the complex landscape of chronic disease management more effectively.

In terms of empowerment, telehealth sends a powerful message that the health system is willing to meet patients where they are, both physically and figuratively. By providing patients with the tools and technology to connect with their providers remotely, telehealth encourages patients to take a more active role in their own care.

This patient-centered approach can help to build trust and encourage patients to become more engaged and invested in their own health and wellbeing.

Q. You say innovation in telemedicine with responsible AI can enhance patient engagement. What kinds of innovation are you talking about? How do they boost patient engagement?

A. Responsible AI can play a significant role in enhancing patient engagement within the context of telemedicine by providing personalized guidance and recommendations tailored to individuals’ unique needs and circumstances. One of the primary challenges patients face when considering telemedicine is understanding when and how to use it effectively.

By integrating AI tools into familiar patient-facing technologies, such as patient portals or mobile applications, healthcare organizations can help guide patients toward the most appropriate care options, including telemedicine, based on their specific health profile, medical history and current symptoms.

This personalized approach to patient engagement represents a departure from the traditional “one-size-fits-all” model of care delivery. By leveraging AI to analyze patient data and provide targeted recommendations, healthcare organizations can create a more intuitive and user-friendly experience that empowers patients to make informed decisions about their care.

For example, an AI engine embedded within a patient portal could recognize that a patient has a chronic condition, takes multiple medications and has mobility challenges. Based on this information, the AI could proactively suggest a telemedicine appointment as the first step in addressing the patient’s concerns, helping to streamline the care process and ensure the patient receives the most appropriate level of care.

To effectively boost patient engagement through AI-powered innovations in telemedicine, it is crucial healthcare organizations prioritize the development and implementation of responsible AI systems. This means ensuring AI algorithms are free from biases, have undergone rigorous third-party clinical validation, and are designed to provide clear, transparent and easily understandable recommendations to patients.

By combining the power of AI with a commitment to responsible and patient-centered design, healthcare organizations can create a more personalized, engaging and effective telemedicine experience that meets the evolving needs and expectations of today’s healthcare consumers.

Q. Many companies across the health IT landscape are talking about “responsible AI.” What is your definition of responsible AI and why is this especially important?

A. Responsible AI is a crucial consideration for healthcare organizations looking to leverage the power of artificial intelligence to improve patient care and streamline operations. When evaluating potential AI partners, it is essential to look for companies that have a proven history of success in implementing AI solutions across a wide range of healthcare workflows.

This means seeking out vendors that have not only built their technology on a foundation of AI but also have a significant breadth of customers already using their AI tools in various applications.

One of the most critical aspects of responsible AI is clinical validation. Healthcare organizations should prioritize partnering with companies that have invested in rigorous testing, analysis and validation of their AI algorithms through third-party studies, peer-reviewed journal articles and large-scale data set evaluations.

These validation efforts help to ensure the AI solutions being implemented are safe, effective and dependable, and can demonstrate measurable improvements in care quality, patient outcomes and financial performance.

Another key consideration in responsible AI adoption is the organization’s risk appetite and readiness to embrace AI-powered solutions. Healthcare providers may choose to start with more straightforward operational workflows, such as automating processes within nurse triage lines or contact centers, before gradually advancing to more complex clinical applications.

By taking a phased approach to AI implementation, organizations can build trust and confidence in the technology while minimizing potential risks and disruptions to existing workflows.

When assessing AI vendors, it’s important to look for partners that offer access to sandbox environments where clinicians and other stakeholders can explore the capabilities of the AI solutions firsthand.

These sandbox environments provide a valuable opportunity for healthcare teams to pressure-test the technology, assess its potential impact on their specific workflows, and gain a deeper understanding of how the AI algorithms function.

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