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Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a highly talked about, yet loosely defined, construct that’s rapidly evolving industries and businesses across the globe. The true definition the term is widely debated, but in the simplest of terms, AI refers to the ability of a device or machine to engage human-like thought processes, including reasoning, learning, planning and problem-solving. In the field of healthcare, AI’s potential impact has vital implications on patient outcomes and experience.

By and large, the delivery of medical care is where AI’s potential is truly life-altering. In the field of robotics, for example, AI-assistance is being used to improve surgical accuracy for fewer complications and readmissions. Robotics already has an advantage in complex surgeries where precision is of the utmost importance to the success of the procedure. Robots can perform the same task repeatedly and measure with distinct accuracy the speed, location and depth at which they operate. With AI introduced, the smart technology behind the robotic devices can analyze surgical performance compared to patient outcomes and recommend an improved course of action for future patient procedures.

Radiology and diagnostics are also benefiting from the evolution of AI technology. By compounding results of scans across the nation, AI-led algorithms can detect and diagnose hundreds of diseases from imaging technology at an exponentially faster and more accurate rate than humans. This technology not only saves valuable time in transitioning a patient from diagnosis to treatment, but also dollars and stress associated with increased testing, misdiagnosis and unnecessary medical procedures.

From an operational perspective, AI has also improved customer service and administrative functions. Chatbots, computer programs that simulate human communication, are helping to solve one of the more frustrating components of patient experience – ease and speed of access to health information. Simple chatbots can be programmed to respond to users on social media and websites to answer common questions such as insurances accepted, hours of operation and location. More sophisticated chatbots can book appointments, answer questions about drug interactions and remind patients to complete remote testing or take medication. Pushing the boundary, even more complex chatbots are in development that simulate actual patient appointments, providing medical information and therapeutic treatment.

Based in New York, healthcare provider Northwell Health has adopted chatbots that engage patients post-discharge, leading to higher levels of engagement, improved post-discharge care and higher attendance of follow up appointments. In addition to better patient outcomes and experiences, this has created financial benefits for the system, reducing lost revenue typically associated with re-admissions and appointment no-shows.

In the office setting, AI is also enhancing physician-patient interactions. Voice-to-text technology can dictate physician notes, conversations and recommendations, and even fulfill actions such as ordering medication. This technology can increase the amount of documented medical information for improved future medical interactions and save physicians significant time associated with paperwork, allowing physicians to spend more time focused on the delivery of medical care.

In these applications and beyond, AI’s potential is equally weighted with its challenges. Namely, confidence in the accuracy of machine-led activity and then, data. Data is a dynamic circumstance within itself, and it’s within data where the most significant AI-driven marketing opportunities lie in wait.

Data is the powerhouse behind other consumer-focused industries’ achievements in revolutionizing the customer experience. One key example – Netflix. Each subscriber’s home screen is tailored to display programming recommendations based on viewing and browsing history. By capturing relevant information about consumer’s preferences and behaviors, savvy brands are creating personalized experiences that deliver desired content to individuals’ literal and digital fingertips. This type of experience is what emerging consumers not only prefer, but expect.

What’s preventing the healthcare industry from capitalizing on this expectation is the compilation and privacy of data. Hospitals and medical providers have more data available than most industries. Each person, every patient, has records upon records of documented information related to their lifestyle, family history, health, habits and behaviors. Yet, due to late onset of electronic health records and limited integration between systems, each patient has pieces of that data housed at dozens of doctors’ offices from care received throughout their life. More recently, some of that data may have been digitized. But even then, the likelihood of a patient’s complete history being consolidated to one location is minimal for anyone over the age of 5. Privacy is a significant concern as well. HIPAA regulates how data is used and IT infrastructure is needed to protect that information.

Both of these data-driven sensitivities are completely valid and, also, completely conquerable with strategic intent, time and resources. The sooner healthcare firms place specific emphasis on data integration, the sooner the industry can truly embrace AI and provide a patient experience that mirrors the expectations of the dominant consumer.

Leading brands have already taken specific steps, such as Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, who’s expanding a relationship with leading health information and EHR provider Cerner to create a more robust patient experience. As the economy continues to move towards an experience-based value model, brands like Sharp who prioritize patient experience will continue to gain market traction while those who don’t risk marketplace irrelevancy.

In the meantime, healthcare marketers can still be aware of how AI is altering consumer behavior and expectations. For example, enhancing SEO strategies to account for the growing use of voice-enabled devices, implementing email segmentation and content strategies to deliver HIPAA-safe yet personalized content, implementing Facebook chatbots to enhance customer service, and buying digital media based on psychographics and behavior rather than on demographics alone.

To learn more about artificial intelligence capabilities in healthcare response marketing in the short and long-term, contact Orange Label today.

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As Orange County’s longest-standing, privately held response marketing agency, we have witnessed dynamic shifts in the world of marketing. Through it all, we have ensured our clients stay at the forefront of communication and technology, driving response and value with every new endeavor.