Digital Salutem
25 July 2017

Solving Healthcare’s Biggest and Least Sexy Problems

By João Bocas


Unlike clinical issues, inefficiency and waste are often overlooked because it’s complicated and “unsexy”. These operational issues however could be the biggest lever for fixing healthcare, decreasing its cost and enhancing the patient experience.

But…. Tackling these issues is difficult. Hospitals are unpredictable, and complex organizations. Where data and information were supposed to help, they didn’t as much as they were supposed to. With the massive amount of information involved, the standard reports and dashboards it hardly became any easier or more practical.

How can we expect busy nurses and doctors to make sense of dashboards in high-pressure moments and figure out what decision to make? It’s unreasonable and impossible.” – (Mudit Grag, 2017)

That is where AI kicks in. Could AI solve these big but ‘unsexy’ problems?

ai and people

As many believe predictive analysis makes for success, this could be the key. However, predictions are hard to interpret. In all busyness, which action should be taken to prevent chaos?

To increase efficiency and decrease waste, tools should be able to evaluate possible interventions and suggest data-validated, real-time course corrections.

“Let’s say that a nurse reviews a report indicating that, the day before, a toddler had her surgery canceled due to lengthy delays in the OR. This insight is meaningless because it’s too late to fix the situation. AI can predict potential scheduling conflicts in the operating room, or flag when a delay is likely. It instantly identifies the best option and then prompts the nurse to take the specific action needed to prevent the cancellation. This way, better decisions are made and issues can be dealt with before they even arise.”(Mudit Grag, 2017)

Using AI has already displayed a 25% reduction in same day surgery cancellations in a leading academic children’s hospital and a 20% reduction in waiting time for a doctor in a low-performing emergency department. Concluding that using AI could eliminate cost and enhance patient experience.

The same can be said for the new Google Glasses. The Glass Enterprise Edition, launched last weeks, has proven great succes.

Glass Enterprise Edition amps up the wearable’s initial capabilities. It allows users to “[a]ccess training videos, images annotated with instructions, or quality assurance checklists that help [people] get the job done, safely, quickly and to a higher standard,” according to the Glass website. By utilizing Glass and a “remote scribe” application from Augmedix, providers can have more direct contact with their patients. They simply wear the device and instead of taking notes themselves, they can have confidence that all the record keeping is being done for them.” – (Erin Dietsche, 2017)

Google glasses healthcare

This technology reduces the time doctors and nurses spend on administrative work from 33% to 10%. Leaving more time to spend on the patient.  Dr. Albert Chan at Sutter Health states it “brought the joys of medicine back to my doctors”. It lets them focus on the patient rather than the technology.

This all comes down to one thing. To have big impact, we should look at the small things. Day-to-day actions, when improved all together, can have a massive impact. It is crucial to equip all healthcare staff with the best tools to do their job. Therewith

AI and wearables like Google Glass can change the healthcare landscape drastically. Together they can solve these ‘unsexy’ issues and make medicine about medicine again.


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