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87% of healthcare informatics leaders are concerned about possible data bias in AI, voicing the need for policies on the ethical use of data and AI

51% say data-driven insights can help reduce disparities in health outcomes by identifying and addressing delays in care delivery

Jun 18, 2024 | 3 minute read

Healthcare informatics leaders live and breathe data. They are galvanized by it because they see its clinical value. They use it to monitor and improve administrative procedures, manage patient demand, improve workflows, and provide clinicians with the data needed to treat patients in a timely, effective, and efficient way. From the results of this year’s Future Health Index (FHI) – an independent annual survey of almost 3,000 healthcare professionals across 14 different countries – it is clear healthcare informatics leaders are looking to digital solutions like AI and generative AI to help mitigate staff shortages and deliver timely high-quality care.

FHI data cut

“In an era where healthcare systems strive for cost savings and more efficient use of limited human resources, AI and generative AI are emerging as powerful allies. By mining the vast informatics datasets that today’s hospitals generate, they can reveal valuable insights in areas such as disease prevention and the social determinants of health, helping to keep patients healthy and preventing hospitalizations, reducing the burden on both clinicians and healthcare budgets,” said Shez Partovi, Chief Innovation & Strategy Officer at Philips. “However, with the promise of AI also comes a clear call-out for a focus on the responsible and ethical use of AI in healthcare.”

Fewer staff, more patients with complex needs

 

Increased patient demand and case complexity means clinicians not only need to see more patients, but they also need to spend more time with each. In the short term, recruiting more clinicians represents a largely insurmountable challenge. There is a worldwide shortage of trained clinicians and burn-out rates in the profession due to excessive workloads are already high. More than four-fifths (82%) of healthcare informatics leaders who responded to the 2024 FHI survey said waits and delays were an issue due to staff shortages. Over two-fifths (41%) said staff shortages were resulting in higher patient-to-staff ratios, with over a third (37%) saying shortages negatively impacted their hospital staff’s work-life balance and increased the chance of staff leaving their hospital (37%).

Virtual care easing staff shortages, expanding specialist care to underserved communities

 

One area of technology that’s having a significant positive impact is virtual care – telecommunication technologies that allow remote patient-to-provider or healthcare professional-to-professional communication – empowering clinicians to work more productively and patients to access care and manage their chronic disease more easily. Over two fifths (41%) of healthcare informatics leaders surveyed said virtual care eased staff shortages by creating new career opportunities for healthcare professionals to work remotely. The same percentage (41%) said virtual care was expanding specialist care to underserved communities. Healthcare informatics leaders who responded to the survey reported medication adherence and chronic disease management as areas where they are leveraging virtual care.

Wealth of data, poverty of insights

 

A typical hospital generates around 50 petabytes of data a year, the overwhelming majority of which is never used.  Some estimates put the amount of unused at around 97%. That does not mean the data contains no useful information. It is simply that tools for extracting meaningful insights from it by conventional means take too long. AI is helping solve that challenge.

Over half (51%) of the healthcare informatics leaders said that data-driven insights can reduce disparities in health outcomes by identifying and addressing delays in care delivery. Many (45%) also identified targeted outreach, tailored intervention, and identification of the social determinants of health as potential benefits – all areas where AI can help generate key insights. The vast majority (92%) of healthcare informatics professionals surveyed are currently investing in generative AI or plan to do so in the next three years. Over half are already using AI for in-hospital patient monitoring (55%) and medication management (50%). In addition, almost half (47%) reported preventive care as one of the main areas where they were using AI for clinical decision support – a clear indication that one of the best ways to mitigate staff shortages is to reduce the need for hospitalizations and acute care. Remote patient monitoring, radiology, and clinical command centers were the leading areas earmarked for AI implementation in the next three years.

Training on real-world data, using AI responsibly

 

Healthcare informatics leaders are not only aware of the power of AI, but they’re also equally aware of the need to use it responsibly. The vast majority (87%) are concerned to some extent about the possibility of data bias in AI applications, with the need for policies on the ethical use of data and AI, together with staff diversity, diverse and representative data collection, and transparency as ways to mitigate it.

Despite early concerns about the use of AI in healthcare, it is clear that clinicians and hospital administrators alike are now realizing its potential to help clinicians do their jobs and address global healthcare challenges, but training AI on real-world data and using it responsibly remains key.  

Visit the Future Health Index 2024 Global Report for more information on healthcare informatics leaders’ insights, together with perceptions from cardiology and radiology leaders across the world.
 

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Kathy O'Reilly--Philips External Relations
Kathy O'Reilly
Philips External Relations
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