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At Conference, Experts Address Implications of Intelligent Automation in Healthcare

September 13, 2017
by Heather Landi
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In order to address transformative issues in the healthcare industry, healthcare provider organizations, payers and life sciences companies need to be agile, need to drive disruption utilizing technology, and need to be more analytically driven, according to a panel of healthcare industry leaders. During a panel discussion at New York City-based consulting firm KPMG’s Annual NY Health and Life Sciences Summit, which took place at KPMG’s Manhattan office, healthcare industry thought leaders tackled the impact of disruptive technologies, such as intelligent automation and robotics, in healthcare.

Joe Parente, principal at KPMG, kicked off the summit by offering a general overview of the current moment in healthcare and the role that intelligent automation, and even artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, can play to address the most pressing challenges in healthcare. Parente noted that healthcare provider organizations are challenged with tremendous operating pressures with rising costs and shrinking reimbursements. “What will tomorrow’s successful healthcare organization look like? Agile,” he said, noting that adaptability will be critical moving forward.

“This is a time of uncertainty, with regard to legislation, regulations, increasing competition, driving the focus on cost reduction, along with an ongoing shift from volume to value, and improving quality of care and optimizing reimbursement,” he said. To face these challenges, healthcare organizations will need to see disruption as an opportunity, not a threat, and should drive the disruption, he said. “Organizations can use analytics to find variance in clinical process, re-engineer those processes and then use automation to be more efficient,” he said.

During the panel discussion, Lita Sands, an independent and industry consultant, Dusty Majumdar, chief marketing officer at IBM Watson Health and Paresh Shah, M.D., vice chair of quality and innovation in surgery at New York City-based NYU Langone Health gave their perspectives on the current adoption of intelligent automation, robotics and AI in the healthcare space.

Providing the vendor perspective during the panel discussion, Majumdar with IBM Watson noted that AI in healthcare is “red hot.” “In terms of where we see traction, we see a significant amount of traction in imaging. Radiologists, in our experience, they want something like Watson to help them detect that legion or to characterize a nodule that’s in the early stage of cancer. We do see it across imaging, see it across oncology, in terms of being able to stratify the patient with the right clinical trial, and we see it in genomics in terms of linking the mutation profile to the right clinical trial and the right treatment and also some advanced ways of looking at the genomic profile,” he said.

Majumdar’s comments come a week after Stat News published an investigative piece on IBM Watson’s shortcomings, contending that the artificial intelligence supercomputer as not lived up to its potential. As Healthcare Informatics Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal noted in a news story about the Stat News report, the piece examined Watson for Oncology’s use, marketing, and performance in hospitals across the world, from South Korea to Slovakia to South Florida. The in-depth article included interviews with doctors that have deployed Watson at prominent healthcare institutions as well as other healthcare experts—many of whom seem far from thrilled about the results Watson has delivered so far.

Offering the healthcare provider perspective on where intelligent automation and AI are gaining traction, Shah said, “At the very granular, foot-solider level, that’s where it’s the hardest to get some traction because they are so consumed with the day-to-day of what they are doing. Interestingly enough, when a provider sees a tangible benefit, they are ready to adopt it. The hurdle is just getting it to them, to show them that it’s added value. Once they see it, they will take it on,” he said, adding, “Things like decision support, such as, if I’m a radiologist sitting in front of a screen, and I see something, if I could push a button and have it verify what I’m seeing, or push a button and have it give me three ideas that I haven’t even thought of, they love that.”

Shah continued, “Or, if I’m an internal medicine doctor, and I may or may not know what is the best option for treating diabetes for this particular patient. When I graduated medical school, there were only four drugs, outside of insulin, that were used to manage diabetes. Now, there’s a couple of dozen drugs. One of the challenges is that, at the provider level, the actual quantity of the information has expanded so exponentially giving providers a tool or vehicle in which they can access, categorize and curate that information, that is really valuable.”

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