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Survey: Broad Usage of AI in Healthcare Still Two to Five Years Out

October 13, 2017
by Heather Landi
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Roughly 48 percent of healthcare organizations currently use clinical intelligence solutions, but most healthcare organizations predict broad usage of artificial intelligence won’t happen for another two to five years, according to a HIMSS Analytics 2017 Essentials Brief.

HIMSS Analytics is the market intelligence and research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and its latest Essentials Brief details a clinical and business intelligence study. The study, based on data from the HIMSS Analytics LOGIC Health IT Market Intelligence Platform and responses from a web-based survey, highlights current market adoption of analytic solutions across the entire U.S. healthcare market and reveals where these organizations are focusing their analytical efforts.

According to the report, as the adoption of IT solutions have accelerated across the healthcare landscape so too has the need for solutions to collect, analyze and display the data that comes with it. Clinical and financial business intelligence solutions have become essential to healthcare organizations in the move from volume to value-based care and in the development of new models of care, such as precision medicine. However, despite the obvious need for these solutions many organizations have yet to adopt specific solutions that focus on clinical, financial and operational analytics.

The current adoption rate of analytic platforms to address clinical needs stands at roughly 48 percent of the U.S. hospital market, up slightly from 46 percent in 2016 and nearly 6 percentage points from 42 percent in 2015, according to the report.

Many healthcare organizations have been focused on implementing electronic health record (EHR) solutions as mandated by the government in the HITECH Act contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which could factor into the slow adoption rate of clinical analytic solutions, the report notes. Many of those organizations are now in a state of catching up from a clinical standpoint.

“The use of clinical intelligence solutions across the U.S. hospital market is steadily increasing and as organizations become more sophisticated from an IT standpoint it is expected their analytical capability will move in lockstep,” the report states.

While leveraging clinical analytics to meet Meaningful Use (MU) requirements and reporting remains the primary area of focus (nearly 70 percent of respondents), there has been an increase in the focus on population health year over year from roughly 20 percent in 2016 to 30 percent in 2017.

The current adoption rate of business intelligence solutions stands at roughly 62 percent of the U.S. hospital market.

This past March, HIMSS Analytics also conducted a health IT indicator study focused on artificial intelligence in healthcare. While, in many cases, AI is already being used in newer solutions and applications being introduced to the healthcare market, AI has yet to take hold across healthcare organizations on a broader scale. According to the previous online study, respondents indicated AI has the most potential to initially impact healthcare in clinical areas, such as population health (24 percent), clinical decision support (20 percent) and patient diagnosis (20 percent).

Looking at the timeframe for broad usage of AI in healthcare, most study respondents (48 percent) indicated their organization may look to leverage AI somewhere between two-to-five-years from now, highlighting the fact that AI is not necessarily on their strategic roadmap at this point. Only about 5 percent of respondents said they are already using AI, and about 11 percent indicated they plan to use AI within the next 12 months. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they were unsure when they expected their organizations to use AI.

“There is currently a limited level of usage, potentially by more sophisticated organizations that are typically early technology adopters, in addition to a high level of uncertainty from less sophisticated organization,” the report states.

Examining the barriers to adoption of AI, nearly 40 percent of respondents who are not currently using AI feel that the technology is still in development stage. And, even if the development occurs, many organizations may not know how to apply the technology, as 23 percent of respondents cited unproven business cases as a barrier to adoption. About 20 percent of respondents cited infrastructure constraints, 18 percent said one barrier is that clear and present opportunities are hard to understand and 18 percent cited the current state of their organization’s data integration as a barrier.

Among those organizations currently leveraging AI, respondents cited similar barriers for adoption of AI in the healthcare industry. Respondents believe the technology needs further development and opportunities on how to apply it to healthcare are difficult to understand.

The report concludes that the first phase of IT adoption across the healthcare market is over and the second phase has begun. “Organizations are becoming more sophisticated on how they approach IT implementation to address not only immediate needs but future needs as well. Included in this second phase is leveraging analytical platforms to manage the clinical, financial and operational data and to make it actionable to the benefit of the clinicians, the patients and the organization,” the report stated.

The report also noted that the market has a long way to go until a higher level of analytics maturity is achieved, “but with continued data governance efforts and the implementation of analytics platforms to address emerging areas such as AI, healthcare organizations are moving in the right direction.”


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