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Report: Healthcare Industry in Midst of Digital Revolution

June 24, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Healthcare executives expect that, within the next three years, their industry will need to focus as much on training machines as they do on training people, according to a new report by the New York City-based Accenture.

The industry report, “Accenture Healthcare Technology Vision 2015,” is based on a survey of 601 doctors, 1,000 consumers and 101healthcare executives, and highlights emerging technology trends that will affect the health industry in the next three to five years. Roughly four-in-five (84 percent) health executives agree or strongly agree that their industry will need to focus as much on training machines—such as using algorithms, intelligent software and machine learning—as they do on training people in the next three years. In fact, most of those surveyed (83 percent) agree that provider organizations, driven by a surge in clinical data, will soon need to manage intelligent machines as well as employees.

Intelligent machines will also support the surge in health data from various disparate sources, such as diagnostic tests, internet-connected devices, genomics and medical records. In fact, access to large volumes of new patient data is driving some challenges, as the survey found 41 percent of health executives said their data volume has grown more than 50 percent last year. This data explosion, accompanied by advances in processing power, analytics and cognitive technology, is fueling smarter software that makes it easier to turn big data into better decisions and better healthcare. Approximately half of the healthcare executives surveyed said they use rule-based algorithms (59 percent of respondents), machine learning (52 percent), intelligent agents (49 percent) and predictive analytics (45 percent) to infuse intelligence into systems.

Beyond turning massive amounts of new data into insights, this wave of new technology will create a single platform for data generated by patients, doctors and clinicians. Patient-generated data is already demonstrating benefits among health executives, as nearly three-fourths (73 percent of respondents) have seen positive ROI from their investment in these technologies, such as wearables tracking an individual’s fitness and vital signs. In addition, Accenture found that most physicians (85 percent) believe that wearables improve a patient’s engagement with their own health, while three-fourths (76 percent) of patients believe that wearables have the potential to help them better manage their health and potentially improve it. This is also why health monitoring is the top reason more than half (54 percent) of patients use smartphone applications.

“As the digital revolution gains momentum, doctors and clinicians will use machines to augment human labor, personalize care and manage more complex tasks,” Kaveh Safavi, M.D., who leads Accenture’s health business, said in a statement. “The digital revolution is also creating a data goldmine that can spark medical breakthroughs and improve individualized treatment plans.”

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