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AI Adoption Growing Rapidly Among Health Industry Leaders


Survey respondents estimate their organizations will invest an average of $39.7M over the next five years.

artificial intelligence

Confidence and investment in artificial intelligence (AI) to improve healthcare remain high, according to a new survey of 500 U.S. health industry leaders from hospitals, health plans, life sciences, and employers, on their attitudes and adoption of the technology.

The second OptumIQ Annual Survey on AI in Health Care reveals a shift in funding expectations for AI-related projects, as leaders estimate their organizations will invest an average of $39.7 million over the next five years––$7.3 million more than last year’s estimate. 

Compared with 2018 findings, this year’s results found a nearly 88% increase in the number of respondents who said their organizations have a strategy in place and have implemented AI.

“These findings validate that AI is vital to holistically transform healthcare. It’s encouraging to see executives’ growing trust in, and adoption of, AI to make data more actionable in making the health system work better for everyone,” says Dan Schumacher, president and chief operating officer of Optum, an information and technology-enabled health services business. “Working together, I am confident we can improve the quality, experiences, and reduce the total cost of healthcare in meaningful, sustainable ways.”

Here are the main findings of the survey:

• A positive return on investment (ROI) will take less time than previously expected, as little as three years in some cases. Half (50%) of respondents expect to see a tangible cost savings in three years or less as a result of investing in AI, compared with 31% in 2018. Among the respondent groups, more hospitals (55%) and health plans (52%) expect to see a positive return in three or fewer years, while life sciences executives (38%) anticipate it taking five years or longer.

Implementation has advanced. Sixty-two percent of respondents report having implemented an AI strategy––an increase of nearly 88% from 2018 (33%)––while 22% report being at late stages of implementation.

Related:The Limits Of AI In Healthcare

 • A higher level of trust in AI for administrative over clinical applications. While most respondents indicated high levels of trust in AI for both clinical and administrative tasks overall, when asked to rank specific applications, more administrative applications were selected (62%) over clinical applications (38%). In addition, when asked which healthcare applications, if any, they would feel comfortable having AI technology support, four out of five of the top-ranked applications were administrative.

Administrative process improvements top the list of investment priorities. Half (50%) of organizations will invest first in automating business processes, such as administrative tasks or customer service, while more than a third (36%) will invest in personalizing clinical care recommendations, such as drug therapies, and the same percentage (36%) also will invest in accelerating research for new therapeutic or clinical discoveries.  

AI seen as most pragmatic for non-clinical applications

In addition to noting the growing value of AI in the clinical environment, healthcare executives are looking to AI to solve a variety of operational and administrative challenges, such as automating pre-authorizations and personalizing care. The top five areas that organizations see AI as having potential are:
• 51% to automate prior authorizations
• 47% to provide individuals with relevant health actions using personalized communications
• 45% to manage electronic health records (EHRs)
• 43% to detect fraud, waste, or abuse in reimbursement
• 38% to select appropriate care settings

AI to create more employment opportunities

As more organizations move forward with implementations, half (52%) of leaders expect AI to create more work opportunities. The majority (87%) agree that hiring candidates who have experience working with AI technology is a priority for their organization. 

Most (89%) also agree employees are not being trained quickly enough to keep up with the growth of AI. In fact, 91% estimate that 10%-50% of new roles will require experience working with AI. To solve this, they are evenly split among solutions such as establishing partnerships, creating training programs, working with consulting firms, and postponing projects.

“In order to transform and modernize the U.S. health system through the power of AI, it is critical that organizations invest in developing talent throughout the enterprise to solve healthcare’s most complex challenges,” says Steve Griffiths, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Optum Enterprise Analytics. “At Optum, we apply what we call OptumIQ­­––a distinctive combination of curated data, analytics and healthcare expertise–– to drive that intelligence transformation.” 

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