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5 min read
Jessica Rengstorf

Artificial intelligence (AI) is fuelling rapid transformation across healthcare, from drug development to patient care. However, many patients remain concerned about how this new technology will impact their care.


Research shows that 60% of Americans would be concerned if their provider relied on AI to diagnose them. The majority also worried about the impact it would have on the patient-provider relationship.


So, how can providers balance AI’s vast potential to accelerate healthcare capabilities with the need to retain patient trust and confidence? The answer lies in a people-centred approach.


People-centred approach for business and patient success


A people-centred approach keeps the focus of any strategy, decision or design on the humans involved. In healthcare, this attitude seems almost second nature: by keeping patients front and centre of any technological progress, providers can ensure they deliver the best and most effective care.


Of course, patients benefit from this approach. Those using patient-centric models are less likely to switch providers and often have fewer visits with physicians. Critically, patients feel more empowered to take charge of their own health.


Meanwhile, this approach also benefits businesses. Research shows that human-centred organisations are ten times as likely to achieve revenue growth rates of 20% or more.


However, in any people-centred AI adoption, we must also consider healthcare professionals who use the technology to guide decisions and develop care plans. From this perspective, AI becomes a tool to empower providers and patients alike.


Empowering health professionals


Globally, healthcare workforces are under pressure. In the UK’s NHS, only a third of staff feel there are enough staff to do their jobs properly. Practitioners must often juggle patient care and treatment with manual tasks such as appointment scheduling and registration.


However, AI provides an opportunity to ease this burden by automating administrative tasks that can take up to 70% of a healthcare practitioner’s time. Studies have suggested that AI could automate as much as 44% of admin work in UK general practices.


By freeing up practitioners in this way, there is an opportunity to spend more time speaking with patients, providing valuable human interaction, empathy and expertise. It allows providers to refocus on the most important aspects of their work.


AI can also support practitioners by analysing X-ray imaging and identifying and diagnosing certain diseases, including some forms of cancer. Beyond diagnosis, emerging technology is also supporting nurses in hospitals to care for patients, electronic health data and remote monitoring cameras can be used to predict emergencies and warn nurses of potential concerns.


Critically, implementing these AI capabilities does not replace the work or responsibility of a health professional. Instead, people and technology can collaborate in harmony, with AI highlighting causes for concern that people can then investigate accordingly. Just as with X-ray machines, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners and any other technology, AI becomes a valuable tool enabling healthcare providers to make more informed decisions. Designed carefully, AI tools can complement the skills, experience and knowledge of practitioners to provide better patient outcomes.


By centring the healthcare professional as the decision-maker and AI as a tool, patients can be offered effective, personalised healthcare that anticipates their needs before allowing for expert, human-led guidance. With more time freed up by automated tasks, practitioners can focus on improving the patient-provider relationship.


Engaging patients to take control


At home, digital tools increasingly empower patients to engage in their own well-being. Accelerated by the pandemic, there has been a growing appetite for wearable devices, virtual consultations and at-home diagnostic tech, many of which give users an insight into their health at any moment. Such technology provides a sense of tangibility, which can also encourage and motivate patients to comply with treatments.


This real-time data can be leveraged in AI-powered apps and algorithms, allowing patients to understand their current health better and become more educated, often empowered by medical expertise shared by these apps.


However, this technology must be seen not as an end solution, but rather a valuable tool for informing decisions and sharing data with health providers. By leveraging this technology, healthcare providers can offer more personalised care based on unique insights from their data. This then leads to better outcomes, more effective treatments and an improved healthcare experience.


The human touch


With its far-reaching capabilities, AI has the potential to impact the role of health professionals by automating several tasks and allowing patients to take an active role in supporting their own health.


However, keeping a ‘human in the loop’ remains critical in all industries, but particularly in healthcare. In response, the role of a healthcare practitioner can pivot, and we can move towards embracing the human element of care. Patients look to healthcare workers for more than diagnoses; they look for empathy, understanding and care.


With this approach, AI and people become collaborators; technology offers a toolset to take care of manual tasks, while providers have more time to nurture relationships with patients, providing the confidence of a caring expert while being supported by innovative tools. Despite being a form of technology itself, AI can in fact stop computers from being in the middle of patients and carers, freeing up space and time for essential human interactions.


There’s no doubt that AI will revolutionise the healthcare industry. However, coupled with a people-centred approach, this technology may allow the people involved more time to provide the critical human touch essential to any effective healthcare system.


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