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Augmented intelligence is changing the way we support employees battling cancer

By Lewis Levy, MD, FACP


Technology that has the ability to learn, and then respond based on that learning, is permeating much of our everyday lives. From apps that choose our music and movies based on our past preferences, to batteries that last longer based on how we use them, the benefits of machine learning continue to rise.

However, what should really get benefits professionals excited is the impact of AI on improving care, reducing costs and ultimately supporting life-changing decisions for

their employees. 

Consider the volume and fast pace of change of medical information, studies and research that physicians are expected to keep pace with. One study noted that it would take 29 hours per work day for a physician to stay up to date with the latest medical literature, and that on average, it takes about 17 years for the latest research to be translated into clinical practice. That lag has vast consequences on diagnosis and treatment plans, particularly for the most complex and costly medical cases. 


The Power of augmented Intelligence

While the term artificial intelligence is widely known, it’s the practice of  “augmented” intelligence that is driving value in healthcare. Augmented intelligence is the use of cognitive computing in combination with human expertise to solve problems, and it has tremendous ability to improve outcomes in healthcare. 

How? For one, consider a patient with a cancer diagnosis. How do they verify that not only is the diagnosis they received correct, but that the treatment plan is also the best for their particular case? How can they be sure that every treatment, every clinical trial and every option has been considered by their care team? When you marry augmented intelligence with the accessibility and convenience of virtual care, the possibilities grow.

 Today, virtual care platforms are harnessing the power of cognitive computing to deliver high-quality care anywhere, anytime, while also tackling some of the highest cost drivers in healthcare. Rather than isolated medical opinions or treatment options, these offerings are instantly integrated into the current healthcare ecosystem. Now, there is greater access to best practices, and individuals can get access to the highest-rated physicians, to overcome a host of barriers to quality care. 

Augmented intelligence in virtual care is built around leaving no stone unturned. When an individual wants a careful review of their treatment plan, AI can derive hundreds of attributes from a patient’s electronic health record, including doctors’ notes and lab reports and analyze them using Natural Language Processing technology. When the best human minds in medicine are then interpreting that information into clinical practice, there is a powerful combination that delivers improved health outcomes.

This analysis provides clinicians with confidence-ranked treatment options and supporting evidence that help inform optimal expert second opinions for their patients. Getting the diagnosis right and consequently, administering the right treatment, can help fight the pervasive waste that surrounds care today that negatively impacts clients and their employees. It also means keeping employees present and productive.


What to Consider when incorporating AI

So what should HR and benefits professionals be looking for when integrating the best technologies into their virtual
care platform? 


Quality matters. Those who are able to truly succeed in this area and demonstrate improved outcomes with AI will be those who can successfully integrate AI into an existing virtual care platform that prioritizes medical excellence. Cognitive computing is only as good as the data that goes in and the experts that interpret what comes out. With high quality standards, machine learning can help patients and treating physicians make decisions that lead to quality outcomes.


Build around the best minds in medicine. We continue to see that technology alone is often a commodity, but building around innovators in medicine is the major differentiator. As more employers and health plans turn to AI to help make critical treatment decisions, patients and care providers are finding that these innovative tools must have seamless access to the brightest human minds in medicine to dictate what goes in and how the resulting recommendations are used. Quality in. Quality out.


Personalization counts. A resounding 87 per cent of employees in a major carrier study felt that more customized benefit choices that better fit their lives would help them feel more confident as they make healthcare decisions. The power of AI comes from being able to scour countless data points to deliver personalized advice within a strong virtual care ecosystem. Contextualize each AI experience for the patient and the health system.


Communication is key. A new paradigm for healthcare can be intimidating. Communicate successes with real-life success stories that convince your employees that this new healthcare future with AI in the picture can truly deliver a healthier and more productive workforce. 


Empower individuals with information. Augmented intelligence has the power to equip individuals and populations with vital health information, but new technologies and processes can often create a lag in adoption. In order to overcome slow utilization, use AI to proactively identify individuals for virtual care interventions that can improve outcomes and lower costs.

With a focus on quality care and better patient outcomes, augmented intelligence can have transformative and powerful benefits. When combined with the brightest human minds in medicine and merged with a quality-focused virtual care platform, AI has the ability to reach many, lower costs, and most importantly,
improve outcomes.

Dr. Lewis Levy is the chief medical officer at Teladoc Health.




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