Over the next decade, we expect hospitals and clinics will increase their investment in these alternate service types while insurers expand their support of such offerings. As this trend accelerates, we believe more preventive and minor acute care will be delivered virtually “at home,” outside of the regular workday, by what is likely to be a larger and more diverse set of providers (e.g., pharmacists, nurse extenders, etc.).
Emerging technologies will advance patient-centricity, convenience and improved outcomes
We are also tracking the deployment trends of a wide variety of technologies--from major Silicon Valley players and health care professionals--to life sciences organizations and governments. According to Dow Jones VentureWire, “venture-capital funding in U.S. healthcare companies rose to a record $16.10 billion last year, a 34% jump from 2014.” Several exciting investment trends are making a big difference in advancing better healthcare outcomes, for example:
Simple speech will deliver faster, more accurate diagnosis
Over the next few years, we believe physicians will routinely add speech analysis to their diagnostic toolbox since the tone and words a patient uses is proving to be a reliable means for detecting potential issues such as depression, PTSD, mental illness, dementia—and even heart disease.
Innovation in the use of digital speech to augment clinical diagnosis is especially active in the startup community where technologists are finding less invasive ways to detect abnormalities sooner, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Speech pattern analysis (from patient audio samples) can augment, or even replace, labor-intensive diagnostic processes that require highly educated medical professionals. Such decreases in the reliance on highly trained experts and difficult-to-locate clinicians will also lead to earlier diagnosis, which would reduce both costs and the stress of long, arduous patient treatment regimens.
We believe patients will increasingly rely on speech-enabled chatbots to help them efficiently navigate disparate health systems. As these systems begin to incorporate AI-supported “deep learning” capabilities, it’s only a matter of time before these chatbots provide preliminary diagnosis and present data-based treatment options that are physician-approved and made available to a patient in real time.
AI and analytics will continue to enable healthcare breakthroughs
We are also monitoring increased deployments of AI-enabled analytics. In a recent survey, 82 percent of healthcare decision-makers said they’re “experiencing clinical benefits (improved patient care) through data analytics.”
Advancements in AI, data science and smart machines, particularly their contribution to algorithmic medicine, will radically improve clinical care as important decisions are made faster and with greater physician confidence. Of particular promise is the ability of AI-enabled algorithms to reduce, even eliminate, human clinical involvement in care that is highly routine. For example, over the next decade, millions of ER visits will be reduced or even eliminated thanks to early detection from AI-enhanced virtual care. Such savings will give physicians more time to study complex situations and focus on health outcomes and patient satisfaction.
For example, in a 2018 Nielsen survey of digital healthcare, analysis of U.S. federal health data shows that $7 billion of physician’s time could be eliminated each year by shifting office visits to home through virtual care. We are also seeing a rise in anecdotal evidence where clinicians order tests and procedures that aren't medically necessary (usually in efforts to avoid malpractice or to protect themselves in other ways). Virtual care, powered by algorithmic medicine, could go a long way to dilute, even eliminate this overly cautious behavior, which is expensive and time-consuming—and doesn’t necessarily contribute to effective outcomes. AI and algorithmic medicine also promises to reduce waste and eliminate duplicate tests through best-practice standardization.