How Relevant Is Cognitive Marketing and Artificial Intelligence for the Healthcare Industry?

The usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an integral component of cognitive marketing will forever change the marketing landscape. Research and intelligence marketing firm, IDC, predicts that half of all companies will utilize computer intelligence for marketing and sales efforts by 2020, as audiences are introduced to brands and products on a hyper-personal level. While cognitive marketing for the majority of the marketing arenas will be a straight-forward venture, this is not the case for the healthcare industry. So, how relevant will cognitive marketing be for the healthcare industry?

Healthcare Marketing: An Industry That Stands Alone

Healthcare marketers face a unique challenge: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Under federal law, HIPAA limits and sets rules on who can receive what information about an individual’s medical history. This disallows companies from marketing to patients based on the knowledge of illnesses, making the use of cognitive marketing in this way untenable in the healthcare industry. However, it doesn’t mean cognitive marketing will not play a role. Marketers in the healthcare industry will start shifting their efforts to patient education and artificial intelligence will have a major impact on every aspect of the delivery of healthcare services.

How the Healthcare Industry Will Utilize Cognitive Marketing

Patient Education

Healthcare providers will use AI functionality to improve education among their patient base. A number of EMR systems already use built-in AI to predict major illnesses like heart attacks. As these systems become more advanced, they will be able to trigger sophisticated pro-active patient education communication. Providers will be able to improve the overall health of patients, quality of service, and illness prevention. In addition, it will increase patient engagement and active participation of patients in their own health management.

Patient Care

Every aspect of healthcare will benefit from AI: from health monitoring, to proactive appointment scheduling and throughout the entire course of treatment and therapy. The following are some areas where I see the biggest changes in the short- to mid-term:

Monitoring your health: With smartphones and the introduction of wearable measurement systems like the iWatch, your vitals are monitored 24/7, so that AI enables the medical community to enter into a new era of medical care. Up to now, it was not possible to collect large quantities of data easily from a patient in real-time. With today’s technology, it is possible to collect ongoing health, lifestyle, environmental and behavioral data from millions of people. AI and today’s computing power can identify patterns from these data points, allowing the medical community to practice predictive medicine. Practices can monitor their patient population continuously and then schedule appointments proactively for patients based on alerts, or when suspicious markers have been detected.

Based on predictive medicine from AI, positive patient experience will increase, healthcare costs will be reduced and the overall quality of care will improve. Getting an alert or call from a doctor’s practice warning of a potential health concern might be unsettling for older generations, but younger Gen X, Gen Z or Millennial generations will have less of an issue with this and will welcome it.

Another big problem in healthcare today is that it takes patients often multiple visits and referrals to get to the right doctor. AI will short-cut this by predicting the right doctor and specialty you should see based on the available data, thereby, decreasing costs and increasing the patient experience. In addition, it enhances the quality of care, getting the right treatment to the patient quicker.

The treatment processes will also change through AI, since future EMR programs will be connected to AI systems. Patient data can then be analyzed to provide personalized treatment plans and process protocols (for acute and chronic diseases) that combine the attributes from the patient’s file, clinical expertise, external research and data. AI systems will be able to correlate all relevant data and feed them back to the doctor at the point of care with suggestions for potential treatment plans. Second opinion will become less important, since AI becomes the second opinion based on the correlation of millions of data points. The data can also be used for the early detection of cancer or vascular diseases. Patients can remain involved and connected to their healthcare plan by engaging with chat bots or other virtual assistants managed by the practice when they have questions or concerns regarding their health or care.

There is also another area that will be hugely influenced by AI: the world-wide shortage of doctors. Today, we already see that some areas of the world are so underserved with healthcare services that telemedicine is the only available option for patients. AI will cushion this crisis by supporting nurses and physicians assistants in those areas with the ability to treat patients beyond their own capabilities. This model will become the best possible healthcare solution in wide areas of the world where the only other option is no healthcare at all.

Changing Roles in Healthcare

At the Google Developer Conference in Europe in May 2018, Google demonstrated a conversation between a human being and their machine-operated answering system. It was not possible to distinguish between the voices and guess if the caller or the answering party was the machine. With such advancements, AI will, very soon, be at a point where healthcare operators’ roles will partially go away and will partially change to patient support operators. This supports what I have observed over the past three to four years: a shift in focus on service in healthcare. As it becomes more and more difficult for healthcare providers to differentiate through treatment, the healthcare industry has finally discovered that customer service matters. AI driven ‘intelligent’ machines will become more competent healthcare operators, especially on the phone, but healthcare operators will not become completely obsolete, because they will focus more on face-to-face customer care and on the more empathetic work.

What are the up-and-coming tech advancements that may change the face of medicine?

While it is certainly the area that may disturb people most, the greatest advancements and the biggest impact of new technologies will be made on the integration and interface between the human mind and machine. There are already many advances in healthcare that don’t get the headlines, like the usage of computers that communicate with the epileptic brain. What hasn’t completely happened yet is the merger of these medical advances with AI in a real-time environment. Once this next step has been achieved, artificial intelligence will have to be newly defined. There will be such a tight integration between the human brain and the computer that it will be difficult to differentiate what is what and advancements in this area will accelerate exponentially. At that point, the ethical aspect of these advancements will become a more prominent point of discussion.

IBM Watson has already made a huge impact on healthcare, especially in the field of cancer care and research. However, AI will first become more mainstream in the treatment of ailments and infections, like the flu and common cold. The true value of these advancements will only be realized with the seamless integration of all relevant technologies, and their ability to ‘speak’ to each other and exchange data, thus, further accelerating the way healthcare is providing its services.

What remains to be seen is the overall impact on cost. The increased usage of technology and AI provides the ability for true cost savings in healthcare, but history has proven that these advancements usually are not passed down to the consumers.

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