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DCE Magazine

A Smarter Healthcare System

Summer 2020

Artificial Intelligence and data analytics are helping to create a brighter, healthier, and more affordable future.

Think of how the tech wizards in Silicon Valley have reshaped our 21st century world, disrupting personal communications and entertainment in ways we couldn’t imagine 20 years ago. Now we’re on the cusp of a similar revolution in our massive and complex healthcare system – and it couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time.

It’s a perfect storm of sorts. Faced with soaring costs, an aging population, and a growing demand for increased efficiency, the industry is turning to healthcare analytics to improve delivery in myriad ways, said Mountasser Kadrie, instructor for UCI DCE’s Healthcare Analytics certificate program.

Massive amounts of data will be mined and analyzed to improve the quality of care as well as to reduce costs. More accurate diagnosis, customized treatment plans, virtual doctor visits and wearable devices are just a handful of the exciting new developments already gaining a foothold. Microsoft, Amazon, Google and IBM are doing amazing things to make this future happen sooner rather than later, Kadrie said.

All of which is creating a wealth of new opportunities for anyone looking to carve out a career in this nascent, booming field. Consider that 75% of healthcare organizations are currently in the process of or planning to implement an AI strategy, creating great demand for a trained workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.4 million new healthcare jobs will emerge by 2026, with 22% greater demand for health information technicians by 2022.

The DCE Healthcare Analytics certificate program is designed to prepare healthcare and technology professionals to meet the challenges of this dynamic digital future. Taught by industry experts, the online program takes a deep dive into health informatics and data analytics, providing all the tools needed to bring healthcare into the 21st century.

The Triple Aim

This brave new world is essential to meet the mandate set forth by the Triple Aim, an initiative launched in 2007 by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. It offers a three-pronged template to frame healthcare strategies moving forward: Improve the experience and satisfaction of patient care, improve the health of entire populations, and reduce per capita cost.

“AI and analytics can help achieve these goals in several areas,” Kadrie said. “Healthcare professionals will be able to create and access digital patient profiles that include medical history, socioeconomic background, genetic data and more, then craft targeted plans for care and treatment. There are so many ways digital tools can streamline healthcare delivery.”

He points to a recent doctor’s visit to illustrate his point: “I went in for long overdue lab work. They took some blood, and five hours later I get a text on my phone with a link to my results. I didn’t have to wait days or weeks. Patients want information fast, and they want it to be more easily available.”

Advanced wearable medical devices are becoming more sophisticated, enabling patients to leave the hospital early and continue to be closely monitored from home, allowing physicians to modify medication and recommend further steps from afar, greatly enhancing a patient’s experience and satisfaction.

Look at open-heart surgery, Kadrie said. Twenty years ago, a patient would recover in the hospital for 15 to 20 days – sometimes longer – but today the standard stay is about five days.

“Patients obviously want to be home and are much happier there, and the hospital is happy too. Extended stays often lead to infections, and wearable monitoring devices allow patients to become more engaged in their care. Doctors can make sure medication is being taken properly, maybe suggest lifestyle changes.”

Wearable tech isn’t in use everywhere. Some of the healthcare giants like Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic are pioneers in this technology, “but give it five years and it will be widespread.”

Digital house calls

Virtual doctor visits are another major tech benefit, especially in communities with few or no primary physicians. It allows patients in remote areas to make an appointment and be checked out by a doctor directly from their computer, quickly and efficiently.

“I know I’d rather see a doctor online right away than have to wait weeks for an appointment,” Kadrie said. Emerging visual analytics are very promising, allowing primary care physicians to examine and diagnose certain conditions and symptoms from a digital image. Send a smartphone photo of, say, a suspicious skin growth or mole, and analytics can determine if it needs to be biopsied.

Perhaps the most pressing challenge in the U.S. is lowering the costs of our healthcare system. Digital tools and analytics are well poised to increase efficiency in a number of ways – preventing patient readmissions and managing hospital resources to name a couple.

“There are so many challenges to be met,” Kadrie said. “According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranks No. 37 in the world in healthcare. France ranks No. 1 even though it spends only one-third of what the U.S. spends. Our healthcare system is an incredibly complex environment. And managing a hospital is about the most difficult job you can imagine.”

To meet the Triple Aim mandate, it’s essential for physicians and hospital administrators to see and treat patients as customers that need to be catered to and satisfied, not just as objects, which is often the norm. Kadrie said.

“Patients need to be treated with the same consideration as any valued customer, and that will lead to a more satisfying experience for everyone involved. Treat patients the same way a five-star hotel would treat its guests. That needs to happen, and AI and digital analytics can go a long way to increasing satisfaction as well as value.”

Learn more at Healthcare Analytics Specialized Studies Program.