United States

2019 business outlook: Health technology industry

Will your doctor be IBM’s Watson?


Unemployment remains at historic lows and the cost of labor is rising. Health care costs approximate 20 percent of the GDP and double that of three decades ago. Some of the increase relates to baby boomers retiring and needing more care, but some is due to market inefficiencies. Great opportunities to leverage technology through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) exist within the industry. Given these shifts and advances, in the not-too-distant future of health care checkups, an IBM Watson-style virtual attendant, in addition to a real person, will likely greet you.

AI and ML thrive on large amounts of data, and there is no shortage of data in health care. At this point, much of that information is unstructured and fragmented across service providers, leaving the industry ripe for disruption. However, patient privacy and regulatory concerns also factor in.

Despite regulatory barriers, health care professionals can leverage AI and ML through virtual personal assistants, relying on them to help recall medical research, gather patient data and provide diagnostic recommendations. Studies have shown that AI and ML can be used to diagnose medical conditions such as tuberculosis and pneumonia with greater accuracy than a panel of specialists. IBM’s Watson Health, already used in a handful of hospitals, can identify 13 different types of cancers, a number that is increasing. Chat bots—the computer programs that simulate auditory or textual conversations—can be leveraged for initial patient screening that limits wasted visits to physicians. And, with the use of wearable technology that relies on AI, doctors can monitor vitals and deliver personalized health care. AI can also be deployed outside of the doctor’s office to diagnose conditions like skin cancer with great accuracy.

Significant opportunities exist to use deep learning—a machine learning method that relies on interpreting data representations—for the development of new drugs. With AI and ML, drug development will speed up, become less costly due to lower failure rates and be brought to market more seamlessly than before. Additionally, as the health care industry leverages industry data in additional ways, personalized health care solutions of the future are expected to greatly aid doctors as they diagnose and treat their patients.

See more of RSM's business outlooks for 2019

The Real Economy: Volume 48

The Real Economy: Volume 48

Economic narratives for 2019 include continued trade tensions, more interest rate hikes and declining unemployment and wage growth.


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