Technology can improve the patient journey

May 21, 2024

Key takeaways

Health care organizations must address the patient journey while also navigating financial challenges.

Automation and AI can address patient engagement challenges and improve throughput.

AI can streamline patient experience, wait times, authorizations and communication.

Economics Health care

Health care costs have shown an upward trajectory over the past 20 years and continue to increase. Total health care costs—including all private and public spending—are anticipated to rise from $4.7 trillion in 2023 to $7.2 trillion by 2031, growing by an average of 5.5% per year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Clearly, hospitals and health care organizations must find ways to become more efficient and remain connected with patients while navigating these financial challenges. Technology can provide some answers.

Addressing patient engagement and outcomes

For instance, artificial intelligence offers the ability to process and analyze vast amounts of medical data beyond human capacity. These capabilities can be effective in diagnosing diseases, predicting outcomes and recommending treatments. AI algorithms can analyze X-rays, MRIs and other medical images with greater accuracy and speed than human radiologists, often detecting diseases such as cancer at earlier stages.

Likewise, automation and AI can address patient engagement challenges, a critical opportunity for providers. For instance, improving throughput—a patient’s journey from diagnosis to resolution or care management—can help organizations streamline patient experience, reduce wait times, accelerate authorizations, and improve communication and care provider access. And all this points to greater efficiencies, more-satisfied patients and improved costs.

TAX TREND: Artificial intelligence

For-profit health care organizations may develop AI software themselves or license it from a third party. The tax and accounting implications of each approach will factor into overall cost-benefit analyses.

A business that licenses software usually deducts each year’s license expense from its taxable income in that taxable year. Conversely, the tax treatment of software development expenses became less favorable in 2022 when a law change took effect.

AI expansion continues

According to a report from Statista, the AI health care market, which was valued at $11 billion in 2021, is expected to soar to $187 billion by 2030. This significant growth suggests that substantial transformation is anticipated in the operations of medical providers, hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and other health care industry participants.

In addition to improving diagnostic care and patient throughput, AI applications are also reshaping other areas in health care. From AI-driven chatbots to virtual health assistants that provide 24/7 support and monitoring, the use cases continue to increase.

Another area in which AI has made a significant impact is predictive analytics. Health care AI systems can analyze patterns in a patient's medical history and current health data to predict potential health risks. This predictive capability enables health care providers to offer proactive, preventive care, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes and reduced health care costs.

CONSULTING INSIGHT: Optimize revenue cycle efforts

Claim denials are on the rise as payers deploy AI around claim reviews, prior authorization requirements and more. The results have been devastating to hospital and health systems’ already tight operating margins. Learn how to address these challenges and more in RSM’s on-demand webcast.

Looking forward

Aside from the various AI use cases mentioned above, health care organizations must develop additional AI strategies, such as implementing virtual consultation and follow-up; creating new guidelines to move patients along their care journey; and offering ongoing training to providers.

In a survey launched by the American Hospital Association, data show that between 2019 and 2020, job vacancies for various types of medical professions increased and these shortages are expected to persist resulting in the need for 3.2 million health care workers by 2026. These survey results confirm the urgency to invest in technology not only to bridge the labor gap, but also to be used as a recruitment tool to attract skilled providers to organizations.

Health care organizations must continue to invest in new capabilities and technologies, implement new working methods, and build a culture focused on patient flow, aligning and integrating care among all actors, internally and externally.

CONSULTING INSIGHT: AI, analytics and cloud services

Technology is evolving rapidly, with AI, data analytics and cloud solutions delivering more effective and secure access to data, enhancing operational efficiency and insights into key business processes, and building a more effective customer and employee experience. Learn how you can leverage AI, the cloud and data analytics to transform your organization and establish a competitive edge.

RSM contributors

Subscribe to Health Care Leader Insights

Actionable insights to help health care industry leaders successfully navigate challenges and take advantage of opportunity.