The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) provides one of the most promising — and fraught — advancements in the ever-evolving landscape of the health care sector. Electronic records let physicians access patient information more easily. Phone apps and web-based tools allow users to schedule appointments and check test results online. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated how telehealth appointments can be a crucial tool in connecting patients with doctors.
Rema Padman(opens in new window), Trustees Professor of Management Science and Healthcare Informatics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy(opens in new window), recently sat down to share some of her research and to discuss the opportunities and challenges of AI in health care.
Empowering Patients through Digital Solutions
One key application of AI in health care is the development of digital solutions that enhance health literacy — a significant but understudied challenge in health care delivery.
“A health-literate patient is really an engaged patient, and an engaged patient has better outcomes,” Padman explained. “How can we leverage these technologies and analytics to create solutions that would be informative and engaging for people to access, and simultaneously improve their knowledge about managing their conditions?”
Digital therapeutics — using software and evidence-based insights to build digital solutions that aim to bring about behavior change — is one answer. When a doctor diagnoses a patient with an illness, the treatment often includes a prescription for medication. With digital therapeutics, the doctor might also prescribe a multimedia-rich video that explains the condition and another that helps the patient understand what the medication is, exactly when and how they should take it, and what the side effects might be.
Padman said that there are several million videos on health-related topics alone on YouTube. While academic medical centers and large health care organizations like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University create reliable content, there are also examples made by laypeople with no medical training, and strong, potentially erroneous opinions about a particular illness or treatment.
Some videos, even from credible sources, might not take into consideration the specific needs of a particular population of people — such as dietary customs, nutritional needs, age, race or gender. Asking an already overtaxed doctor to sort through thousands of videos for a particular patient is unrealistic.