Telehealth has grown in popularity over the years, only being exacerbated by the pandemic that upended the world in 2020—and possibly, beyond. However, the problem with the digitization of healthcare has been the physical distance that makes it harder for patients and healthcare workers to connect on a more personal level. Dr. Tania Elliott emphasized the need to develop proper webside manner, which serves as an alternative for to bedside manners in digital care settings. Dr. Elliott points out evidence highlighting how health outcomes are more favorable for patients whose doctors cultivate comfort and ease in their healthcare journey.
Thankfully, along with this rapid digitization in healthcare has been the continued growth of artificial intelligence (AI). Experts are even predicting that AI market will grow to over $309.6 billion by 2026. Healthcare is among the industries that are contributing to the steady growth of AI, and there are many ways it can improve healthcare for both patients and providers in the telehealth space. Notably, these improvements are making the patient journey feel more personal and intimate again. Here are some of the myriad ways AI is bringing back human touch to the world of telehealth:
1. Patients can better access the right medical information and healthcare specialist
According to reports, 80% of all social media users are specifically looking for health-related information, and Becker’s Hospital Review says 41% of patients depend on social media to help them choose a doctor or hospital. To debunk medical misinformation and drown out those who would take advantage of this, healthcare workers online can optimize their use of social media algorithms. In Later’s guide to social media algorithms, they note how major platforms like Instagram have moved away from showing chronological posts and instead use AI analysis to tailor content in a more relevant way. This is why many medical social media influencers became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One notable example of someone who has harnessed Instagram to create patient-centric care via a HIPAA-compliant strategy is Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar. An aesthetics-doctor from the UK, Dr. Muntasar has credited Instagram with creating trust among his followers, while also expanding his reach. “I think my use of social media and my philosophy go hand-in-hand, because it allows you to establish that relationship with your patient before you even meet them in the real world,” Muntasar shared in a Forbes interview. “You already have a connection with that person. So it’s a lot easier for them to open up to you, and you can then give them the kind of personalized care that could take months or even years to establish otherwise.”
2. Preventive care is more accurate
AI has done much for preventive care, as its modern capabilities include deep learning, detection of anomalies, and anticipating errors. For instance, Health IT Analytics’ article on preventative care references a deep learning algorithm developed by MIT to quickly identify early-stage melanomas. The same feature discusses machine learning methods that use smartphone technology to check vital signs and perform basic triage elements.
This technology has also been used to check for any abnormalities in imagery, which makes the process of preventive care more efficient and minimizes the margin for error. When patient data can be reviewed and analyzed with regard to its nuances and subtleties, individual outcomes are more likely to be detailed rather than generalized, thus leading to higher rates of positive prognoses.
3. Patient engagement is improved
Beyond social media, AI creates personal connectivity by way of monitoring and aid. On the patient’s side, Diana Nole of Nuance Communications foresees an AI trend of patient-facing applications like chatbots or virtual assistance that can give access to healthcare information. At the point of aftercare, telehealth-empowered medical providers can even set automated prompts that can be tailored to suit a patient schedule and their agreed upon treatment plan. For example, remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices directly feed data to AI so that overseeing physicians can track crucial patient activity such as water intake and level of movement. This then streamlines the collation of data and helps keep track of crucial vitals remotely.
4. Improved diagnosis and screening
As previously covered in our post “Top 4 Applications of AI and Machine Learning in Healthcare”, AI has also improved the diagnosis method and screening procedure for each individual. For instance, solutions created by IBM Watson Oncology specifically point to personalized treatments that sift through patient medical history in order to create a more efficient treatment plan. This process makes it much easier to note genetic and lifestyle factors which can play a large role when creating an effective course of medical action.
These advancements have already been great strides in the industry, and it seems that this will only further improve with time and continued research. As more people continue to transition their lives online, we can only assume that telehealth will continue to play a bigger role and AI-empowered medical experts will become the norm.
Article exclusively submitted to akvelon.com
Written by Rita Jordan
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