Artificial Intelligence Key to Improving Health Care Quality, Reducing Costs, Industry Leaders Say

November 15, 2018
  • OptumIQ survey of health care executives finds majority (91 percent) confident they will see an ROI on AI – although not immediately

  • First wave of AI implementation focused on improving processes; combating waste, fraud and abuse; and maximizing impact of IoT, such as wearable devices

  • Investing in the employees who have the vision and skills to implement AI a priority

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is key to building a better health care future, according to a recent survey of 500 U.S. health care leaders on their attitudes and usage of the technologies. Most (94 percent) responded that their organizations continue to invest in and make progress in implementing AI.

The inaugural OptumIQ Annual Survey on AI in Health Care indicates a tipping point in the adoption of AI in the industry, estimating an average investment of $32.4 million per organization over the next five years. Also among the survey’s findings:

  • Health care leaders universally agree the greatest impact of AI investment will be on improving health care. Thirty-six percent expect AI will improve the patient experience; 33 percent anticipate AI will decrease per-capita cost of care; and 31 percent believe AI will improve health outcomes.
  • Most health care leaders believe AI can make care more affordable and accessible. Ninety-four percent of respondents agree that AI technology is the most reliable path toward equitable, accessible and affordable health care.
  • A positive ROI could be seen in as soon as four years. Employers (38 percent) and health plans (20 percent) expect ROI sooner – in three years or less – while hospital executives expect a longer wait of four to five years.
  • Many have plans, but progress is mixed across sectors. Three-quarters (75 percent) of health care organizations are actively implementing or have plans to execute an AI strategy. Forty-two percent of those organizations have a strategy but have not yet implemented it. Employers are furthest along, with 22 percent reporting their AI implementations are at a late stage, with nearly full deployment.
  • AI will make care more precise and faster. The top two benefits respondents expect to see from incorporating AI into their organizations are more accurate diagnosis and increased efficiency.

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform health care by helping predict disease and putting the right insights into the hands of clinicians as they treat patients, which can reduce the total cost of care,” said Eric Murphy, CEO of OptumInsight. “Optum works closely with a wide range of health care leaders, who clearly recognize AI’s potential, to help them execute their long-term strategies to deliver tangible results on their AI investments.”

First wave of AI implementation

The survey found that respondents are looking to AI to solve immediate data challenges – from routine tasks to truly understanding consumers’ health needs. Of those health organizations that are already investing in and implementing AI:

  • 43 percent are automating business processes, such as administrative operations or customer service;
  • 36 percent are using AI to detect patterns in health care fraud, waste and abuse; and
  • 31 percent are using AI to monitor users with Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as a wearable technology

Hiring and training a top priority

With more organizations seeing the benefit of adopting an AI strategy, 92 percent agree that hiring candidates who have experience working with AI technology is a priority for their organization. As a group, employers agree most, at 96 percent.

To meet this need, nearly half (45 percent) of health care leaders estimate that more than 30 percent of new hires will be in positions requiring engagement with or implementation of AI in the next 12 months. However, health organizations seeking to hire experienced staff will likely face talent shortages.

“Analytics isn't the end, it's the beginning – it's what you do with the insights to drive care improvement and reduce administrative waste,” said Steve Griffiths, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Optum Enterprise Analytics. “For AI to successfully solve health care’s biggest challenges, organizations need to employ a unique combination of curated data, analytics and health care expertise – something we call OptumIQ. We are already seeing a race for AI talent in the industry that will grow as adoption continues to increase.”

About Optum

Optum is a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. With more than 145,000 people worldwide, Optum delivers intelligent, integrated solutions that help to modernize the health system and improve overall population health. Optum is part of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH). For more information, visit

About OptumIQ

OptumIQ powers intelligence across the health care system. It represents the unique combination of data, analytics and health care expertise infused into our products and services. These capabilities provide our customers with a comprehensive view of performance, while delivering dynamic and multidimensional insights that get smarter every day. For more information, visit