Confidence and investment in artificial intelligence (AI) to improve health care remain high, according to a new survey of 500 U.S. health industry leaders from hospitals, health plans, life sciences and employers, on their attitudes and adoption of the technology. Significantly, compared with 2018 findings, this year’s results found a nearly 88% increase in the number of respondents who said their organizations have a strategy in place and have implemented AI.
The second OptumIQ Annual Survey on AI in Health Care also reveals a shift in funding expectations for AI-related projects, as leaders estimate their organizations will invest an average of $39.7 million over the next five years – $7.3 million more than last year’s estimate.
“These findings validate that AI is vital to holistically transform health care. It’s encouraging to see executives’ growing trust in, and adoption of, AI to make data more actionable in making the health system work better for everyone,” said Dan Schumacher, president and chief operating officer of Optum. “Working together, I am confident we can improve the quality, experiences and reduce the total cost of health care in meaningful, sustainable ways.”
In addition, the survey found:
- A positive return on investment (ROI) will take less time than previously expected, as little as three years in some cases. Half (50%) of respondents expect to see a tangible cost savings in three years or less as a result of investing in AI, compared with 31% in 2018. Among the respondent groups, more hospitals (55%) and health plans (52%) expect to see a positive return in less time – in three years or fewer – while life sciences executives (38%) anticipate it taking five years or longer.
- Implementation has advanced. Sixty-two percent of respondents report having implemented an AI strategy – an increase of nearly 88% from 2018 (33%) – while 22% report being at late stages of implementation.
- A higher level of trust in AI for administrative over clinical applications. While most respondents indicated high levels of trust in AI for both clinical and administrative tasks overall, when asked to rank specific applications, more administrative applications were selected (62%) over clinical applications (38%). In addition, when asked which health care applications, if any, they would feel comfortable having AI technology support, four out of five of the top-ranked applications were administrative.
- Administrative process improvements top the list of investment priorities. Half (50%) of organizations will invest first in automating business processes, such as administrative tasks or customer service, while more than a third (36%) will invest in personalizing clinical care recommendations, such as drug therapies, and the same percentage (36%) also will invest in accelerating research for new therapeutic or clinical discoveries.
AI Seen as Most Pragmatic for Non-clinical Applications
In addition to noting the growing value of AI in the clinical environment, health care executives are looking to AI to solve a variety of operational and administrative challenges, such as automating pre-authorizations and personalizing care. The top five areas that organizations see AI as having potential are:
- 51% to automate prior authorizations
- 47% to provide individuals with relevant health actions using personalized communications
- 45% to manage electronic health records (EHRs)
- 43% to detect fraud, waste or abuse in reimbursement
- 38% to select appropriate care settings
AI to Create More Employment Opportunities and Drive Job Growth
As more organizations invest in and move forward with implementations, half (52%) of leaders expect AI to create more work opportunities. The majority (87%) agree that hiring candidates who have experience working with AI technology is a priority for their organization.
Most (89%) also agree employees are not being trained quickly enough to keep up with the growth of AI. In fact, 91% estimate that 10 to 50% of new roles will require experience working with AI. To solve this, they are evenly split among solutions such as establishing partnerships, creating training programs, working with consulting firms and postponing projects.
“In order to transform and modernize the U.S. health system through the power of AI, it is critical that organizations invest in developing talent throughout the enterprise to solve health care’s most complex challenges,” said Steve Griffiths, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Optum Enterprise Analytics. “At Optum, we apply what we call OptumIQ – a distinctive combination of curated data, analytics and health care expertise – to drive that intelligence transformation.”
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 165,000 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 www.Optum.com.
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 www.optum.com/iq.
About the Survey
An online survey of 500 senior health care industry executives defined as those VP level+ working in the health care industry and includes C-Level titles (CEO, COO, CFO, CTO, CMO). Qualifying organizations include hospitals, clinics, health insurance companies, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, health care IT and other organizations working in the health care sector. Quotas set for statistical significance for four organization types: 1) Hospitals, including but not limited to ACOs and health systems; 2) Health Plans/Health Insurance Companies; 3) Life Sciences Organizations; 4) Health Care Employers, including but not limited to pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. The survey was conducted between Aug. 19 and Sept. 3, 2019, using an email invitation and an online survey. The 2018 Survey was fielded between Sept. 12 and Sept. 25, 2018, using the same protocol, audience criteria and sample size.