Confidence in Artificial Intelligence Increases as Health Industry Leaders Project Faster Return on Investment, Signal Growing Need for Broad Range of AI Expertise

October 27, 2020 | 3 min Read
  • Third Annual Optum Survey on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Health Care finds 59% of health care executives expect a return on their AI investments in under three years—compared to 31% in 2018

  • 95% of health care executives now looking to hire business and analytic staff with experience developing AI

  • Executives leveraging AI to enhance virtual health capabilities and accelerate research to help alleviate pressures of the pandemic

Health care executives today believe artificial intelligence (AI) will deliver value for the industry faster than previously thought, according to a new survey of 500 senior health care executives representing leading hospitals, health plans, life sciences and employers.

The third annual Optum Survey on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Health Care found that 59% of executives surveyed expect their organizations will see a full return on their AI investments in under three years, nearly double the 31% of leaders surveyed in 2018 who expected to break even that quickly.

Further, health care executives’ confidence in AI’s ability to deliver operational efficiencies or improved clinical performance increases as their organizations progress on the maturity curve: among the respondents who identified as being in the late stages of AI deployment, 57% indicated they would reach their ROI in less than two years. Expectations for faster return on AI investments grew even among those in earlier stages of deployment, indicating growing confidence in the technology.

In addition, leaders across industry segments expect to see tangible cost savings from their AI investments faster – an average of 3.6 years in this year’s survey, down from 4.7 years in 2019 and 5.3 years in 2018.

“This year’s findings further confirm our belief in the potential of AI to deliver insights and operational efficiencies that unlock better performance across health care,” said Robert Musslewhite, chief executive officer of OptumInsight. “It is encouraging to see so many organizations express confidence in AI’s ability to facilitate the pursuit of our industry’s shared goals: better health outcomes, better consumer experiences, and less physician burnout—all at a lower total cost of care.”

AI’s Rise Necessitates Hiring Skilled Talent

In broadly confirming AI’s strategic value, 95% of health care executives said hiring talent with experience developing AI is a priority, with 66% of executives in late stages of AI deployment strongly agreeing, compared to 42% in early and 31% in middle stages.

In addition to building AI competency itself, the ability to act upon AI-driven recommendations is critical. To that end, 92% of the surveyed executives expect that their staff who receive AI-driven insights will understand how the AI works. That finding signals the widespread need for knowledge about analytics, predictions and data streams outside of an organization’s traditional information technology or informatics teams.

“The need for skilled analytic talent in health care has never been greater,” said Steve Griffiths, chief operating officer of Optum Enterprise Analytics. “The growing strategic importance of AI means that organizations need to ensure access to this skillset, either by growing their own analytic teams or seeking out experienced partners.”

Top Applications for AI

The survey also found executives leveraging AI to enhance virtual health capabilities and accelerate research to help alleviate pressures of the pandemic. The top three applications health care executives plan to tap AI for include:

  • Monitoring data from Internet of Things devices, such as wearable technology (40%);
  • Accelerating research for new therapeutic or clinical discoveries (37%); and
  • Assigning codes for accurate diagnosis and reimbursement (37%).

All three applications pose advantages in the current and post-COVID-19 world: AI can identify signals and trends from internet-connected remote patient monitoring devices, enabling more complete virtual health offerings; AI can help prioritize potential investigative targets for treatments or vaccines; and automating business processes can enable organizations to operate efficiently even with limited resources.

To learn more about the 2020 Optum Survey on AI in Health Care, download the Special Report today.

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 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

About OptumInsight

OptumInsight, part of Optum, connects the health care system with trusted services, analytics and platforms that make clinical and administrative processes valuable, easy, and efficient. OptumInsight works with health systems, physicians, health plans, state governments and life sciences companies, as well as the rest of Optum and UnitedHealth Group, to set strategy, reduce administrative costs, drive action from data, improve clinical performance and transform operations.