Published in Health Care

AI speeds development of personalized health care

BY Sunday, August 02, 2020 06:42pm

When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Michigan, Priority Health turned to predictive analytics to identify which members were at the highest risk.

Through modeling, the Grand Rapids-based health plan then reached out to those members. Care management nurses sought to make sure those members understood their risks and what they could do to stay safe. They also reminded the members of the availability of virtual visits if they needed to see a doctor and of mail-order prescriptions so they didn’t have to leave home to go to the pharmacy.

Nathan Foco, Priority Health’s vice president of marketing and customer experience COURTESY PHOTO

The information forwarded to members included standard advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “giving them another source and another reminder to stay as healthy as they can,” said Nathan Foco, Priority Health’s vice president of marketing and customer experience.

The effort is just one example of how health care today uses artificial intelligence. In health benefits, the technology is “helping us be much, much more personalized in our interactions with our members,” as systems learn about people’s health and habits, Foco said.

For example, artificial intelligence guides how Priority Health reaches out to members for “care nudges,” or reminders for them to get their annual checkup or a seasonal flu shot, and how best to connect with the person, whether via phone call, email or a text message. The health plan’s system can tell which form of outreach members prefer and will resonate with them, which ultimately can lead to them taking better care of their health, Foco said.

“Predictive modeling really helps us hone in on what we should talk to somebody about and how we should talk to them,” he said. “As we continue to use data and use predictive modeling, we are seeing improvement in the actions we’re reminding or letting our members know they can take.”

Artificial intelligence has been effecting change across health care, including how insurers and health plans connect with members. As well, mobile apps developed by digital health companies learn about users and, based on their lifestyle, can help them to maintain their health or better manage a chronic medical condition.

The technology and health care apps hold “a lot of opportunity for innovation and a lot of entrepreneurial spirit,” Foco said. “I’m really excited to see what these firms are going to come out with in the next couple of years.”

Priority Health recently offered members free access to a mobile app known as Brook that’s designed to help with sleep management, nutrition and their overall health, as well as a wellness app from Livongo Health Inc.

A 2017 report by Accenture said the use of AI in health care is moving at “hyper-speed” and “re-wiring our modern conception of healthcare delivery.”

The technology “can truly augment human activity, taking over tasks that range from medical imaging to risk analysis to diagnosing health conditions,” according to the Accenture analysis, which estimated artificial intelligence in health care will become a $6.6 billion market by 2021 and generate $150 billion in annual savings in the U.S. by 2026.

More recent research reports expect rapid growth for AI in health care in the U.S. market in the coming years.

Northbrook, Ill.-based MarketsandMarkets predicts the U.S. sector will grow from $4.9 billion in 2020 to $45.2 billion by 2026. A report in late December by San Francisco, Calif.-based Grand View Research Inc. estimated the market will grow to $31.3 billion by 2025.

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