The Employer’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence in Health Care

Do the words “artificial intelligence” make you think of science fiction and machines gone rogue? In reality, smart tech surrounds us every day — even in health care.

From virtual assistants to activity trackers and even our mobile devices, artificial intelligence in health care offers abundant tools for getting and staying healthy. And for employers, such technologies can not only boost workplace wellness — they can improve productivity and reduce health costs, too.

Two emerging AI technologies in particular have helped patients achieve healthy milestones, get more accurate diagnoses and receive optimized care, both inside and outside the office. It’s wise to take heed of the following high-tech features that could be coming to a smart device near you soon.

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Dr. Chatbot

With the increased interest in and adoption of telemedicine, it’s quite clear that patients appreciate the flexibility and convenience of a digital doctor’s visit. But AI chatbots could take it one step further, providing a responsive 24/7 resource for health questions and concerns.

Here’s how it works.

Through machine learning and algorithmic logic, chatbots react to patient questions in real time, devising a potential diagnostic and care approach based on the patient’s self-reported responses. And they’re not just hype: According to Forbes, a recent survey found that 9 in 10 human resource leaders believe chatbots will have an ongoing presence at workplaces in the future.

In December 2017, Forbes also included chatbots on its list of trends impacting work-site wellness in 2018, citing the tech’s potential for tackling employee questions related to nutrition, disease care and healthy lifestyles.

But the bots aren’t just programmed to support physical health — they may also detect patterns that might flag issues like depression, anxiety and even stress. According to the American Psychological Association, research supports it: One JMIR Mental Health paper found that Woebot, the first-ever chatbot designed to help with mental health issues, reduced feelings of anxiety and depression in two weeks.

Smart Wearables

As the health-tracker industry continues to grow, the prospect of adding AI technology into the mix makes it all the more exciting and effective. Along with a host of fitness trackers, new medical-focused wearables have piqued the public’s attention — and in one case, even earned FDA approval.

In late 2017, the federal agency approved Kardia Band, an Apple Watch accessory that monitors heart activity. Essentially a handheld electrocardiogram (EKG), it represents the wider trend toward medical wearables born from smart technology.

These devices are effective, too. Research has demonstrated smart wearables’ capacity for detecting high blood pressure and sleep apnea. They can identify abnormal heart rhythm with an accuracy of up to 97 percent, reports Gizmodo.

But for consumers, they can be expensive. That’s why 67 percent of them think employers should pay for their wearable devices, according to a survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Addressing Privacy Concerns

Of course, while AI might just become the future of health care, digitizing wellness is also likely to create privacy concerns, and reasonably so. Employers can help address those fears through clear and honest communication and by asking employees what they think of new technologies before they’re offered.

But most importantly, identify trustworthy partners who have robust privacy policies. Look for vendors with assurances and reported documentation in data governance, enhanced security, confidentiality and compliance.

If you take those steps, introducing new workplace solutions for artificial intelligence in health care won’t stoke sci-fi fears. Instead, AI might become just what your employees have needed all along.

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