COVID-19 has put a tremendous burden on hospitals, and the clinicians, nurses, and medical staff who make them run.
Many hospitals have suffered financially as they did not anticipate the severity of the disease. The extended duration of patient stays in ICUs, the need for more isolated rooms and beds, and the need for better supplies to reduce infections have all added costs. Some hospitals did not have adequate staff to check-in patients, take their temperature, monitor them regularly, or quickly recruit nurses and doctors to help.
AI can greatly improve hospital efficiency, improve patient satisfaction, and help keep costs from ballooning. Autonomous robots can help with surgeries and deliver items to patient’s rooms. Smart video sensors can determine if patients are wearing masks or monitor their temperature. Conversational tools can help to directly input patient information right into medical records or help to explain surgical procedures or side effects.
Here are four key areas where artificial intelligence (AI) is getting traction in hospital operations and enhancing patient safety:
1- Patient Screening
We’ve become familiar with devices in and around our homes that use AI for image and speech recognition, such as speakers that listen to our commands to play our favorite songs. This same technology can be used in hospitals to screen patients, monitor them, help them understand procedures, and help them get supplies.
Screening is an important step in identifying patients who may need medical care or isolation to stop the spread of COVID-19. Temporal thermometers are widely used to measure temperatures via the temporal artery in the forehead, but medical staff has to screen patients one by one.
Temperature screening applications powered by AI can automate and dramatically speed up this process, scanning over 100 patients a minute. These systems free up staff, who can perform other functions, and then notify them of patients who have a fever, so they can be isolated. Patients without a fever can check-in for their appointments instead of waiting in line to be scanned.
AI systems can also perform other screening functions, such as helping monitor if patients are wearing masks and keeping six feet apart. They can even check staff to ensure they are wearing proper safety equipment before interacting with patients.
2. Virtual Nurse Assistant
Hospitals are dynamic environments. Patients have questions that can crop up or evolve as circumstances change. Staff have many patients and tasks to attend to and regularly change shifts.
Sensor fusion technology combines video and voice data to allow nurses to monitor patients remotely. AI can automatically observe a patient’s behavior, determining whether they are at risk of a fall or are in distress. Conversational AI, such as automatic speech recognition, text-to-speech, and natural language processing, can help understand what patients need, answer their questions, and then take appropriate action, whether it’s replying with an answer or alerting staff.
Furthermore, the information recorded from patients in conversational AI tools can be directly inputted into patients’ medical records, reducing the documentation burden for nurses and medical staff.
3. Surgery Optimization
Surgery can be risky and less invasive procedures are optimal for patients to speed up recovery, reduce blood loss, and reduce pain. AI can help surgeons monitor blood flow, anatomy, and physiology in real-time.
Connected sensors can help optimize the operating room. Everything from patient flow, time, instrument use, and staffing can be captured. Using machine learning algorithms and real-time data, AI can reduce hospital costs and allow clinicians to focus on safe patient throughput.
But it’s not just the overall operations. AI will allow surgeons to better prepare for upcoming procedures with access to simulations beforehand. They will also be able to augment procedures as they happen, incorporating AI models in real-time, allowing them to identify missing or unexpected steps.
Contactless control will allow surgeons to utilize gestures and voice commands to easily access relevant patient information like medical images, before making a critical next move. AI can also be of assistance following procedures. It can, for example, automatically document key information like equipment and supplies used, as well as staff times.
During COVID-19, telehealth has helped patients access their clinicians when they cannot physically go to the office. Patients’ adoption of telehealth has soared, from 11% usage in 2019 in the US to 46% usage in 2020. Clinicians have rapidly scaled offerings and are seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did before. Pre-COVID-19, the total annual revenue of US telehealth was an estimated $3 billion, with the largest vendors focused on the “virtual urgent care” segment. With the acceleration of consumer and provider adoption of telehealth, up to $250 billion of current US healthcare spend could potentially be virtualized.
Examples of the role of AI in the delivery of health care remotely include the use of tele-assessment, telediagnosis, tele-interactions, and telemonitoring.
AI-enabled self-triage tools allow patients to go through diagnostic assessments and receive real-time care recommendations. This allows less sick patients to avoid crowded hospitals. After the virtual visit, AI can improve documentation and reimbursement processes.
Rapidly developing real-time secure and scalable AI intelligence is fundamental to transforming our hospitals so that they are safe, more efficient, and meet the needs of patients and medical staff.
About Renee Yao
Renee Yao leads global healthcare AI startups at NVIDIA, managing 1000+ healthcare startups in digital health, medical instrument, medical imaging, genomics, and drug discovery segments. Most Recently, she is responsible for Clara Guardian, a smart hospital ecosystem of AI solutions for hospital public safety and patient monitoring.