Why half of hospitals plan to invest in AI by 2021

Artificial intelligence and RPA investments are slowly growing in the healthcare sector, according to a report from Olive.

Video: How big data and AI can help innovate healthcare At the Louisville Innovation Summit, the head of innovation at AT&T's Connected Health Foundry explains how the healthcare system can harness data for machine learning.

Healthcare costs continue to rise, with an estimated $1 trillion of healthcare spending devoted to administrative costs. One way that hospitals can help trim expenses and improve efficiency is through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). But progress has been slow, and the effort to implement AI is still in its nascent stages, according to a report released Wednesday by Olive.

A survey conducted by Olive in partnership with healthcare market researcher Sage Growth Partners questioned 115 executives at hospitals in the US about their efforts to improve efficiency and cut costs and their plans for AI and RPA integration.

SEE: AI in healthcare: An insider's guide (TechRepublic)

Among the respondents, 30% ranked improving the quality of care as their top priority, 21% pointed to improving patient satisfaction, and 20% rated improving efficiency. Almost 75% selected improving efficiency and reducing costs among their top three priorities. Specifically, the respondents said they see high growth potential in automating high-volume, repetitive tasks in the areas of supply chain management, revenue cycle management, finance, and human resources.

However, only 50% said they were familiar with the concept of AI/RPA. Further, more than half were unable to name an AI/RPA vendor or solution. Among those looking to adopt an AI/RPA solution, 23% said they are doing it now, while half said they plan to do so by 2021.

For hospital leaders eyeing AI/RPA, 43% said they'd prefer to use a company that can build, deliver, monitor, and support the integration. Some 26% said they would rather choose the platform themselves and then bring in consultants to build it, 18% said they would opt to select the platform and have their employees build it, and 13% said they'd prefer to hire consultants to choose and build the platform.

"As an industry, healthcare is united by a mission to deliver better patient care, and a huge barrier to delivering that promise is the challenge that 1 in every 3 dollars is spent on administrative expenses," Rebecca Hellmann, Olive's chief marketing officer, said in a press release. "Imagine what could be done if more resources were available to focus on patient care. With AI becoming more mainstream and offering a clearer path to value, hospitals no longer need to build out a massive technological infrastructure before benefiting from the efficiencies that it can create."

The survey respondents included 115 executives in the roles of chief financial officers, chief information officers, revenue cycle managers, and supply chain functional leaders at hospital systems and independent hospitals in the United States.

For more, check out Why AI will create $2.9T in business value by 2021 on TechRepublic. 

Also see

Doctor And Robot Shaking Hands

Image: iStockphoto/AndreyPopov

By Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.