Patient Care Trends of 2020: SDoH, Behavioral Data, and Moving Beyond the AI Trough of Disillusionment

By Dr. John Showalter, CPO, Jvion.

Dr. John Showalter

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming healthcare, especially on its clinical side, where 62% of providers have already adopted an AI strategy. The American Hospital Association recently reported that when successfully implemented, clinical AI can improve patient outcomes and lower costs at each stage of the care cycle, from prevention and detection to diagnosis and treatment. Expect to see continued growth in AI adoption in 2020.

Here are a few of the most exciting AI trends to watch for:

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) will become a core focus for healthcare AI solutions: AI has significant potential for helping reduce socioeconomic barriers to care. Across 2019, we have seen investment by CMS in the Accountable Health Communities Model, which is the first model to include social determinants of health. This model codifies what we already know — that socioeconomic factors influence an individual’s health and risk. Emerging AI technologies are actively creating value for patients by helping to make sense of large socioeconomic and environmental datasets, driving meaningful investments and action that will help to prevent avoidable utilization and guide effective distribution of community resources.

We will start to move into the “Slope of Enlightenment” within the Hype Cycle: Healthcare AI will move out of the “Trough of Disillusionment” as more evidence of AI’s ability to improve health outcomes emerge. AI-related topics will continue to gain prominence in research and the media. And the results of funded projects and pilots will become available to the broader industry.

The AI discussion will broaden beyond imaging and natural language processing: With the exponential increase in patient data, it’s only logical that it’s time for AI – the best way to synthesize that data – to have its moment. While imaging and natural language processing have dominated the healthcare AI conversation over the past few years, 2020 will mark an expanded understanding of AI solutions to include those focused on clinical decision support. These solutions integrate into existing clinical workflows to help direct resources to modifiable patients at risk of a target adverse event. Expect to see more investment and discussion around these solutions across 2020.

Behavioral data is going to emerge as a critical component to comprehensively identifying patient risk: We know that where a person lives and their behaviors contribute to his or her risk of certain diseases and illness. However, most of the industry’s focus has been on leveraging socioeconomic and clinical data to identify at-risk populations.

In 2020, we will start to see investment in behavioral data assets to help drive a more holistic understanding of patient risk. The biggest AI winners in 2020 will be those solutions that figure out how to successfully use this data to improve interventions and clinical action.

There will be an increased focus on AI-aligned change management: One of the biggest lessons from 2019 is that AI implementations are hard. Healthcare IT systems have long been a source of frustration for clinicians, and convincing care teams that the added layer of AI will empower them to provide better care can be a tough sell.

But it is a change worth making, as providers who have already seen an ROI on their AI implementation can attest to. 2020 will bring more investment and best practices in change management activities that are aligned to healthcare AI generally and clinical decision support tools in particular.

As 2020 comes into focus and we move into the new decade, it will be exciting to see how AI will continue to transform healthcare and enable clinicians to provide better care for their patients. That said, it’s important to remember as we move into an AI-driven future that putting patients first – protecting their privacy, seeing the patient, not their data, and ensuring that they are always heard – is essential, no matter what else might be trending.


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