Survey Shows Growing Level of Interest in Healthcare AI

A new survey has found a big year-to-year jump in the number of healthcare executives saying they’d implemented an AI strategy, with administrative solutions getting more attention than clinical AI options.

The second OptumIQ annual survey on AI in healthcare queried 500 leaders from hospitals, health plans, life sciences organizations and employers on how they saw and what their plans were for the technology.

One of its key findings was an 88% increase over 2018 in the number of respondents stating they had an AI strategy in place and had implemented AI technology. The survey also noted a jump in spending on AI, with respondents estimating that their organizations would spend an average of $39.7 million over the next five years on AI, up $7.3 million from last year.

Many executives were optimistic that these investments would generate returns relatively soon, as well, with 50% saying that they expected to see cost savings within three years or less of making AI investments, up from 31% last year. That’s a pretty fast ROI turnaround for an enterprise-level technology.

The survey also found that many organizations had made great strides in their AI plans over the past year. Sixty-two percent of respondents reported that they’d implemented an AI strategy, up from 33% in 2018, with 22% saying they were the late stages of implementation. This year-over-year jump sends a strong signal that AI adoption has entered a rapid-growth phase.

Half of the respondents said they were investing in AI-driven administrative process improvements first, while 36% were building out capabilities supporting personalized clinical care recommendations. Also, 36% planned to invest in speeding up research leading to therapeutic or clinical discoveries. They may very well see big potential for clinical AI deployment, but it’s possible they see administrative data as more accessible than clinical data.

The top five AI areas respondents saw as having potential included automating prior authorizations (51%), suggesting relevant health actions to individuals using personalized communications (47%), managing EHRs (45%), detecting fraud, waste or abuse in reimbursement (43%) and selecting appropriate care settings (38%).

Given this level of activity, it’s little surprise that hiring AI-savvy employees is on these organizations’ radar. The survey found that 52% of leaders reported that AI would create more work opportunities and that 87% felt that hiring candidates with AI tech experience was a priority for them.

Almost all of the respondents also predicted that 10% to 50% of new roles will require experience working with AI, while 89% agreed that their employees weren’t being trained quickly enough to keep up with the growth in AI use.

To meet this need, the respondents are considering several approaches, including working with consulting firms, creating training programs, establishing partnerships and postponing projects.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.