Healthcare execs trust AI to automate administrative processes, advance health equity: Optum

Healthcare executives increasingly trust artificial intelligence to support key efforts in their organizations, including administrative processes and health equity pushes, according to a new Optum survey.

Optum, an information- and tech-enabled health services firm in UnitedHealth Group, surveyed 500 healthcare executives at hospitals, health plans, life sciences companies and employers.

Nearly all of the executives (98%) surveyed said they either have an AI strategy or are planning one, pointing to the increasingly critical role of AI not just as an added benefit, but as a requirement for healthcare organizations.

Respondents also overwhelmingly agreed that AI could be used to further their health equity efforts, with 96% saying AI plays an important role in their organization’s health equity goals.

While a wealth of data has been collected that can reveal health inequities based on factors like race and socioeconomic status, efforts to address those inequities have largely been siloed. Technology may help connect the dots.

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Another key finding from the survey: 94% of respondents said they have a greater duty in healthcare than in other industries to ensure AI is used responsibly.

“The responsible use of AI continues to provide important opportunities for healthcare leaders to streamline administrative processes and provide more effective patient care with enhanced experiences for both patients and providers,” said Steve Griffiths, senior vice president of data and analytics at Optum Labs, in a statement about the survey. “These leaders are not just users of AI, but they have an opportunity to be looked to as role models across industries in their commitment to using AI responsibly.”

Most respondents—nearly 3 in 4—said they trust AI to support administrative processes, a current focus area for many healthcare-focused tech companies.

Suki and Robin Healthcare both announced funding rounds earlier this month for their voice-based assistants that help automate clinical processes.

Notable, an AI-powered platform that performs administrative workflows like reaching out to patients who are overdue for care, banked $100 million in November.

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Respondents also indicated key avenues through which they believe AI can improve patient care. Their top three selections were virtual patient care (41%), diagnosis and predicting outcomes (40%) and medical image interpretation (36%).

In previous years, some have worried that AI will eliminate the need for certain careers altogether. However, 55% of respondents said they think AI will create job opportunities rather than reduce them.

“This year’s survey findings continue to validate how the responsible use of AI can help health systems strengthen and scale essential functions and reduce administrative burdens, all of which helps clinicians focus on their core mission of patient care,” said Rick Hardy, CEO of Optum Insight. “We share their enthusiasm for AI, but more importantly, we look forward to combining our healthcare expertise with AI to help people—patients, physicians, and those working behind the scenes—as that is where the real value is delivered.”