AI expertise gets more expensive as hospitals bulk up

Health systems are evaluating the best strategy for integrating artificial intelligence into the broader organization, which sometimes means bringing on additional AI expertise.


Ann Cappellari, MD, system vice president and chief medical officer of SSM Health in St. Louis, said the system is establishing two to three generative AI solutions to test, pilot and expand. She is focused on systemwide multidisciplinary governance to solidify the system's strategy and support upcoming initiatives.

"With these initiatives, we will continue to explore and educate our business to promote safe but continued use," Dr. Cappellari told Becker's. "There continues to be significant and appropriate reticence with what feels like a lot of unknown while recognizing the amazing potential of these innovations."

Health systems with the resources to hire AI chiefs and build IT teams with AI expertise are investing in this skill set to stay competitive over the next several years.

"The healthcare industry is rapidly evolving with technology advances in the new age of AI that will require roles and skills that can help us prepare for that change," Salim Saiyed, MD, vice president and chief health informatics officer for service area 3 at Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health, told Becker's. "I believe the potential new roles that could be valuable in informatics and innovation teams will include skill sets to support virtual care, AI implementation and data scientists."

But AI roles come at a big, and growing, cost. The Wall Street Journal reported AI and machine learning engineers and managers are in high demand across industries and commanding steep six-figure salaries; some even exceeding $1 million per year.

Key takeaways from the report:

1. AI and machine learning managerial roles saw base pay jump 5% to 11% from 2022 to 2023, according to WTW.

2. Non-managerial AI and machine learning roles are also seeing a pay spike of 13% to 19% year over year.

3. Tech companies are offering high equity incentives in addition to base pay and bonus opportunities.

Hospitals and health systems with thin margins may struggle to offer competitive packages for AI expertise, but they do have one thing other tech companies and startups may not: a strong mission to positively impact the community. Individuals with a desire for a deeper sense of purpose, and those who may have already achieved financial security, may see healthcare as a fulfilling opportunity.

Health systems are also training existing staff to keep pace with new AI developments.

"I firmly believe that everyone in healthcare will need an understanding of generative AI, its potential as well as the risks," David Berge, CEO of University Hospital of Brooklyn, N.Y., told Becker's. "Hospital workers will need an understanding of how to safely incorporate generative AI into their daily work to improve productivity. Healthcare workers will need to understand how large language models are created and specifically how to evaluate for bias, hallucinations and fabrications."

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