What's in store for healthcare in 2024?

According to hospitals and health system C-suite leaders, 2024 will be the year of artificial intelligence integration, patient engagement 2.0 and regulation for the healthcare industry. 

The gen AI revolution

"In 2024, generative AI will revolutionize healthcare by integrating with a range of applications, not just EHR systems," Muhammad Siddiqui, vice president and CIO of Richmond, Ind.-based Reid Health, told Becker's. "From HR systems to lab systems, the use of AI and ML will improve workflows and create efficiencies in healthcare operations. This will result in better diagnosis accuracy, personalized treatment plans, and streamlined administrative processes."

Mr. Siddiqui said that through generative AI, diagnostic and treatment plans can be generated preemptively, even before symptoms manifest. While this concept may seem reminiscent of science fiction, it holds incredible potential — akin to possessing a futuristic crystal ball fueled by algorithms and extensive data, foreseeing future outcomes.

As a result of these breakthroughs, healthcare in 2024 is poised to evolve into a more personalized and technologically advanced realm, according to Mr. Siddiqui.

The year of AI regulation 

"2024 will be a year where we see a greater focus on AI governance," Michael Saad, CIO of Traverse City, Mich.-based Munson Healthcare, told Becker's. "As health systems and hospitals continue to evaluate and implement AI solutions, more questions will arise regarding ethical use cases, HIPAA, patient privacy and data security."

This, according to Mr. Saad, will create a demand for hospitals and health systems to establish a structured AI governance framework as regulatory mandates and legal actions emerge.

Brian Sterud, vice president of IT and CIO of Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk, Neb., agreed with the sentiment, stating that he expects "to see the balance of AI and regulation begin to normalize in 2024."

"This new technology cannot be ignored, but we need to ensure that we have proper guardrails," he said. "I eagerly anticipate how we can manage the regulation without stifling the technology." 

But some leaders argue that the continued development of regulations around the use of AI in healthcare could limit the "discovery" of this new technology. 

"I am extremely concerned these will be broad brush attempts to regulate a field we are only just starting to understand," ​​David Higginson, executive vice president and chief innovation officer of Phoenix Children's, told Becker's. "This could significantly limit discovery and understanding of how to best utilize this promising and rapidly changing technology."

Mr. Higginson said he believes it's crucial to enable the academic community to explore, study and experiment with the technology through well-established protocols and procedures that are already safeguarding patients. 

Imposing stringent regulations that only the biggest and wealthiest corporations can adhere to might lead to only a few already influential companies being able to create and apply solutions, he said.

Version 2.0 of patient engagement

According to Mr. Higginson, in 2024 healthcare systems will revisit the first generation of engagement tools they put in place during the pandemic and seek new ways to better meet the needs of the patients they serve.

"For example, the current industry standard is that less than 10% of all appointments are available to be booked online," he said. "We have to address the cultural and organizational barriers in our institutions preventing us from increasing that to more than 50%."

The solution doesn't lie solely in technology, according to Mr. Higginson. 

It will be crucial to address the inherent tensions between patients wanting the flexibility to book appointments online and providers adhering to the traditional practice of reviewing patient charts and needs before scheduling, he said. 

"Something must change in this space, and it will be fascinating to see the different approaches that succeed in trying to satisfy the needs of all parties," he told Becker's

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