'The mind of a mathematician with the heart of a doctor': athenahealth CTO Prakash Khot shares 4 thoughts on AI in healthcare

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Prakash Khot, executive vice president and chief technology officer of athenahealth, shared his views on how artificial intelligence may be applied to healthcare in the near future during an April 13 presentation. The presentation was part of a series of discussions that took place during the Becker's Hospital Review 9th Annual Meeting in Chicago from April 11 through April 14.

Here are four key thoughts Mr. Khot shared during his presentation.

On finding AI's entry point in healthcare

"From a technology perspective, we're at a stage where computers pretty much can do anything and everything we can do," Mr. Khot said. "It's very possible to take this technology and apply it to any problem we think is important for us to solve. … There is no intent here to replace a doctor. The intent is to find a business outcome, experience outcome, clinical outcome, where this technology could be applied to make healthcare the way it should be. AI is the mind of a mathematician with the heart of a doctor."

One use case: Reducing patient no-shows

"Some studies have found if we could increase the saturation of appointments, the density of appointments of doctors on our network, we could put back $300 million into those health systems," Mr. Khot said. "We could search a lot of our existing data for previous patterns about [a patient], or similar people, and predict whether he will actually show up for that appointment. We can do what the airline does, and double-book some of those appointments. Increase the density of the appointment cluster, to help the health system make money."

Another use case: Reducing potential overprescribing

"How can we apply some level of AI to help the doctor make a better decision?" Mr. Khot asked, honing in on a problem he called "overcare," in which physicians prescribe unnecessary medications or procedures. "You can form guidance [based on existing research] to help doctors make a good decision. Then, when a doctor is prescribing something really complicated, expensive and involved, a system can provide a real-time second opinion … to allow the doctor to make the right choice. … There's research that shows allowing this kind of filter will stop more than 50 to 60 percent of very expensive and involved procedures."

Promoting physician buy-in and acceptance

"We need to find out those outcomes that will really benefit [physicians] … if I could take away grunt work, if I could tell a doctor, 'Look, you don't have to worry about faxes,' I'm fairly certain they'll be very happy," Mr. Khot said. "The second thing is bringing what the consumer world has actually done. They have infused technology, where none of you thought you were using AI, but you actually use Google maps all the time. … Infusing [AI] in an experience that's very natural and organic to them will make it easier for them to accept the technology."

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