The potential for technology integration into healthcare delivery: Q&A with Pieces Technologies' Dr. Ruben Amarasingham

Ruben Amarasingham, MD, is the founder, president and CEO of Pieces Technologies, a healthcare artificial intelligence company formed from the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation, based in Dallas, Texas.

Throughout his career, Dr. Amarasingham published several health IT studies and received more than $28 million in extramural research for EMR improvement and real-time health predictive analysis. In 2016, he founded Pieces Technologies, where he currently serves as CEO.

Here, Dr. Amarasingham discusses the integration of technology into healthcare delivery and patient experience.

Question: How do you see healthcare delivery and connectivity changing as hospitals and health systems implement software and technology platforms to harness data and improve efficiency?

Dr. Ruben Amarasingham: There are thousands of highly coordinated actions which often need constant oversight and course correction to achieve the best clinical outcomes. These actions occur inside and outside of the healthcare setting, and increasingly in the home. I think we will see machines and advanced cognitive decision support systems increasingly perform these tasks to help augment clinical decisions enabling more time to be focused on the treatment and the patient relationship. In addition to achieving better clinical and financial outcomes, this will relieve stress on the physicians, nurses, patients and caregivers.

Q: How does your background as a clinician inspire your innovations in the healthcare space?

RA: Years of inpatient and outpatient clinical practice have taught me the importance of the following questions when considering new innovations:

• How do we reduce the stress of the healthcare journey for patients, caregivers and providers?
• How do we preserve the singular importance of the patient-doctor relationship?
• How do we allow all clinicians and healthcare professionals to make their highest value contribution?

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for technology to improve healthcare and healthcare delivery in the future?

RA: Ultimately, I think healthcare delivery will occur on a daily continuous basis wherever the patient is, and home-based technologies and clinical decision support systems will make it less and less necessary to come into hospitals and clinics to receive care.

After years of EMRs and other technology additions, all future developments must be focused on creating real value for providers and caregivers through workflow efficiencies and improved bottom-line results for the healthcare organization. Demonstrating real clinical and operational return on investment must be fundamental in the adoption of these new technologies.

Q: How will artificial intelligence and machine learning change daily healthcare delivery?

RA: Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of a machine to perform tasks that reflect aspects of human intelligence, such as perception, memory, interpretation and decision-making. On the AI spectrum, full replication of human thought is sometimes referred to as to "strong" or "full" AI. This does not exist yet. On the other end exists "narrow" AI, which could be described as the use of software or algorithms to complete specific problem-solving or reasoning tasks, at various levels of complexity. Narrow AI in healthcare attempts to solve specific focal tasks like reading a chest X-ray, interpreting the stage of a skin wound, reading a doctor's note and understanding the concerns. In all of these tasks a narrow AI system will continually improve its performance; it may even stitch together disparate cognitive tasks, such as looking at a wound picture, determining its stage, and then reading a doctor's note to understand the therapeutic plan. Pieces Technologies provides narrow AI that works on these types of focal cognitive tasks supplemented by what we call "clinician-in-the-loop" artificial intelligence.

Fundamentally, healthcare is about making good decisions: decisions about diagnosis, therapeutics, surgery, response to complications and prevention. AI systems will increasingly support and participate in these critical decisions, providing an extra set of highly vigilant "eyes" over the patient journey — available 24/7 — in a way that is difficult for an individual provider to match. This will help improve outcomes and make the physician's and patient's lives better.

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