Healthy future for ‘augmented intelligence’

As demand for services grows, human healthcare professionals will increasingly turn to AI technologies to augment their capabilities, Conversa’s Murray Brozinsky says.

According to Murray Brozinsky, the future of patient-centred healthcare is not substituting artificial intelligence for people but “augmented intelligence”: Using AI technologies to enhance the work of healthcare professionals.

“There’s some things that AI, no matter how positive the projections are, are not as good as humans, and won’t be as good as humans, at doing,” Brozinsky, the chief strategy officer of Conversa, yesterday told the Commonwealth Bank’s Future of Health event

“If you go to the healthcare system and said we’re going to replace all of the healthcare professionals, you’re going to get rejected like an organ transplant gone bad,” he said.

Instead he advocates for “combining human intelligence with artificial intelligence.”

“A computer makes a decision – all the way down it’s computational,” he explained. “But when a human makes a choice, to make the right choice you need to know what matters and why it matters. And that’s the real distinction between human and machine and where they can collaborate. There are studies now that show human plus machine outperform both human and machine alone.”

Even wealthy nations are struggling to deal a one-two punch of growing healthcare costs and a shortage of healthcare professionals, Brozinsky said. He added that the shortage of healthcare professionals will increasingly bite as the world moves towards personalised medicine.

Brozinsky advocates moving to a healthcare model based on ongoing “virtual” conversations with patients, where they are engaged in their own care and where continuous insights are available to both patients and physicians.

At the heart of the shift to an “augmented intelligence” approach to healthcare will be conversational AI, he said. Conversational AI can deliver “personalised automated conversations”, with chatbot-style services acting as vehicles for collecting PGHD, or patient generated health data.

“Patients have a wealth of knowledge about themselves that’s not being used – it’s a data set we don’t leverage,” Brozinsky told the Commonwealth Bank event.

PGHD can feed into a risk-assessment process that provides positive reinforcement for patients that are doing well, or can “nudge” individuals back on track, or escalate to a healthcare professional when necessary (including if a patient is uncomfortable with the process).

“We’re at the dawn of the conversation economy,” Brozinsky said.

Earlier this year, Gartner predicted that by 2020, a quarter of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistants or chatbots, up from less than 2 per cent.

Brozinsky said that chatbot and conversational AI market is forecast to grow to $3.1 billion by 2021, with the emergence of voice-based systems such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri “really turbocharging that”.

In March Accenture released the results of a survey of US consumers that found greater acceptance of AI-based health technologies.

Almost a fifth of participants indicated they had already used an AI-powered health service. Sixty-one per cent said they were likely to use “intelligent virtual health assistants”, while 55 per cent indicated they were open to using “virtual nurses” that monitored their health condition, medications and vital signs at home.