Medical healthcare Asian female doctor using modern technology

How AI keeps patients at the heart of healthcare

The humane outcomes driven by today’s intelligent healthcare technologies

13 October 2022

AI is advancing various industries, but what benefits does it offer to patients and providers in healthcare? Find out how AI drives the people-first perspective.

Healthcare providers are under pressure to manage multiple priorities and concerns, which makes it easy to lose sight of their top priority: the good of the patient. 

Costs and complexity in healthcare are rising. Cumulative expenditure from 2015 to 2030 for Asia-Pacific (APAC) ageing populations is projected to reach over US$20 trillion. Adopting various measures to control COVID-19, such as contact tracing, regular disinfection, and the use of protective gear, means added costs and work. Disease management is also becoming more complicated, raising costs as chronic illnesses magnify. Diabetes alone accounts for 10% of Singapore’s disease burden, with an estimated one million people expected to have it by 2050.

Healthcare institutions are strained, and patients bear the brunt of it. To respond to these challenges, healthcare facilities can deploy digital technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), to enhance care administration and improve health experiences and outcomes, benefiting both patients and providers. 

By improving patient experience, enhancing administration, and driving health outcomes, AI can help ensure that people come first in healthcare.

AI lifts long-time burdens for patients

A doctor holds a patient's hand

The emphasis on patient experience has become a cornerstone of modern healthcare. AI can help drive results in this area, in more ways than one. 

1. Reducing waiting time

Many patients spend hours waiting for a consultation. The wait is a major source of patient discomfort and delay, deterring hospital visits and reducing patient satisfaction. However, AI-enabled smart registration and triage processes can shorten wait times and simplify the patient experience.

In China, for instance, most outpatient departments do not require appointments for access. Long waiting times are common at hospitals due to overcrowding and the lack of a standard identification system. Providers also receive patients with minor conditions from rural areas, on top of referred patients. 

The Shanghai Children’s Medical Centre (SCMC) introduced an AI-powered module to perform preliminary diagnosis and test recommendations for registered patients. A retrospective study on the AI module’s performance found that it reduced the waiting time from registration to test preparation to approximately 22 minutes.

Patients in Singapore also face the burden of long waiting times. At the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), patient waiting times stretched to 45 minutes on busy days. By leveraging AI to categorise simple and complex patient cases, the centre has reduced waiting time by approximately half.

2. Transparent medical billing

Dealing with payment is another area where healthcare providers can improve the patient experience. Medical bills can be a source of stress and anxiety for patients who are often surprised at how quickly their healthcare costs escalate. 

One solution lies in AI-backed bill estimates: Parkway Pantai’s AI-powered Price Guarantee Programme (PGP) crunches factors like surgical procedure, length of hospital stay, diagnosis, and patient attributes like age and gender, generating an accurate bill estimate tailored to the patient. Parkway Pantai runs this system for six standard medical procedures at four of its Singapore hospitals.

Instead of a price range, the AI generates a fixed amount before the medical procedure. Using the AI algorithm’s accurate estimates of the costs, Parkway Pantai can guarantee the price, even accounting for related complications and additional treatment, for up to seven inpatient days. This transparency in fees gives patients peace of mind and the confidence to make informed health choices. 

3. Humanising patients’ experiences

Patients also often feel misunderstood by busy providers, which diminishes their overall experience. According to a BMC Health Services study, 51.9% of patients felt their doctor did not know what mattered most to them. However, healthcare institutions can adopt AI-enabled solutions that allow patients to feel engaged with the services they’re receiving.

For instance, patients feel better knowing their concerns are being heard – and this is what a Health Bot is designed to address. A Health Bot can replace many human interactions with an AI-powered voice interface that uses natural language capabilities to provide personalised, conversational care. 

A Health Bot can lighten the load on a hospital’s workforce by providing credible triage and symptom checking, applying medical knowledge, and deriving conclusions based on conversations with the patient. And as it’s AI-powered, it can easily handle interruptions, topic changes, and even complex medical questions. 

AI: machines and providers work hand-in-hand

A nurse attends to a patient inquiry.

AI also plays a role in improving the administration of healthcare, especially as the shortage of staff is at an all-time high. The global shortage of nurses is projected to reach 5.7 million by 2030, and Indonesia is seen to have the largest shortage by that year at 300,000.

AI can provide support to healthcare staff and improve clinician workflow. For example, Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore has implemented an “artificial brain” to optimise assignments for its 1,700 beds and maximise finite manpower and other hospital capacities.

Another example is Lumiere32’s Pay32Clinic inventory, an AI-powered clinic inventory system that digitalises and automates inventory management. This system helps hospitals and providers meet the need for fast-moving healthcare supplies that limited manpower may not be able to fulfil.

Estimating resource allocation also improves efficiencies for healthcare administrators. Forecasting pre-admission hospital expenses must account for various factors, including patient age, existing condition, comorbidities, health practices, and hospital visit frequency, and has thus become highly complex. 

To address this problem, software developer uCare.io created APACHE (AI-Powered Pre-Admission Cost of Hospitalization Estimation), which helps close the gap between estimated and actual hospital bills by 60%. The APACHE platform is the basis for Parkway Pantai’s PGP.

Better health outcomes, better society

young male scientist looking results from automation blood analyzer report

Operational and clinical inefficiencies also erode response times for healthcare providers, diluting the quality of care delivered to patients. Predictive analytics and automation capabilities reduce these inefficiencies by accelerating diagnosis, treatment, and disease management.

AI can support clinical decision-making and thus enable more efficient healthcare services. For example, the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI), in partnership with the National University of Singapore School of Computing and local start-up EyRIS, developed an AI-powered detection tool for diabetic retinopathy. The AI tool can return diagnostic results within 20 seconds; comparatively, the traditional approach of manual retinal image analysis and grading takes about an hour.

In Thailand, Bumrungrad International Hospital plans to apply AI in medical imaging to support clinical decision-making and diagnosis. Specifically, it is implementing AI-powered X-ray analyses that enable the detection of chest abnormalities and early-stage breast cancer.

Dental services also benefit from AI. For instance, CephX AI performs automated diagnostic and analytical dental imaging to accurately predict the required orthodontic treatment. The AI platform reduced customer service response time from several days to less than a minute. Moreover, the imaging technology’s average accuracy for landmarks detection outperforms human operators by more than 99.8%.

Beyond individual treatment, AI also drives health outcomes at the population level. It can process multiple data sets quickly, producing insights on chronic disease management and preventive care to reduce the healthcare burden. 

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) recognised the importance of achieving population-wide health and rolled out the “Three Beyonds” healthcare transformation framework, namely: Beyond healthcare to health, Beyond hospital to community, and Beyond quality to value. AI plays a role in “Beyond healthcare to health” by identifying society-wide changes for healthy lifestyles to curb chronic conditions and prevent disease.

Conclusion: meeting demands on healthcare head-on

The demands on healthcare budgets and staffing are mounting, but using AI can ensure that people remain at the heart of healthcare. AI enables solutions that prioritise patient experience and health outcomes, and support clinical decision-making.

Digital-oriented institutions are already at the forefront of healthcare in Singapore and the rest of APAC. Healthcare providers that want to upgrade their IT solutions are in a prime position to partner with companies like T-Systems to tailor their IT Infrastructure with AI and cloud solutions.

T-Systems employs its considerable experience with implementing AI services and cloud-based capabilities for clients in the healthcare industry, ensuring that aiding patients remains the impetus for healthcare services. Find out more about T-Systems and how they can customise their AI services and cloud solutions for the good of your patients.

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