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Tom Lawry, National Director for Artificial Intelligence in Health & Life Sciences, publishes his first book AI in Health: A leaders guide to winning in the new age of intelligent health systems.
Claire: You're watching the Microsoft US Health and Life sciences Confessions of health geeks podcast. A show that offers industry insight from the health geeks and data freaks of the US health and life sciences industry team. I’m your host, Claire bonaci. Today begins an ongoing series with Tom Lawry, our National Director for artificial intelligence in health and life sciences to discuss his new book AI in Health. Welcome Tom!
Tom: Hey, thanks for having me.
Claire: Great, so let’s jump in. So Tom tell us about your new book AI in Health: A Leaders guide to winning in the new age of intelligent health systems.
Tom: Well first of all I know that’s a mouthful, but part of that was just a subtitle. So the book is AI in Health. It’s being published by HIMSS and CRC press. It’s scheduled to debut at HIMSS 2020 next week in Orlando. But anyways it’s a book that I was asked to write actually by HIMSS. Where the focus is not on the technical side of AI but truly on the process side of how do you plan and deploy activities to actually have AI be something delivered at scale to improve the quality of care, to improve outcomes, to improve the cost effectiveness. And what we’ve seen is there’s a lot of excitement about AI among healthcare organizations of all sizes and types. Sometimes they’re talking or they’re starting to proof of concepts or pilots but there’s a real challenge of crossing the chasm of going from excitement and pilots to truly driving scale and really deploying across an enterprise. This is a book that focuses on a lot of issues like how to engage clinicians to ensure they’re part of the planning process from the beginning. Things like creating and managing a data estate and I’ve often kidded about, I’m often asked to keynote and talk about AI. I’ve never had anyone ask me to come out and speak in a major conference on managing a data estate. Which is absolutely critical to take AI and have it go across an organization. And finally its things like ethical AI where I don’t know of a single healthcare org that’s not focused on diversity and inclusion across their staff or the services they provide. But when I ask a simple question about how does AI tie to your diversity and inclusion plan people look at me like they don’t really understand what I’m talking about and yet not done right you can do everything to do a great job of diversity and inclusion and have real issues when it comes to issues of bias and other things in your AI program. So this is a book that outlines all those key issues and provides a framework for how to go from pilots and excitement to true deployment across an enterprise.
Claire: Great, I love that it covers such a wide span of topics. Why do you feel the time is right for AI to have an impact in health today? What’s different today then say 5 or 10 years ago in the industry where health is more open to it?
Tom: I think a couple of things. The first thing is just the progress we’ve made technically in the last couple years. Amazing progress of moving from things that kind of sounded interesting to truly commercially available, industrial grade solutions, and that’s everything from machine learning. I mean we’ve been doing predictive analytics since the 1950’s but the ability to take these tools and really bring them into healthcare in a way that are very workable to allow us to predict anything from all those clinical things to which claims are going to be denied if you’re a hospital. Its very impressive on how we’ve come a long way in a short period of time commercially available industrial grade tools, machine learning, speech, text, vision, knowledge extraction. Theyr’e all there and ready to go when it comes to redoing processes. I think the other thing which is the broader view is simply we have so many challenges in healthcare. I mean anyone in America who is tuning into the political debates is getting an earful of health reform and there are many things we can do better on. Quality, outcomes, cost. My belief is the power of AI done right will play a far bigger role in making healthcare better than anything coming out of Washington DC. And so there are things within the control of clinical and business leaders. Understanding the tools and how to apply them against their clinical and operational workflow improvement, their goals, their missions to me is what gets me excited. The tech is there, the timing is right to solve these old problems.
Claire: I really 100% agree with you that healthcare is at the forefront of peoples minds nowadays. It’s a good time. in all your research and experience what has you most excited about AI in health today?
Tom: Well as I said it’s the ability to truly drive change, not just talk about it. The 2nd thing is everyone is in the early stages of this AI in health revolution and anyone who says they’ve got it all figured out really probably doesn’t really know what they’re talking about. What gets me excited is being In the early stages I believe that what were seeing with AI in the cloud is really the next major computing platform in healthcare. So you think about the last 2 decades where the dominant change was the advent of electronic health or medical records and was greater produced a lot of benefit but it also produced challenges with usability, where clinicians spend their time. but clearly produced benefit. But when you look at that change in the last 20 years I describe moving from paper to digital records is similar to freezing water. It takes a different form but the elements and the same. The way u use the data is the same. With AI were having intelligence viewed in these systems which means computers will start acting like humans. Humans will have the ability to stop acting like computers. Particularly when it comes to the repetitive low value work that doctors and nurses are faced with. So our ability for example, Accenture did a study that 30% of a registered nurse’s activities could be automated with AI. So a lot of the value comes in what that 30% looks like. But if I could help reduce the repetitive low value activities of a clinician and give them back 30% of their time to spend with patients and do research and get home at night and be home and having dinner with their kids, that’s very high value and can clearly be driven by AI being put in behind process improvement.
Claire: Those are really interesting insights, thanks Tom. So as we close do you have any parting words or would you share any personal advice to encourage or instruct listeners?
Tom: Well the first thing id say is buy my book! And the 2nd id say is you know we have the ability to truly transform healthcare with these new tools. Some of it is about the technology but so much of it is empowering clinical and business leaders when they understand the tools and how to apply them to truly be empowered to transform all those things they care about. The thing that someone’s driving home thinking about or worrying about. If only we could be better at this. My challenge and opportunity is to say with these new tools we have the ability to solve problems that previously we had a difficult if not impossible time to solve. And its not easy and its not a magic bullet. AI is currently a shiny object which has its own downside but if you look at the capabilities available today in the hands of clinical and business leaders to do good, the upside is tremendous. The risks are limited and a lot are mitigated by really understanding what you need to do to transform healthcare with AI.
Claire: Thanks so much tom I’m really looking forward to having you back on the podcast next month. Thank you all for watching. To purchase Tom's book visit www.crcpress.com. We look forward to continuing the AI in health series next month with Tom Lawry to discuss AI in HR. Please feel free to leave us questions or comments below and check back soon for more content from The HLS industry team.