AI: The Quiet, Transformational Revolution is Underfoot
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace has transformed the way companies do business, particularly in the healthcare industry.
In a complex environment with multiple transactions, AI essentially frees people up to focus on the tasks they are best at: making critical decisions regarding cost savings and maximizing efficiencies. In so doing, AI reduces risks associated with human error in these more mundane, rote functions. This drives increased outcomes in the form of reduced inaccuracies in claim filings, inventory management systems, patient records, and other aspects of healthcare operations.
Proof of Concept in Our Own Government.
In 2017, the Office of Management and Budget tasked federal agencies to submit reform plans to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability in their programs. One healthcare institution was ahead of the game, as they had already embarked on a multi-faceted, department-wide transformation effort driven by AI.
A key initiative was launched to transform and modernize the way the department acquires goods and services. With more than $24 billion in annual spending, the healthcare institution saw an opportunity to leverage AI and an e-commerce solution to establish a cohesive acquisition structure across the department to drive better pricing, improved terms, and recognize greater economies of scale. These factors also shifted the focus of the healthcare institution’s procurement professionals to higher-priority, mission-critical work.
Procurement is a time-consuming, arduous process and sometimes the overall cost and time invested are disproportionate to the benefits. When multiple people buy the same or similar items at different times, from different vendors, and at different costs, it can be nearly impossible to compare purchases and identify departmental or organizational needs. Enter AI.
The power of AI is being used to take a human-centered, multi-path approach and help healthcare institutions achieve their goals on an enterprise scale. Its capabilities allow users to scan millions of structured and semi-structured acquisition data from existing contracts to identify and categorize like items, compare pricing and availability, and confirm the most cost-effective procurement and delivery of key goods and services.
This readily-accessible knowledge empowers the healthcare institution’s procurement professionals, subject matter experts, and customers to create more informed solicitations and more effectively negotiate the terms of new purchases. It has become a key part of their decision support system. The combination of natural language processing (NLP), deep-learning algorithms, and machine learning built for both structured and unstructured data results is not just improving outcomes overall, but cuts procurement time substantially.
Further, procurement professionals and customers can use this valuable information to craft more informed solicitations, more effectively negotiate the terms of new purchases, and unlock the potential for large group purchases. Daily procurement activities are ultimately faster, more accurate and efficient, and less complicated – which spells unmatched benefits to healthcare organizations’ operations functions, elevates their standard of patient care, and ultimately, boosts their bottom-line. The success of this tool and the robust AI capabilities behind it were responsible for this program growing into a multi-year initiative to expand the footprint within this healthcare institution.
The Envelope, Please!
After reviewing the tasks that needed to be considered, a customized algorithm and process was developed within the healthcare institution to drive execution. This made it possible to scour and review more than 97,400 contracts comprising over 1,000,000 pages for even the most incremental savings that could be promulgated into larger ones.
The initial results were nothing short of revolutionary:
- Automated external defibrillators that went from $2,627.00 per unit were now acquired for $946.00 yielding savings of 178%.
- Even medical professionals’ services were scrutinized as they went from $96.20/hr. to $42.00/hr. – for an improvement of 129%.
- Finally, a substantial cost is remote conferencing via a platform that can handle up to 500 attendees. Here, AI was able to slash subscription costs from more than $18,000 per session to a vastly more affordable $4,309.00. The savings? About 322%.
IT professionals with AI expertise can come in and work with administrators to completely understand the ins and outs of the workflows to be considered, then integrate and incorporate them into the organization’s processes. This approach then offers a customized solution that includes the right blend of technology that’s surprisingly affordable. And, once in place, savings can be projected out for many years, thus providing an extremely high return on investment (ROI).
In the aftermath of COVID-19, there are new demands on businesses to run as efficiently as possible while making workforces feel increasingly valued. It’s clear the current transformation in all areas of commerce, whether it be healthcare or anywhere else, will be relying on AI to make that dream a reality.
Ashley Mehta is the Chairwoman, CEO, and President of Nolij Consulting, a Woman-Owned Small Business located in Northern Virginia. Nolij is a solutions-focused Healthcare IT services company that specializes in digital healthcare modernization for the military, public, and commercial sectors. For more information, please visit www.nolijconsulting.com.