Improving the patient journey: AI and other digital tools key to the process

Updated on April 20, 2024
artificial intelligence in healthcare

Much of what challenges today’s patient experience is caused by friction and confusion across the care journey due to extended waiting times, access challenges, communication gaps, health care provider burnouts, lack of care plans and coordination. 

In addition, complicating the care delivery journey, health systems are confronted with a host of challenges, including increased competition from nontraditional players, labor shortages, increased wages and growing patient volumes. These factors impact the patient journey as well and create gaps that lead to further patient frustrations, inconsistent care, confusion on how to get the appropriate care, and elevated costs. It’s important to note, according to a survey with Kaiser Family Fund, one in four adults have skipped or postponed care because of costs. 

However, there is a path forward. With new patient-focused care mapping complemented by artificial intelligence—providing the ability to understand and synthesize, automate operational processes and predict what will/should come next—these measures could combat and minimize many of the patient frustrations throughout the care journey and reduce unnecessary services that lead to higher costs. 

By formulating a patient journey that addresses engagement, access and literacy, health care providers and other industry stakeholders can gain a better understanding of the patient experience and find new ways to improve all points of the journey.

Addressing patient engagement

One focus of digital solutions in health care is to create an integrated experience for patient engagement. By connecting various digital platforms and systems, health care providers can offer a cohesive and personalized patient journey. For instance, the integration of telehealth platforms with electronic health records, wearables and other digital tools facilitates access, health literacy and equity.  

There are also other forms of integration to help patients with access and engagement. For example, the ongoing development of health care ecosystems (a network of organizations like hospitals, clinics, physician practices and insurance companies) will be a priority this year for many in the health care industry. These ecosystems will strive to foster connections between different health care stakeholders such as patients, providers, insurers and researchers. Securely encouraging and facilitating the exchange of meaningful medical data, health care ecosystems will enable a more holistic approach to patient care and empower individuals to take control of their health and be more engaged in their well-being.

Improving health literacy

Health literacy can help us prevent health problems, protect our health and better manage health problems when they arise. 

According to Center for Health Care Strategies, nearly nine out of 10 adults in the United States struggle with health literacy. Limited health literacy has and can cause worsened health outcomes, strain the health care system and create additional costs. Limited health literacy is prevalent among marginalized populations, disproportionately impacting Medicaid members. 

Technology and data mapping across the patient journey map can help engage diverse patients to improve digital health literacy and individualize care. Hospitals have and continue to partner with community-based organizations to assess whether these digital solutions are easily accessible and understandable by a variety of patients and communities. Health literacy is important for everyone because, at some point in our lives, we all need to be able to find, understand, and use health information and services.

The transformative impact of AI

AI is transforming health care. For instance, hospitals produce massive numbers of medical images, about 3.6 billion worldwide, according to the American Medical Association. With the advent of AI, this technology is helping doctors analyze images more quickly and effectively, sometimes providing early detection of illnesses even sooner than previously possible. 

In addition, new generative AI applications have been used to extract data from patients’ medical records, populate it instantly into forms, record notes from patient sessions and improve patient communications in a speedy methodical way. 

In a variety of ways, AI can help providers gather information, store and analyze it, and provide data-driven insights from vast numbers of people. Leveraging this information can help health care professionals determine how to better treat and manage diseases. These transformative solutions all build to an important goal: the improvement of the patient journey, from treatments to extended care.  

The takeaway

Improving the patient journey with technology and analysis can improve outcomes and save costs. Better access, increased engagement and enhanced health literacy results in patient confidence throughout the care journey.

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Michael Haas
Health Care Senior Analyst at RSM US LLP

Michael Haas is a technology management consulting manager in RSM US LLP’s health care industry practice. In 2022, he was selected for the firm’s Industry Eminence Program as a senior analyst covering the health care industry, working alongside the firm’s chief economist and other program participants to analyze the trends and themes affecting the nonprofit and education industry and shaping middle market businesses. Michael is based out of RSM’s New York City office.

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Danny Schmidt
Health Care Senior Analyst, Senior Manager at RSM US LLP

Danny Schmidt is a senior manager in the assurance practice and a health care senior analyst for RSM US LLP. As a member of the Industry Eminence program, Danny works alongside the firm’s chief economist and his fellow senior analysts to understand, forecast and communicate economic, business and technology trends affecting middle market businesses.