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  • Second OptumIQ survey of health care executives finds 88% increase in number who said their organizations have implemented an artificial intelligence (AI) strategy compared with 2018
  • Nine in 10 leaders are confident they will see a return on investment in AI sooner than previously expected; half say in less than three years. They also expect to invest more – an average industry net increase of $7.3 million compared with 2018
  • Implementing AI is expected to streamline work and create more job opportunities for skilled employees

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Confidence and investment in artificial intelligence (AI) to improve health care remain high, according to a new survey of 500 U.S. health industry leaders from hospitals, health plans, life sciences and employers, on their attitudes and adoption of the technology. Significantly, compared with 2018 findings, this year’s results found a nearly 88% increase in the number of respondents who said their organizations have a strategy in place and have implemented AI.

The second OptumIQ Annual Survey on AI in Health Care also reveals a shift in funding expectations for AI-related projects, as leaders estimate their organizations will invest an average of $39.7 million over the next five years – $7.3 million more than last year’s estimate.

“These findings validate that AI is vital to holistically transform health care. It’s encouraging to see executives’ growing trust in, and adoption of, AI to make data more actionable in making the health system work better for everyone,” said Dan Schumacher, president and chief operating officer of Optum. “Working together, I am confident we can improve the quality, experiences and reduce the total cost of health care in meaningful, sustainable ways.”

In addition, the survey found:

  • A positive return on investment (ROI) will take less time than previously expected, as little as three years in some cases. Half (50%) of respondents expect to see a tangible cost savings in three years or fewer as a result of investing in AI, compared with 31% in 2018. Among the respondent groups, more hospitals (55%) and health plans (52%) expect to see a positive return in less time – in three years or fewer – while life sciences executives (38%) anticipate it taking five years or longer.
  • Implementation has advanced. Sixty-two percent of respondents report having implemented an AI strategy – an increase of nearly 88% from 2018 (33%) – while 22% report being at late stages of implementation.
  • A higher level of trust in AI for administrative over clinical applications. While most respondents indicated high levels of trust in AI for both clinical and administrative tasks overall, when asked to rank specific applications, more administrative applications were selected (62%) over clinical applications (38%). In addition, when asked which health care applications, if any, they would feel comfortable having AI technology support, four out of five of the top-ranked applications were administrative.
  • Administrative process improvements top the list of investment priorities. Half (50%) of organizations will invest first in automating business processes, such as administrative tasks or customer service, while more than a third (36%) will invest in personalizing clinical care recommendations, such as drug therapies, and the same percentage (36%) also will invest in accelerating research for new therapeutic or clinical discoveries.

AI Seen as Most Pragmatic for Non-clinical Applications
In addition to noting the growing value of AI in the clinical environment, health care executives are looking to AI to solve a variety of operational and administrative challenges, such as automating pre-authorizations and personalizing care. The top five areas that organizations see AI as having potential are:

  • 51% to automate prior authorizations
  • 47% to provide individuals with relevant health actions using personalized communications
  • 45% to manage electronic health records (EHRs)
  • 43% to detect fraud, waste or abuse in reimbursement
  • 38% to select appropriate care settings

AI to Create More Employment Opportunities and Drive Job Growth
As more organizations invest in and move forward with implementations, half (52%) of leaders expect AI to create more work opportunities. The majority (87%) agree that hiring candidates who have experience working with AI technology is a priority for their organization.

Most (89%) also agree employees are not being trained quickly enough to keep up with the growth of AI. In fact, 91% estimate that 10% to 50% of new roles will require experience working with AI. To solve this, they are evenly split among solutions such as establishing partnerships, creating training programs, working with consulting firms and postponing projects.

“In order to transform and modernize the U.S. health system through the power of AI, it is critical that organizations invest in developing talent throughout the enterprise to solve health care’s most complex challenges,” said Steve Griffiths, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Optum Enterprise Analytics. “At Optum, we apply what we call OptumIQ – a distinctive combination of curated data, analytics and health care expertise – to drive that intelligence transformation.”

To learn more about the 2019 OptumIQ Annual Survey on AI in Health Care, download the fact sheet and watch the video.