The importance of machine learning and AI technology in healthcare

Published: November 14, 2023 by Experian Health

With artificial intelligence (AI) continuing to dominate conversations among healthcare’s strategic thinkers, it’s clear that recent innovations in this field could herald a step-change in healthcare delivery. AI’s ability to mimic human intelligence and machine learning (ML)’s capacity to learn from vast amounts of data means these technologies are fast becoming indispensable tools for healthcare leaders who want to optimize operations. Understanding how they work – and where to apply them for maximum impact – will be crucial to stay ahead of the competition as the revenue cycle landscape evolves. This article breaks down the what, why and how of AI technology in healthcare, and includes a look at Experian Health’s new AI-based claims denial solution, AI Advantage™.

Understanding machine learning and AI in healthcare

The terms “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence” are often used indiscriminately, but what do they mean in a healthcare context? Generally speaking, AI is a machine’s ability to perform cognitive functions that would normally be associated with humans, such as interacting with an environment, perceiving information, and solving problems. It can spot patterns, learn from experience and choose the right course of action to achieve a desired outcome. This includes natural language processing, robotics and machine learning. In healthcare, AI might be used to transform diagnosis through the analysis of medical images, expedite drug discovery by monitoring side effects, improve the safety and efficiency of surgery through robotics, and support patients to take ownership of their own health through health monitoring and wearables.

Machine learning is a broad term that covers the processes used to extract meaning from (usually large) datasets to create and train a predictive model. It will look for historical patterns in input and output that a human eye might miss, and generate recommendations based on outcome parameters defined by the user. For example, it can look at patients’ electronic health records to identify those who may be at risk of specific medical conditions so they can be offered appropriate advice. Another useful application is in predicting service demand, for more efficient appointment scheduling and resource allocation.

Further subsets of machine learning include supervised learning, where training data is labelled with the desired outcomes that the algorithm should aim to detect, and unsupervised learning, which has no predefined targets and is useful for discovering patterns, insights and anomalies.

Unlocking the AI Advantage™: how AI can reduce claim denials and improve financial performance

The transformative potential of ML and AI technology in healthcare isn’t limited to clinical decision-making and patient engagement: optimizing revenue cycle operations is a particularly attractive place to leverage the technology. It can be used to identify and reduce billing errors, enhance coding accuracy, and predict revenue leakage. This results in faster payments, better use of staff time and fewer claim denials.

However, Experian Health’s State of Claims 2022 survey revealed that while 51% of providers were using automation, only 11% of providers had integrated AI technology into their claims processes. Experian Health’s new AI-based claims solution is specifically designed for those looking to take the next step to leverage AI to predict and prevent denials.

AI Advantage takes a two-pronged approach to reduce the risk of denials and expedite any rework that may be needed. AI Advantage – Predictive Denials examines claims before they are submitted and calculates the probability of denial, based on thresholds set by the provider. It incorporates historical payment data and undocumented payer claim processing behavior to evaluate individual claims in real-time, with a level of speed and accuracy that would be unachievable using manual processes alone. High-risk claims can be edited before submission to reduce the risk of denial.

AI Advantage – Denial Triage evaluates and segments denials based the likelihood of reimbursement following resubmission and prioritizes the work queue based on financial impact. It learns from payers’ past decisions to formulate recommendations with increasing accuracy. This means staff can eliminate guesswork and focus their attention on the denials that will be most likely to yield results.

See how Experian Health’s AI-powered solution works to reduce and prevent denials.

Challenges to watch out for when implementing AI

While the benefits are clear, the rise of AI in healthcare applications also brings some challenges. Here are some key questions to consider for smooth implementation:

  • How reliable is the data underpinning AI technology? AI tools are only as good as the data they’re analyzing. Without high-quality, structured data, they will be unable to make accurate predictions. Providers need to ensure that data is available in a usable format and free from errors. Partnering with a reliable third-party vendor can help ensure all the relevant boxes are ticked.
  • Does the technology integrate easily with existing workflows and software systems? Integrating new tools with the existing RCM infrastructure can be complex. Organizations often have legacy systems that may trigger interoperability issues, limiting effective data exchange and requiring staff to log in to multiple interfaces. A single vendor solution can mitigate for this. For example, AI Advantage fits together seamlessly with the industry-leading claims processing tool, ClaimSource®. Experian Health’s consultancy team are also on hand to ensure smooth implementation.
  • Does the software protect data privacy and security? Healthcare data is subject to multiple privacy and security regulations, such as HIPAA. Any new technology that processes data must comply with regulations and industry best practice. Being able to reassure patients that their data is safe is also an important driver of patient loyalty.

What does the future hold for AI technology in healthcare?

Looking ahead, the role of ML and AI in both patient-facing healthcare processes and revenue cycle operations is only going to grow. Predictive analytics will give staff increasingly powerful insights and recommendations to maximize reimbursement, while minimizing the burden on the workforce. Emerging technologies such as robotic process automation and natural language processing will offer more sophisticated and comprehensive workflow solutions, while AI’s ability to continually learn and improve means providers that leverage AI will be better placed to make full use of their data and adapt to evolving trends and challenges.

Discover how AI Advantage™ is helping Experian Health’s clients transform their healthcare operations.

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