- Demand for artificial intelligence tools is rising, with 90% of hospital executives reporting they have an AI or automation strategy in place, up from just 53% in 2019, a new survey found.
- COVID-19 is one factor spurring heightened urgency, with 75% of respondents saying strategic initiatives around AI and automation are more important or significantly more important in 2021 due to the pandemic.
- However, implementing and scaling AI in hospitals continues to be a challenge, despite the rise in awareness and adoption, according to the survey conducted by healthcare market research firm Sage Growth Partners and backed by AI company Olive.
The survey includes some of the latest data suggesting a surge in prioritization for such investments, particularly in non-clinical applications as hospitals look to streamline back-end operations to cut costs.
In Sage Growth's 2019 survey, only half of hospital leaders said they were familiar with the concept of AI, while more than half were unable to name an AI vendor or solution.
The latest report, conducted between September and December last year, suggests hospital executives are increasingly focused on automation tech and are reporting a healthy return on interest in their investments.
Of those surveyed, 75% said automation has grown in importance, pointing to the need to curtail wasteful spending, especially in light of the pandemic's negative financial effects. A recent report from Kaufman Hall said providers could continue to be swamped this year by higher than normal expenses following a surge in cases over the winter, estimating U.S. hospitals could lose anywhere from $53 billion to $122 billion in revenue.
Concerns about ongoing expenses could lead executives to look for tech-driven ways to cut costs.
More than half of respondents to the survey — 56% — reported an ROI of two times or higher on their AI technologies.
However, despite the growing interest, actually getting the tech in hospitals continues to be a problem in an industry often criticized as being behind the digital curve.
Only 7% of hospitals' AI strategies are fully operational, Sage Growth found, while just 6% of respondents said they had 10 or more use cases live in their facilities.
And 44% of respondents said resource constraints, such as not having enough staff to support implementation, along with difficulty identifying best processes for automation are the two biggest implementation challenges.
Additionally, the concept of applying AI in healthcare has given rise to myriad concerns, especially when the software is applied to clinical applications.
The Food and Drug Administration in January issued an action plan for regulating AI in medical devices following concerns about algorithmic bias that could potentially worsen existing disparities in healthcare.