Investment, AI, and the Future of Healthcare

AI technologies are already transforming healthcare and impacting patient outcomes. There’s no question that everything from diagnostic methodologies to pharmaceutical development to health record management and even treatment strategy is being touched by advancements in machine learning and augmented/artificial intelligence applications.

It seems a day doesn’t go by without a new computational wonder or bold digital health promise atop the healthcare headlines. Dual areas of interesting AI impact include:

Physician Support — In accordance with Vinod Khosla’s belief that major technological transformation in medicine is on the horizon, AI has produced great strides in diagnostic capability. And applications of the technology also show great potential to help release physicians from crushing clerical burdens through augmented record keeping and data management. One project under development aims to streamline notetaking and generate higher quality clinical data using progressively optimized speech recognition and AI-interpreted commands. Such work indicates that Health2047 advisor Norman Winarsky is prescient in forecasting that soon “AI assistants will provide real-time and ongoing support and recommendations to the physician for diagnosis and treatment, as well as administrative support…all at scales impossible to digest via human effort alone.”

Patient Empowerment — In addition to highly publicized developments in consumer wearable products that feature AI-powered personal health-monitoring applications, AI may help stem the rising tide of chronic disease management. A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that AI “has the potential to enable the creation and delivery of better management services to deal with chronic diseases,” noting in particular that “artificial intelligence methods are being progressively established as suitable for use in clinical daily practice, as well as for the self-management of diabetes. Consequently, these methods provide powerful tools for improving patients’ quality of life.”

And all this activity is driving an increasingly dynamic market in the sector. Frost & Sullivan estimates that AI’s use in healthcare IT (HIT) is will top $1.7 billion by the end of 2019. Acumen Research recently reported that the market for AI in healthcare is expected to reach over $8 billion by 2026 and grow at CAGR 49.7% during the forecast 2019–2026 period. And Accenture predicts that key clinical health AI applications can potentially create $150 billion dollars in annual savings for the U.S. healthcare economy alone within the next decade.

It is, indeed, an exciting time for both technological and medical transformation. But what is often underplayed is the necessity of sustainable commercial infrastructure and strategic investment to support the widespread adoption and diffusion of these advances across the healthcare sector.

For example, billionaire Blackstone cofounder Steve Schwarzman recently made admirable and enormous horizontal investments in educational support for humanities and AI ethics with donations to MIT and Oxford University. But it occurs to me that these generous donations, while interesting and noble, are not actionable. And while big tech companies like Google and Microsoft are developing incredible AI technologies with myriad potential healthcare applications, their expertise lies in horizonal solutions.

Time and again, broad horizontal solutions fail when attempts are made to establish business units to penetrate vertical industry sectors. Unlike water, innovations such as AI technology do not naturally flow downward and fill in the gaping voids. This is particularly true in the slow moving, highly regulated, necessarily human constrained, and uniquely sensitive healthcare industry — which is cause for concern about all those billions of investment dollars projected to flow though the AI healthcare economy in the near future.

We at G5 Partners, as advisors to Health2047, on the other hand, begin from the unique healthcare vertical point of view. We’re laser-focused on a mission to harness the power of technology for the aggressive advancement of American healthcare, and everything we pursue must be actionable, scalable, commercializable, and demonstrate measurable progress toward achieving that goal.

The investment strategies and funding collaborations that will underpin this kind of purpose-built application of AI for broad healthcare impact require as much development and deliberation as do the technologies being implemented, and must weigh barriers to adoption, feasible market entry points, and the identification of synergies between partners to bridge the divide between what exists and what is possible.