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With populations on the rise and resources increasingly strained, health organizations are continually looking to enhance the patient experience and improve outcomes while also driving efficiency. According to the World Economic Forum, the global population will jump from 7.6 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050, and the number of people over age 60 will reach roughly two billion.

To meet the demands of this aging population, the global health system will have to transform. Improving care quality in an era where clinicians and budgets are already spread thin will require providers to implement innovative digital technologies that support multiple goals simultaneously.

While digital approaches are no quick fix, there are multiple scenarios where organizations have an opportunity to achieve gains in patient experience, outcomes, and efficiency. Let’s take a look at three emerging healthcare application patterns being adopted by providers seeking to harness innovation by creating intelligent feedback loops, infusing AI into clinical workflows, and developing interactive health agents.

Personalizing care and improving outcomes with a greater understanding of each patient

The acute care healthcare delivery model often puts providers in a reactive position when helping patients manage chronic conditions, such as epilepsy. For instance, epileptic patients may visit physicians only sporadically when their condition worsens. As a result, doctors are forced to rely on patient self-reporting and isolated encounters, limiting their ability to optimize treatment plans and prevent conditions from deteriorating. This is an expensive and frustrating model for both patients and providers.

Thanks to a combination of apps, medical devices and sensors, providers can transition from a reactive to a proactive model. By providing ongoing visibility into a patient’s status, this digital approach gives providers the comprehensive, consistent insight needed to deliver better outcomes and patient experiences.

For example, at Poole Hospital National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom, providers have transformed epilepsy treatment with a mobile health app and wearables that enable an intelligent feedback loop—providing real-time insight to the patient and delivering status information in a continuous loop to care teams so they can monitor and take action. Patients wear an activity tracker connected to a mobile app that records data such as sleep patterns, exercise, heart rate, and body temperature. These data elements are combined with information regarding the patient’s diet, social activity, medications, and seizures.

With this ongoing picture, care teams get a better understanding of each patient, enabling them to adjust medications or tailor treatment plans. Over time, this solution has the potential to expand— for instance, by identifying when a seizure is about to occur via pattern recognition and warning patients and their support network before it happens.

Creating intelligent feedback loops supports personalized care, leading to more effective treatments and better patient outcomes. Simultaneously, feedback loops have the potential to lower costs by enabling care teams to keep patients healthier instead of treating them only after problems get worse.

Detecting deterioration sooner by making disease easier to identify

In many cases, providers miss opportunities to spot deteriorating conditions because they don’t have all the information at hand to make accurate diagnoses. This is especially true for conditions like diabetic retinopathy, where tiny clues to future blindness are challenging to discover in occasional specialist visits because the early signs are hard to detect. Using available retina scanners tied to a database, clinicians can detect and prevent disease before it starts. CoxHealth system in Missouri dramatically changed outcomes in their patient population in conjunction with their partner Intelligent Retinal Images Systems (IRIS). IRIS provides an end-to-end diagnostic solution for early detection of disease, from patient identification to reimbursement and referral, by infusing artificial intelligence (AI) into the clinical workflow.

In the first six weeks of using IRIS, CoxHealth examined more than 1,000 patients and found almost 20% had diabetic retinopathy that would have otherwise been undetected. Within a few short months, more than 300 patients were diagnosed and received care for vision-threatening illnesses that may have progressed untreated.

Infusing AI seamlessly into the clinical workflow surfaces information to providers that could otherwise go unknown, enabling better diagnoses and treatment plans. Earlier interventions, such as those enabled by IRIS, also promise cost savings while improving patient experiences and outcomes.

Enabling faster diagnoses and freeing up clinician time through patient self-service

In the typical acute care model, patients go to a hospital or outpatient clinic at the onset of symptoms. They may not know how to describe their symptoms or may forget something that would help clinicians understand their condition fully, yet doctors must triage each patient accordingly. Leveraging interactive health agents combined with validated clinical content could create a more self-service method for patients to triage their symptoms, helping to direct the patient to the most appropriate point of care based on their condition.

By mapping patient-reported symptoms to validated clinical information and clinical coding standards, this technology would provide a foundation for the patient-provider consultation. In addition, because interactive health agents can connect to clinical knowledge bases and other machine learning tools, they can reduce the resource overhead involved in the triage process, helping to streamline care.

Interactive health agents have the potential to deliver an enhanced patient experience, as demonstrated by Health Navigator. Health Navigator works with eHealth, telemedicine, and other healthcare organizations to deliver the highest quality evidence-based digital health content that improves patient care, promotes patient safety, and enhances both the patient and provider experience.

Achieve your goals with intelligent solutions

Improving patient outcomes and driving efficiency doesn’t mean putting more technology between patients and providers—it’s about empowering the people that make healthcare work. Microsoft’s approach is focused on enabling the healthcare industry’s move to the cloud and helping them use technology to improve the lives of people around the world. Through intelligent feedback loops, AI-infused clinical workflows, and interactive health agents, providers can start to develop the foundations for precision healthcare. To learn more about how Microsoft is helping providers meet their engagement goals, read our eBook.