Infographic: how AI is restructuring the healthcare system

The healthcare system is undergoing a fundamental transformation. More precise data and artificial intelligence are empowering patients and caregivers to perform analyses and treatments that previously could only be handled by specialists. Will jobs disappear as a result?

The following text is an excerpt of the GDI study "Next Health" that can be downloaded on the GDI website.

Even though technology is getting cheaper and more and more processes are being automated, costs in the healthcare system are not going to go down. At least, this is the diagnosis of the situation according to the “cost disease” theory posited by the American economist William Baumol. Digitalisation may offer at least a chance to combat the cost disease, and perhaps even to cure it. This is because when algorithms and experts work together, this creates many opportunities to increase both the quality of services and work productivity.

Thanks to technological advances, tasks that could previously only be carried out by experts can now be performed by less qualified staff in a less specialised setting without necessarily decreasing the quality of care, which in turn leads to an increase in the productivity of the healthcare system.

Disrupting Health Care Institutions
Disruption in healthcare insitutions, source: based on Christensen, C. & Bohmer, R. (2000): Will Disruptive Innovations Cure Health Care? Harvard Business Review,
online: hbr.org/2000/09/will-disruptive-innovations-cure-health-care

One example of how new technologies can transform healthcare is in the treatment of diabetes. Before 1980, patients with diabetes could only know if they had abnormal glucose levels through a third party. They used an often inaccurate urine test or visited a doctor who took a blood sample and then measured glucose levels on an expensive lab machine. Today, patients carry miniature blood glucose meters with them everywhere. They now control their own disease, which used to require much more professional involvement, and receive far higher quality care that is much more convenient, efficient and cost-effective.

Resources freed up at the respective higher-level service provider can be used for the treatment of more complex diseases. In this way, health care providers can specialise in the areas best suited to their expertise.

Data revolutionises the health care system

The future of the healthcare system will largely depend on which information systems are used. Important aspects of this include:

  • What is measured in individuals and in society as a whole
  • How data is processed and shared
  • How people and machines work together
  • How artificial intelligence continues to develop
  • Which tools patients use to navigate the healthcare system—e.g. Google or a symptom checker
  • Whether we trust the algorithms.

The disruption of the healthcare system by AI makes it clear that health problems are always information problems, too. And health solutions are always information-based solutions. The future of healthcare and the speed of its progress depend crucially on the information systems that are deployed.