Optum survey finds organizations adopting AI to help achieve better, more equitable and affordable patient outcomes.

  • Almost all healthcare executives surveyed trust AI to support day-to-day tasks, including 72% who trust it to support administrative tasks
  • Survey respondents overwhelmingly agree healthcare organizations have a higher duty than organizations in other industries to ensure responsible use of AI

Healthcare executives increasingly believe in the power of artificial intelligence to help improve patient outcomes, support cost savings in the health system and promote health equity, according to a new survey of 500 senior health care executives from leading hospitals, health plans, life sciences companies and employers.

The fourth annual Optum Survey on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare found 96% of respondents believe AI plays an important role in their effort to reach health equity goals. In addition, 94% agreed they have a duty within the healthcare system to ensure AI is used responsibly.

“This year’s survey findings continue to validate how the responsible use of AI can help health systems strengthen and scale essential functions and reduce administrative burdens, all of which helps clinicians focus on their core mission of patient care,” said Rick Hardy, chief executive officer, Optum Insight, the data and analytics business within Optum. “We share their enthusiasm for AI, but more importantly, we look forward to combining our health care expertise with AI to help people — patients, physicians, and those working behind the scenes — as that is where the real value is delivered.”

A majority (89%) of healthcare executives surveyed believe the challenges in using AI in the healthcare industry require partnering with a health services company with expertise in data and analytics versus a technology-focused company, as the best way to address them.

AI implementation continues

With the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop, the survey responses point to an industry that remains steadfast in its approach to implementing AI: 85% of health care leaders say they have an AI strategy and 48% have implemented it, continuing the upward trend from last year’s results where 83% had an AI strategy and 44% had implemented it. Overall, 98% of healthcare organizations either have a strategy or are planning one.

Easing administrative burdens, focusing on care

Nearly 3 in 4 healthcare leaders (72%) said they trust AI to support non-clinical, administrative processes that take away time clinicians could be spending with patients and delivering care. This is unchanged from the 71% who said they trust AI to support administrative tasks in 2020.

This year’s survey respondents also said they are excited about the potential for AI in improving patient outcomes in multiple ways, indicating the top three below:

  • Virtual patient care (41%)
  • Diagnosis and predicting outcomes (40%)
  • Medical image interpretation (36%)

In addition, healthcare leaders continue to be optimistic that AI technology will create work opportunities (55%) rather than reduce them (45%). This is similar to last year and up from 52% in 2019.

“The responsible use of AI continues to provide important opportunities for healthcare leaders to streamline administrative processes and provide more effective patient care with enhanced experiences for both patients and providers,” said Steve Griffiths, senior vice president, data and analytics, Optum Labs, the research and development arm of UnitedHealth Group. “These leaders are not just users of AI, but they have an opportunity to be looked to as role models across industries in their commitment to using AI responsibly.”