Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds the potential to change the health care experience for patients by providing new tools that modify the way patient engagement occurs and creating platforms that improve outcomes throughout the patient journey. Even small applications, such as the AI-backed voice assistant platform some hospitals have deployed, provide answers to questions that normally require the engagement of HCPs, and are accelerating access to patient information.

Patients are already engaged in many aspects of interacting with voice-assisted AI or machine learning algorithms in many aspects of their daily lives. The challenge in health care is to identify opportunities that address a need, leverage patients’ acceptance of AI and machine learning from other industries, and create programs that are compliant. Traditional patient programs, such as Virtual Clinical Educator, which are programs that assist patients in meeting their health goals, address a key market need and represent an area that can be further enhanced with AI. For example, HIPAA-compliant voice activated “home companion” machines have been developed to provide medication reminders and correctly dispense medications at home using facial and voice recognition.

Such innovations are not limited to the patient journey; they are quickly expanding into packaging, delivery, and the tracking and reporting of key vital metrics captured in real-time. Take for example the introduction of the respiratory inhalers that collect patient inspiratory air flow as it delivers medication (a key element for patients to obtain full therapeutic benefit), and then is able to share that patient information with the HCP. This advanced technology represents a digital health innovation that provides a great potential benefit, but also, raises privacy compliance requirements to a new level.

Adapting to digitally-savvy patients and HCPs requires the industry to take steps to meet innovation expectations while also balancing regulatory requirements. With both patients and HCPs, the industry has identified key interactions that could be supplemented with programs similar, to the extent permissible by regulatory parameters, to those of technology companies. Digital health leaders are now looking outside of pharma and on to other industries to not only gain insights, but to source talent and create a growing cross-over between traditional healthcare organizations and big technology companies, such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

In conclusion, beyond bringing health innovation to tech companies, advanced digital health is also challenged with governance and capability issues. Securing compliant data management processes, real-time analytics and infra-structure to support such innovations, are amongst the challenges faced by companies as digital innovations continue to disrupt the healthcare ecosystem.