Rotman Management

Leadership Forum: Creative Destruction in Healthcare

Alistair Erskine

Chief Digital Officer, Partners HealthCare

MY COLLEAGUE, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR Atil Guwande, recently wrote an article for the New Yorker titled, “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers.” In it, he points to a number of workflow-related issues that are problematic for physicians. Some come down to fragmented workflows due to partial digitization, and some are associated with the fact that the computer feels like it’s ‘in the way’ between the patient and the provider. The thing I hear from clinicians again and again is that between login screens and access to different systems, it takes way too many clicks. Clearly, there are opportunities for improvement.

When it comes to AI in healthcare, some practical applications are already in use. A dermatologist is now equal to a computer in terms of interpreting certain kinds of moles for melanoma; images of the back of the retina can be processed by AI to identify retinopathy in patients with diabetes; and a machine can now interpret and diagnose a mammogram better than a human pathologist.

AI can even save lives: If an 86-year-old patient comes in complaining of dizziness and gets a CAT scan on a Thursday indicating a 96 per cent chance that she will have a stroke within hours or days, an algorithm can place her results at the very front of the line to be dealt with immediately — instead of a week or more. For the radiologist and her workflow, nothing changes — she still grabs the next film in the queue; but regardless of when the test was done, the AI literally reorganizes the stack.

All of these new tools are augmenting, not replacing what clinicians do, and

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