After COVID-19, AI will be critical to elder care

Even after the pandemic has passed, says one stakeholder, AI can help providers provide better care to the elderly while enabling them to stay safely at home.

Sometimes success can lead to unanticipated challenges.

That’s one way to sum up a recent commentary by Dr. S. Vincent Grasso, who is Global Practice Lead for Healthcare & Life Sciences at IPsoft, a developer of so-called conversational AI.

The success Dr. Grasso points to is the fact that, due to modern medicine, much of the world has enjoyed a steadily growing life expectancy.  The unanticipated challenge is the fact that the elderly are among those most susceptible to the coronavirus that has spread around the globe.

Even under normal circumstances, Grasso notes, an aging population has brought an array of age-related diseases – including arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, dementia, COPD and many others – for healthcare providers to grapple with.

“These challenges have worsened in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Grasso continues, “which has resulted in overwhelmed hospitals as millions of Americans shelter in place. These challenges are not easily met with a workforce that’s 100% human, but they can be overcome with a hybrid human-AI combination.”

Among the tools Grasso has in mind are conversational computing, robotic process automation and machine learning, but, not surprisingly, he is particularly keen on conversational AI.

In his view, “(c)onversational AI has now become advanced enough and powerful enough to assist the public in identifying potential risk indicators for COVID-19. More than a FAQ page with a series of links and generic information, AI offers an interactive solution that screens for COVID-19 symptoms, providing invaluable information about the virus. The information is based on details recommended by the CDC, providing reliability and credibility to the toolset.”

Tapping into conversational AI would enable hospitals, other providers and healthcare system call centers to reduce their on-site patient burden significantly, while also allowing patients to remain at home and only go to healthcare facilities when they absolutely must.

When the coronavirus wave has passed, Grasso expects AI to remain an integral part of healthcare systems, but, he cautions, in order for AI to remain as useful as a patient interaction tool, “it requites conversational interactions between all relevant parties. In addition to being conversational, each interaction must be multilingual, culturally relevant, and linguistically relevant to non-university-based educational levels in order to reference prior conservations intelligently.”

The immediate and longterm benefit, he argues, is that “human healthcare workers will be empowered to spend more time in direct patient care, solving complex problems and engaging in richer, more personal conversations with patients.”