01 May, 2020
Emotional Intelligence in an Artificial Intelligence Era- Patient Experience
This informal CPD article on Emotional Intelligence in an Artificial Intelligence Era was provided by Stochos, an organisation which aims to develop, guide and coach organizations in the process of Excellence & Capacity Building.
Healthcare organizations, more than before, continue to focus on driving positive patient experience that includes amenable facilities and strong patient-provider connectivity. Adopting incredible technology solutions in healthcare leverage the patient journey; it connects patients with the process and avails quick access to the healthcare system. However, creating a positive patient experience requires compassionate optimum medical care based on efficient interaction, genuine understanding, support and trust. This paper highlights the significance of adopting Artificially Intelligent healthcare technology and emphasizes the need for the human element of emotions, feelings, compassion and empathy that are critical to the patient experience.
In an era where human-machine partnership is increasingly becoming the norm, we experience enormous increase in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) automation in healthcare. Across all sectors, healthcare is heavily investing in and pursuing automation and smart technologies, which is evident in the use of AI across the continuum of the patient journey. The glamour of AI in healthcare rests in its ability to optimize care practices and vigorously realign the vital gears of the patient care journey and patient experience.
Yet, patient experience, as defined by The Beryl Institute is “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.” Hence, delivering high-value care that concentrates on the patient experience starts with actively engaging patients and communicating with them at very early stages. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “the quality of communication, both in the history-taking segment of the visit and during discussion of the management plan, influence patient health outcomes” and henceforth, the total patient experience. Therefore, ensuring a patient centric approach whilst bringing process and technology closer to people, is essential for an optimal patient experience.
AI in Healthcare- a much-needed game changer for transformation.
Artificial Intelligence, defined as the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines and the action devoted to making machines smart, to work and react like humans, in a given environment, has been described by Nils J. Nilsson, a Professor of Engineering in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University, as that “activity devoted to making machines intelligent… and intelligence is that quality that enables an entity to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.”
In health care, Ellahham et al identified AI as “the mimicking of human cognitive functions by computers.” As healthcare has reached a time where patients expect an “always-on” and “always-me” service, conventional manoeuvres are progressively becoming less sufficient in keeping up with patient demands. Therefore, and in recent years, the availability of the diverse innovative AI tools that function as intelligent assistants to clinicians has led healthcare facilities to immensely forward leap in integrating AI at many stages of the care continuum.
Realizing that mainstreaming AI in healthcare demonstrates countless advantages for the patient, healthcare practitioners and the process, at large , healthcare AI technologies have been prized and adopted by an expeditiously growing number of healthcare facilities- in an attempt to make better and faster diagnoses and keep up with patient expectations.
The integration of these smart healthcare systems, to adeptly meet patient expectations of receiving the “service” whenever and wherever they need it, is expected to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. In addition, incorporating AI in healthcare has introduced an entirely new approach to servicing- a strategy that unceasingly grows the number of opportunities to engage and satisfy patients.
Impact of AI on patient experience
AI plays a significant role in the patient experience. The mere fact that patients have access to patient-centric innovative smart services, empowers them to be more proactive and engaged in their own care process. This active engagement is essential to both the care outcomes and the patient experience. Studies have, repeatedly, shown that higher patient engagement leads to improved health outcomes-considering more engaged patients are likely to have further met medical needs.
The artificially intelligent health system smoothly succeeds in delivering patients an upgraded experience. Along the patient care continuum, there are drivers that play a major role in their overall experience. Such factors include their ability to promptly access their health provider, having sounder knowledge of their health status and receiving uniquely personalized care- all of which help improve the bi-directional communication and, hence, the quality of patient health outcome. Therefore, by availing such solutions, the entire patient experience is radically influenced.
Thus, smart systems hold a significant advantage in empowering patients through re-shaping their involvement in the care process- transforming them from passive receivers of care to active partners, equipped with far more options of personalized health insights to co-manage their own care.
Nevertheless, the question resides… Does intelligent automation function in solo to secure an optimally individualized empathetic patient experience? Adopting incredible technology solutions that leverage the patient journey is an important measure, yet understanding the comprehensive requirements of patients is main.
Role of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in healthcare
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to distinguish and monitor (own and others) feelings and emotions and to use this information to guide thinking and action. The patient care journey entails more than appointment making and result retrieving; it requires empathetic discussions based on the understanding of how to handle patient changing situations and evolved medical and emotional needs.
Patients have thoughts and emotions that affect their medical needs, so understanding these thoughts, feelings, motives and expectations and adjusting the care process accordingly is critical to the patient journey. The understanding of how to interact with patients and the ability to communicate with warmth and empathy can have an implication on the patient experience and their health outcomes. Consequently, the human element, empowered by EI, is a vital founding pillar to patient experience.
Role of AI and EI in patient experience
While AI tools present a range of new functionalities for healthcare, the use of Artificial Intelligence raises principled questions. This is because deep learning frameworks, which support many of the most advanced AI tools, are only as smart as the data they are fed. For this reason, adopting incredible technology solutions, that leverage the patient journey, is one thing and understanding the comprehensive requirements of patients is another.
AI healthcare technology is great, yet is still far from replacing the need for human emotions, feelings and compassion. Even though AI connects patients with the process and avails quick access to the healthcare system, patients still need the compassion and legitimacy that only humans consummate. It is factual that patients demand optimum medical care, yet the care process remains insufficient with the absence of interaction, genuine understanding, support and trust. The finest smart systems remain far from being able to address arising patient emotional needs and realizing how solutions affect patients on a personal and emotional level, as creatively as human professionals do.
Smart machines have very specialized concepts to perform specific duties, but holistic care urges for more than that. Compassionate holistic care requires totality! It requires the entire range of technology, hands-on proficiency and, equally important, understanding, compassion and support- that only humans can share.
When it comes to people’s health, it is particularly important to have empathy and build trust; trust that goes beyond patients receiving smart answers. Trust based on confidence- that is built upon obtained support, empathy and guidance. Trust that involves listening and understanding- not just hearing; walking by the patient, yet leading the way to create a durable connection that allows for certainty and acceptance.
Although “Machines can be more precise, reliable, and comprehensive and have relatively lower risk of bias; however, they still lack the elements of trust and empathy”. As the “influence of several factors (e.g., psychosocial, emotional) on disease outcomes falls outside the scope of AI”, the necessity of the human element as an indispensable component of the patient experience.
When patients need to talk and ask questions or when they require explanation and clarification, technology might serve the purpose momentarily, but when support, empathy and responsiveness are aspired, how capable would the smart systems be? Artificially intelligent systems do have incomparable capacities to provide real time service(s), connect patients promptly with the system, accurately link data and liberate professionals from robotic tasks; nonetheless, AI remains frail when it comes to providing the EI attributes that humans efficaciously deliver.
Although Patient engagement AI technology tools have developed as a powerful scheme for improving the patient experience, the level of comprehensive care obtained still determines the potent achievement of the personalized care desired by patients. Consequently, despite using many of the most advanced systems and equipment, AI solutions still struggle with the most essential tasks- identifying emotions and handling changing needs empathetically.
The impact of AI on the healthcare processes and patient outcomes is imperative. Smart programs excel when it comes to enhancing accessibility, timeliness, reliability of services and guiding medical decisions through availing innovative and powerful tools and solutions. AI is, surely, an indispensable necessity and a game changer in healthcare. However, to avail an incomparable empathetic patient experience, AI remains insufficient when used in isolation to EI.
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