What if an intelligent application could diagnose a health condition as quickly and precisely as a human doctor? A Financial Times story features a digital diagnostic app called Babylon that crunches through billions of data points collected from thousands of test consultations to help pinpoint an ailment. This is just one example of how machine learning, also known as artificial intelligence, is transforming healthcare.
Babylon is just one of a growing collection of intelligent tools that can empower people to manage their own health. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration approved 36 connected health apps and devices, from mobile lung-function monitors to blood-glucose tests, that provide medical advice to consumers—at a fraction of the cost of a provider visit or traditional lab work.
As we collect and store more and more data about consumers’ health and lifestyles, there is an incredible opportunity for health plan sponsors to capture and apply this data to transform their business. They can integrate and analyze this valuable data by using machine-learning algorithms in the cloud. Applying machine learning can enable plan sponsors to pick out trends and interactions at the population level and — ultimately —predict and prevent disease before it even occurs.
If you’re skeptical about how machine learning can transform business, just look at three behemoths: Airbnb, Uber and Google.
Airbnb uses big data and machine learning to guide hosts to the perfect price and deliver a better experience than a traditional hotel service model. In New York, Airbnb rentals now represent 25% of all lodging, and the company is grabbing market share from traditional hotels. Airbnb is now valued at $30 Billion.
Uber uses machine learning to find customers, set competitive prices and create a more convenient ride than a taxi. In doing so, the company is displacing the taxi industry. Uber is now valued at $62.5 Billion.
And of course, let’s not forget about Google. By tracking Web browsing, emails, chats and more, Google has become a dominant force in digital ads. It mines that wealth of personal data to present ads to the people most likely to care about them. Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., relied on that ad machine for about 88% of its $75 billion in revenue last year.
Right now, plan sponsors are collecting terabytes of data on their members. But how many are integrating that data, analyzing it, and intelligently applying it to detect and predict disease and anticipate members’ healthcare needs? Plan sponsors that integrate intelligent learning into their health plan/wellness program will be the game changers in the payer industry.