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Healthcare executives believe AI can improve patient outcomes, reduce costs


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Healthcare executives increasingly believe in the power of artificial intelligence to help improve patient outcomes, support cost savings and promote health equity, according to a new Optum survey of 500 senior healthcare executives.

Most healthcare organizations – 98% – either have a strategy or are planning one.  

Eighty-five percent of healthcare leaders already have an AI strategy and 48% have implemented it, continuing the upward trend from last year’s results, in which 83% had an AI strategy and 44% had implemented it, according to the Fourth Annual Optum Survey on Artificial Intelligence in Health Care. The survey was taken of executives at hospitals, health plans, life sciences companies and employers. 

In addition, healthcare leaders continue to be optimistic that AI technology will create work opportunities (55%) rather than reduce them (45%). This is similar to last year and up from 52% in 2019. 

Also, survey respondents overwhelmingly agreed healthcare organizations have a higher duty than other industries to ensure responsible use of AI.  This is shown in the response that 96% believe AI plays an important role in their effort to reach health equity goals and 94% agreed they have a duty within the healthcare system to ensure AI is used responsibly. 

Survey respondents said they are excited about the potential for AI in improving patient outcomes in virtual patient care (41%); diagnosis and predicting outcomes (40%); and medical image interpretation (36%).


The survey responses point to an industry that remains steadfast in its approach to implementing AI, Optum said.

Almost all healthcare executives surveyed trust AI to support day-to-day tasks, including 72% who trust it to support nonclinical, administrative processes that take away time clinicians could be spending with patients. This is unchanged from the 71% who said they trust AI to support administrative tasks in 2020.  

“This year’s survey findings continue to validate how the responsible use of AI can help health systems strengthen and scale essential functions and reduce administrative burdens, all of which helps clinicians focus on their core mission of patient care,” said Rick Hardy, CEO of Optum Insight, the data and analytics business within Optum. “We share their enthusiasm for AI, but more importantly, we look forward to combining our healthcare expertise with AI to help people — patients, physicians, and those working behind the scenes — as that is where the real value is delivered.” 


The survey supports the work done by OptumInsight, which is one of Optum’s businesses and part of UnitedHealth Group. OptumInsight provides data, analytics, research, consulting, technology and managed services solutions to hospitals, physicians, health plans, governments and life sciences companies.

The survey found that 89% of healthcare executives believe the challenges in using AI in the healthcare industry require partnering with a health services company with expertise in data and analytics versus a technology-focused company. 


“The responsible use of AI continues to provide important opportunities for healthcare leaders to streamline administrative processes and provide more effective patient care with enhanced experiences for both patients and providers,” said Steve Griffiths, senior vice president, data and analytics, Optum Labs, the research and development arm of UnitedHealth Group. “These leaders are not just users of AI, but they have an opportunity to be looked to as role models across industries in their commitment to using AI responsibly.” 

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: [email protected] 


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