Doctor and patient With A Tablet Computer

“The nature of healthcare delivery is changing,” says Dr. Clifford Goldsmith, a physician and Microsoft’s national director for the provider industry in the U.S. “Most of healthcare was designed to work with communicable diseases, infective diseases.”

I’m excited to feature Dr. Goldsmith as a guest in an episode of NextGen Health, the podcast series from Microsoft where we cover insights on how Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and online collaboration tools can vastly improve the healthcare experience.

As Dr. Goldsmith notes, most early hospitals were run by churches or religious groups to deal with tuberculosis or other viral or bacterial infections.

“We’ve now worked out how to deal with those, so most of those are no longer the problems,” he says. “What we have today are chronic diseases, like cancer or genetic diseases, things that you need to live with for the rest of your life, and that needs a very different system.”

That different system needs to be not just digital, but intelligent. And it needs to put patients’ needs first. But what exactly does that mean?

In healthcare, we’re seeing a shift to what is called precision medicine, which means that treatments can be tailored not only for a group of individuals but also for each individual patient. And that’s possible today because of the proliferation of data and the technology to do things like genomic sequencing.

Sequencing compares an individual’s gene structure against a template that researchers can use to isolate variants and recommend courses of action. Then, as patients become more educated about their illness, they can better stay on top of managing their treatment.

Given that chronic illnesses make up about 80 percent of healthcare expenses in the U.S. today, having patients understand how they stay on top of their health has the bonus effect of reducing the cost of treatment.

Improving patient care extends to the process of getting an appointment as well, according to Andrea McGonigle, Microsoft’s managing director for the U.S. Health and Life Sciences team. If people are used to simple transactions at their corner store or a seamless online shopping experience, “They don’t understand, ‘Why, when I go to the hospital, do I have to fill out the paperwork five times? Why can’t I just go online and make an appointment?’” Andrea tells us in the podcast episode.

Using AI in a virtual chatbot from your phone to handle that scheduling, for example, helps streamline the appointment process. Or, if wellness and fitness apps can securely tie into the patient’s electronic health record, a doctor can see not just what’s going wrong, but what’s going right during a preventive checkup.

As Andrea notes, even text messages from an automated bot from a patient’s doctor can make a huge difference—even for older patients who just need a reminder to take their medicine or drink enough water each day. Because these patients took these messages as a literal message from their caregiver, they followed the doctor’s order better than any other age group. And that’s how we can stay healthy—but also connected.

Want to learn more about how intelligent technologies like AI and machine learning improve the patient experience? Listen to Episode 2 of the NextGen Health podcast series, available now on your favorite podcast platform.