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Can Artificial Intelligence Transform Primary Care?

This blog was originally published in October 2023 and was updated in March 2024

It seems like everyone (and their mother) is taking a stance on the rapid acceleration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools. As of 2024, projections indicate that the AI market is estimated to reach approximately US $305.90 billion. The AI market is poised for exponential growth, underpinned by ongoing advancements and applications in artificial intelligence technologies.

AI has been around in various forms since the 1950s, but the more recent proliferation of data combined with other technological innovations has led to AI’s exponential growth.

Now, AI in primary care is being used by individuals and businesses alike as both excitement and concern grow over what the future holds for society as we know it.

The strategic role of AI in revolutionizing healthcare

AI has been regarded as a source of innovation for businesses. On an organizational level, AI can multiply value through optimizing processes, scalability, and consistency, all while cutting down on business expenses. Research and studies confirm that 84% of C-suite executives believe they must utilize AI to achieve their growth objectives, and 75% believe that their company risks going under without scaling their AI tools in the next 5 years. 

Whether we like it or not, healthcare remains the largest employer in the United States, and is riddled with inefficiencies, inequities, and skyrocketing costs. Could leveraging AI in healthcare, particularly AI in primary care, be a part of the solution?

In terms of AI’s ability to minimize inefficiencies and save time, there is no greater return on investment for our healthcare system than applying these innovations to the primary care industry. AI in primary care has the potential to revolutionize patient engagement and adherence, demonstrating a significant advancement in AI healthcare.

Primary care is a proven solution to improving the perils in our healthcare system, but without adequate structures to support Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) in the United States, they face incredibly high rates of burnout and administrative burden. While companies like Elation and our partners remain committed to transforming high-value primary care in this country, advancements in AI healthcare show great promise to increase the efficacy of existing efforts.

According to a research article published by the NIH about how AI will transform primary care, “Primary care is where the power, opportunity, and future of AI are most likely to be realized in the broadest and most ambitious scale”. 

AI in primary care not only addresses administrative burdens but also enhances the quality of patient care. With PCPs spending an average of 24% of their time on administrative duties, AI tools such as Nabla, which records visit summaries as a report into the EHR, and Regard, which uses EHR data for diagnostics and drafting clinical notes, show great promise for reducing burnout. In fact, AI in healthcare is already being used in healthcare to strengthen patient diagnostics, personalize treatment, and monitor patients who belong to vulnerable populations. 

AI's transformative impact on primary care

Although AI is already being used in healthcare, the potential applications of AI in primary care are especially exciting. According to an article in Medical Economics, AI is well-positioned to assist independent practices with other common sources of administrative burden such as eligibility checks, prior authorizations, insurance claims, and referrals. 

According to the author, the “immediate benefit of the digital transformation to primary care doctors in their practices, however, is the technology’s ability to boost patient engagement and adherence.” The influx of AI in the primary care setting even holds the potential to improve the foundational doctor-patient relationship— and wouldn’t that be an incredible application of technology?


Will AI replace primary care doctors?

The short answer is no. Primary care physicians use AI to augment their expertise, not replace it. AI in primary care supports doctors by analyzing data, streamlining administrative tasks, and improving diagnostic accuracy. This support helps doctors spend more time with patients and less on paperwork, improving care quality and health outcomes.

What is the role of AI in primary health care?

AI's role in primary health care, a critical aspect of AI healthcare, is multifaceted. First, it analyzes large volumes of patient data to identify patterns the human eye might miss. This includes predictive analytics for disease risk, personalized treatment plans, and monitoring patient health through wearable technology. AI also assists in administrative tasks such as scheduling, billing, and patient communication, making healthcare processes more efficient.

How will AI affect primary care?

The effect of AI on primary care is profound and overwhelmingly positive. AI will change primary care by improving healthcare access in underserved areas through telemedicine and AI diagnostics. These advancements can lead to earlier detection of diseases, more accurate diagnoses, and customized treatment plans. It can also help with routine tasks, allowing doctors to spend more time with patients and build stronger relationships.