Innovative Technologies and Medical Error

Innovative Technologies and Medical Error

AI illustration

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Is there a way to prevent medical error? Yes – by implementing digital medical systems to aid treatment decision-making

Written by Ilana Weissberg Doron, Content Manager

A healthy person receives a chemotherapy treatment, an 80-year-old woman receives an ovulation-postponing medicine, a diabetic receives an incorrect medication which causes maltreatment – doctors may make mistakes, just like any other person.

While no one wants to make mistakes, medical errors occur – even by the most professional and skilled staff (The Israeli Innovation Authority, May 2017). What's more, medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States (Medscape.com, May 2016). 

Despite stressful conditions medical staff work under, it is clear that many errors can be prevented. How? One way that errors can be cut down is by employing technology, collected termed digital medicine, that assists medical practitioners with their treatment decision-making process, treatment and care. It also aims to make the health system more efficient and improve public health.

The field of digital medicine currently on the global rise, is evolving rapidly. Every year, 50-100 new digital medical startups emerge. In Israel alone, the number of digital medical startups in 2016 was 384 (The Start-Up Nation Central Report, 2017): 

Active digital medicine companies in Israel

(Fig. 1: The Start-Up Nation Central Report: Israel's Digital Health industry in 2016)

This means that the field of digital medicine, including medical systems that accompany the medical staff, is gaining more and more popularity, due to its importance and significant contribution to medicine. It means that the medical world is realizing that an outside system is required in order to help the medical staff to monitor the care given to the patients and prevent medical error (The Israeli Innovation Authority, May 2017). 

A Real-Life Example: The Case of a Leading HMO

One of this market's trends is to implement AI and BI technologies in order to prevent medical error and improve medical decision-making processes.

An example of one such medicial technology is an AI system implemented by Tefen's Commitigo in a leading HMO nurses' call center in Israel.

At the call center, professional nurses provide phone consultations for the HMO's patients. However, the number of nurses working in the call center was limited, and the nurses' time was limited, too. As a result, the patients spent a long time on the phone, waiting for nurses to answer.

The HMO sought to improve the service level for its patients and sought Tefen's services in order to do so. Tefen's Commitigo implemented an analytical AI brain, designed to perform the following complex actions:

• Map all the stipulations, laws and recommendations, and imitate the nurses' decision-making process
• The system contains the precise medical protocols, written by doctors
• Learn the nurses' questioning process in order to give the patients an exact medical treatment plan – a diagnosis and referral

The newly implemented AI system allowed the HMO to replace some of the nurses with telephone receptionists who, being less skilled and trained than medical professionals, can be paid less. They take the calls and question the patients according to the medical protocol as instructed by the system (such as: "how old is the patient?" "what is the problem?" "what is the patient's fever?" "how long does he have this fever?" etc.). According to the patient's answers, within seconds the system calculates the medical procedure the patient needs.

As a result of this AI implementation, patients spend a much shorter time on the line, waiting for an answer. They enjoy fast and accurate medical diagnosis, and they receive an exact medical referral. As such, they can also spend less time waiting in an overloaded ER, for example.

Overall, the benefits of using AI, an example of digital medicine, included:
- Less wait time for patients
- More accurate and faster diagnosis

Eli Pelleg

Partner, Chief Operating Officer

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