How to effectively increase the adoption of AI in healthcare 

Giovanni Briganti, MD, PhD

Associate Professor and Chair of AI & Digital Medicine at the University of Mons

Eva McLellan

General Manager at Roche Slovenia

How to effectively increase the adoption of AI in healthcare 

7 September 2022 | 6min

Quick Takes

  • The use of artificial intelligence (AI) may be a solution to help overcome the overwhelm and fatigue burdening healthcare professionals (HCPs)

  • The potential impact of AI on healthcare systems, HCPs, and patients will correlate with the level of its adoption

  • Adoption of AI technologies can be encouraged by educating HCPs, co-creating solutions, and implementing pilot programs that answer concrete needs

While the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the overwhelm and fatigue experienced by healthcare professionals (HCPs), the problem is not new nor temporary. As the population ages and the threat of healthcare staff shortages continues, more support is needed. Artificial intelligence (AI) could be one of the solutions, according to Dr. Giovanni Briganti, a medical doctor, and physician-scientist at Brugmann University Hospital (CHU Brugmann).

Eva McLellan sat down with Dr. Giovanni Briganti to understand the far-reaching potential impacts of AI –  not just on patient outcomes, but on almost all underlying processes and ways of working within healthcare systems. 

Eva McLellan: Giovanni, you are a medical doctor, a scientist in AI, and an academic. What is it that drove your passion in these three areas?

Giovanni Briganti: When I was a medical student, I noticed there was a gap between our studies and how we thought we could treat patients and reality. The work became harder than I thought it would be, as many administrative and low-added value tasks came in the way between me and my patients. Medical students entering clinical rotations are not prepared for this. They think that their only job is to care for patients. 

I figured that AI could better help us in the way we do our job and how well we do it too.

3 areas where AI is having the biggest impact on healthcare

Eva McLellan: What are some impacts of AI that you are seeing, both for physicians and healthcare systems?

Giovanni Briganti: When we consider AI, we consider large systems that can tackle specific tasks in the healthcare environment. The top three impacts I see are as follows:

  1. Improving patient care. Adopting AI technologies, such as monitoring, diagnostic and predictive tools can help to improve patient care and enable citizens to achieve a better health status 
  2. Enabling physicians to simultaneously enhance their work performance while improving work/life balance. AI can add to the competencies and skills of physicians. However, enabling a better work/life balance is crucial because the well-being of healthcare professionals (HCPs) is often neglected.
  3. Supporting healthcare institutions to deliver quality care while optimizing resources. Proper data-enabled tools will allow healthcare systems to better manage what happens within the hospitals, including patient, data, and HCP flows.

Eva McLellan: What are the impacts of using AI in healthcare for patients?

Giovanni Briganti: For the past 20 years, we have talked about the 4P (Predictive, Personalized, Preventative, and Participatory) model of medicine. We can finally achieve this with AI tools. 

For instance, digital therapeutics that automatically ask daily questions can give feedback to patients that make them more aware of and responsible for their clinical situation every day. Similarly, monitoring technologies can let patients know when their health is doing worse than predicted

AI-based technologies enable personalized, tailored plans for disease management. They may even help prevent the onset of common diseases in the decades to come and encourage participation in health.

Patients are gaining autonomy and they are becoming protagonists in the way of being treated. We are slowly moving from a sick care system to a real healthcare system, and this is the interesting part. So, the patient is impacted most by the autonomy and patient-driven kind of care through AI. 

AI can help reduce low-added value tasks for HCPs and support clinical decision making

Eva McLellan: What are you seeing in terms of concrete things that are happening in the field right now that you’re excited about?

Giovanni Briganti: There are two concrete things that I see happening in the field when it comes to healthcare technologies.

  1. Taking care of routine processes with low added value will help HCPs focus on the patient. 
  2. Helping HCPs better predict, diagnose, and treat patients. 

Those are slowly coming into routine clinical practice through clinical studies first because we need to prove to ourselves, the company, the hospital, and the government that our technology is truly meaningful. Then afterward, after the studies are published, the process stays on and we can see that the technologies are being adopted into clinical practice. 

The future relies on cultural change 

Eva McLellan: Looking into the next 10 years, what is your hope for the impact of AI on healthcare and patients?

Giovanni Briganti: My hope and goal are to provide a cultural change where we can enable every unit and department within our hospitals and practices to adopt their first AI project within the next 10 years. 

When projects come from the teams that will adopt them, those projects are most successful. AI is just the first step, it is just an advanced tool. To drive meaningful innovation in healthcare we need a shared vision, one in which every single HCP can contribute to driving successful projects.

4 key steps to implementing AI pilot programs in healthcare 

Eva McLellan: What advice would you give to healthcare organizations wishing to start a pilot program to test whether AI can improve efficiencies or patient management? How should they begin to go about it and what needs to be in place?

Giovanni Briganti: 

1 Find out what your HCP and administrative collaborators need. Short, domain-specific, and guided roundtables can be essential to identifying what domains can be improved. Every single idea should serve both the quality of care that is delivered and improve the quality of life at work for HCPs and other collaborators.
2 Identify your champions. Some people will not want AI, or even other types of innovations. Others, however, will not only be enthusiastic but will drive several projects. Middle management (head of departments, for instance) can be key champions, for instance. 
3 Define a strategic plan. AI is just a tool. You need to have a clear vision of how you want to transform healthcare delivery with it. Not every need can be answered, you need to establish what are your institution’s strengths. It can be hard to innovate in departments with many weaknesses, but much easier in flagship initiatives (well-reputed clinics or departments). Also, you need to define among the needs which have the greater impact. The best projects are the ones that impact most patients, HCPs, and collaborators in the hospital. Avoid niches (projects with very small outreach)! 
4 Allocate the necessary resources. Even the best AI (or innovation, in general) strategies can fail to move forward because of a lack of necessary resources. If you do not have the resources for big plans, start small. It is often possible to collaborate with the ecosystem around you such as incubators, universities, and start-ups.

Watch the full interview with Dr. Giovanni Briganti as part of the Healthcare Innovation Talk series hosted by Eva McLellan.

Giovanni Briganti, MD, PhD is a medical doctor and a scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare. He is Associate Professor and Chair of AI and Digital Medicine at the University of Mons, where he is the pioneer of Belgium’s first educational programs around AI and healthcare for medical doctors and students. He also works as a medical doctor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Brugmann University Hospital Center in Brussels. He leads AI4Health at AI4Belgium, Belgium’s grassroot community for AI.

Eva McLellan is a global healthcare executive, known as a forward-thinking strategist and purpose-driven transformational leader. She brings a track record of helping individuals and organizations transform to meet the complex challenges facing healthcare systems and patients today. She has held global strategy and affiliate leadership roles in Canada, Switzerland, and BeLux, since joining the biotech industry more than 15 years ago. Over the course of her career, Eva has built and led teams to drive innovation aimed at reshaping access to and delivery of care. Her experience is diverse, spanning early pipeline, Infectious Disease, Oncology, Hematology, Rare Diseases, and Digital Health. Guided by her personal mission to help others tap their fullest potential and amplify positive impact on society, Eva is presently serving as General Manager at Roche Slovenia. Her main focus externally is on building strong external partnerships and scaling new approaches that shape health systems, improve care, and drive equitable, sustainable access to innovation. Eva holds an Honours Bachelor of Science and Masters of Biotechnology from the University of Toronto and is a graduate from INSEAD Business School’s Executive Management Program.