Corporate Insight recently attended the second annual Digital Health Transformation Summit in Chicago, Illinois. Hosted by Modern Healthcare, the conference gathered healthcare industry leaders and innovators around the current and future digital healthcare space. Unlike conferences in the past few years that heavily focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, speakers now turned their attention to the growing field of AI and the role of ChatGPT in healthcare, among other relevant topics. Here are our top takeaways from the 2023 Digital Health Transformation Summit.

The lobby from the recent Digital Health Transformation conference

Virtual care, particularly in rural U.S., remains of importance

While telehealth is not as heavily used as it was during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and national telehealth use decreased seven percent in February 2023, providers and those from health systems continue to praise virtual care. Dr. Jeremy Cauwels from Sanford Health led an engaging session on the significance of virtual care in rural areas of the U.S. He noted, among other things:

  • Three challenges specific to rural care are access, quality and sustainability
  • Less than 10% of physicians in the U.S practice in rural areas, and on top of that, one in three rural care physicians plan to leave in the next five years
  • As 60% of health outcomes are determined by ZIP code—not genetics—rural care remains a top priority for the country

A presentation on rural healthcare at the digital transformations in healthcare conference

Dr. Cauwels highlighted the impact of telehealth in several specialties, such as endocrinology, OB/GYN and behavioral health. Notably, some patients can conduct non-stress tests from their homes, reducing the amount of travel required, which may be several hundred miles. Both Sanford Health and Stanford Health Care offer virtual emergency care, meaning there are physicians who are located in the ER but provide care fully remotely, possibly reducing any unnecessary visits to the ER and guiding patients to the right care center. Additionally, health systems are developing virtual care centers in which providers exclusively see patients online as well as coining a new term, webside manner, to describe the virtual relationship a provider has with their patient.

Providers are open to AI but note limitations

ChatGPT, released in November 2022 by OpenAI, was the main focus of the conference, with almost all sessions touching upon it or AI in general. AI is already in action; for example, Stanford Health Care is partnering with Microsoft and EPIC to pilot using OpenAI’s GPT-4 to draft responses to patients, reducing the amount of time providers need to answer messages and improving wait times for patients. Several questions arose: What role can AI play in the healthcare industry? Will AI replace doctors? Here are some responses from speakers:

  • AI alone is useless and needs to be used with other features to be helpful
  • AI, combined with data hygiene and workflow automation as well as change management, can lead to organizational growth
  • Cognition is important despite AI; healthcare professionals still need to understand what the chat responses are conveying
  • AI needs supervision to ensure it is being used correctly
  • AI will not replace people, but people using AI will replace those who don’t

Patients are not necessarily the end user of digital healthcare products

In today’s growing digital era, patients now have access to a plethora of digital care products, such as mobile apps, tools and programs. However, speakers pointed out that patients who require end-of-life care or face conditions like cancer are less likely to use these resources and instead, it is their caregivers who are the end user. It is critical for developers to bring caregivers into the design process to ensure that the product is useful and solving an issue.

Rather than telling patients that the doctor will see them now, physicians should adopt the mentality that the patient will see them now

Speakers also stressed the difference between patients and consumers, with consumers being those who are not in the hospital’s system. As Michael Pfeffer, Chief Information Officer at Stanford Health Care, says, the patient experience needs to be even better than the consumer experience. Several sessions featured a similar theme of needing to meet patients where they are. Dr. Cauwels mentioned a shift in mentality. Rather than telling patients that the doctor will see them now, physicians should adopt the mentality that the patient will see them now.

A panel at the digital transformations in healthcare conference

We look forward to tracking the latest trends and innovations at more conferences later this year. Check out our Insights section for more insights on the healthcare space and learn more about CI’s competitive intelligence research services here.

Stephanie Chan

Stephanie Chan is an Analyst on CI's healthcare team.