Improving Health Literacy with Artificial Intelligence


GSK’s Richard Saynor outlines the ways in which an increased embrace of technologies which utilise artificial intelligence can help improve health literacy and therefore patient outcomes.


In healthcare, AI has the potential to improve drug discovery, development and manufacturing, and enhance interactions with customers, doctors and patients

As a healthcare company, a big part of our mandate is developing innovative medicines as well as ensuring that people have access to these medicines. Access does not necessarily mean being able to consume medicines when they need it but also being able to understand what they are consuming, why medication is needed and how it will impact their health — in other words, health literacy.

Our mission to enable maximum access to our medicines to the maximum number of people globally, therefore, includes creating a degree of health literacy amongst patients as well as healthcare professionals. This means arming our doctors with the ability to explain the prescriptions and diseases they are treating and creating an understanding amongst patients who are receiving treatment – generating a universal degree of health literacy.

As data and information grow at an exponential pace, many industries have turned to artificial intelligence (AI) to make sense of this information and deliver meaningful insights. In healthcare, AI has the potential to improve drug discovery, development and manufacturing, and enhance interactions with customers, doctors and patients. In fact, it is fast becoming an important fixture that can positively impact clinical outcomes – from prediction of disease trends to drug discovery to enhancing diagnosis and treatment decisions. Additionally, AI can play a role along the entire spectrum of care – from prevention to treatment to monitoring – by helping to bring more consumer-friendly language into patient interactions.


Improving Patient Outcomes

When it comes to health literacy, a key barrier is language. When patients are unfamiliar with certain terminology, it can prevent them from accessing the right care, leading to a higher risk of developing health complications and subsequently, costlier care.

AI can pull together patient reactions and feedback to terminology, to suggest more consumer-friendly substitutes for physicians to use at the point of care. It can be as simple as explaining medicine dosage and interactions with other medicines. With chronic diseases on the rise, patients with several conditions need to keep track of various medicines. Oftentimes, doses are missed, with patients thinking they can ‘make up’ the missed dose by taking double doses. With the help of AI, physicians can explain in simple terms the rationale behind not taking more than the prescribed dose as well as the side effects of an overdose. With better understanding, there is potential to increase medication adherence, thus enabling patients to manage their condition.

We are already seeing pockets of solutions that help breakdown healthcare jargon being deployed in the healthcare industry today. Tools such as chatbots being developed to answer basic patient queries, with the aim to increase medication adherence. Cigna, in partnership with Amazon’s Alexa, launched “Answers by Cigna”, which provides voice assistance on 150 commonly asked questions on insurance plans so that consumers can take full advantage of their benefits.


Breaking Down Barriers to Accessing Appropriate Care

This is only the tip of the iceberg on how AI can positively impact healthcare outcomes. As an industry, I am convinced that the first step to unlocking the vast potential within the AI space is to build a framework that can adequately regulate the development and implementation of AI, without being a hindrance to the innovative approaches it can bring to the table.

If we are able to do this, the analysis and insights we can tap into will be boundless. Raising the bar on health literacy will help prevent inaccurate diagnosis due to unfamiliarity to medical terminology, we can help patients access the right care, and reduce the risks of health complications and enable more efficient and cost-effective care.

As one of the world’s leading healthcare companies, we have a responsibility towards enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer and AI can help us do just that.

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