As businesses across the world abruptly closed their doors to stop the spread of COVID-19, entire industries sputtered to a halt in some countries. Retailers, restaurants, coffee shops, and bars—places that people gather now sit empty.
While virtually all markets face financial and operational challenges with COVID-19’s impact on daily life, some sectors prove that growth remains possible during times of crisis. This post explores how artificial intelligence (AI) and telecommunications became a lifeline for health care data collection and generation, reaching new patients and users, and enabled businesses to maintain course or grow—even as COVID-19 changes the world daily.
Telehealth Services Grow During COVID-19
As concerned patients flooded hospitals, urgent care facilities, and other medical sites in fear they contracted the coronavirus, those with other ailments also needed medical advice and care. However, a crowded medical waiting room is an unsafe place for all patients; thus, the boom in telehealth services.
Telehealth, or health-related services available through telecommunication services like video chat, became more commonplace in the last few years. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, telehealth services spiked 53%, dwarfing urgent care, retail clinic, and ambulatory services at 14%, 7%, and 6%, respectively.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spilled from cities to rural areas (where telehealth’s promise of easier access shines due to limited in-person care facilities), 73% of surveyed Americans said they would access telehealth services for COVID-19 screening. Telehealth provider, PlushCare, reported that telehealth appointments rose 70%, while telehealth app, Amwell, reported a 158% spike in user activity since January 2020.
Telehealth’s surge in new users means fewer patients congesting waiting rooms, and potentially spreading or contracting the novel strain of coronavirus. As wider testing becomes available, governments will rely more heavily on emerging data to decide when to reopen some businesses and parts of the economy.
AI Helps Businesses and Governments Make Informed Decisions
While telehealth services grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, compiling, analyzing, and sharing data from both telehealth and in-person appointments remains a challenge. However, AI helps both businesses and governments clear these challenges and glean crucial insight into how to adapt during the pandemic.
AI touches virtually all industries, whether utilized to enhance technical performance, provide education, crunch massive data sets, or one of several other applications. What’s more is that AI wound its way into academic review, with a 300% increase in peer-reviewed papers between 1998 and 2008, signaling that AI’s presence eclipses many other technological research subjects.
But AI’s reach extends well beyond research; 58% of large companies reported some form of AI implementation in 2019—11% more than in 2018. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, health care organizations rely on AI to plan for critical care shortages, which remains a dire concern if coronavirus cases spike in small towns, large cities, or across the country. Specifically, one AI application gives health care professionals data to estimate care capacity and the flexibility to plan how to increase that capacity if needed, including:
- Critical care, and ICU doctor and nurse count
- Respiratory specialists per shift
- Care provider-to-patient ratios
- Ventilator availability
With a clearer picture of care capacity and other data, hospitals and health care facilities are able to confidently use this data to apply for government assistance when needed.
Beyond hospitals and governments, businesses with nearly an all-online presence—and those now relying heavily on an online presence—need reliable customer data for a number of reasons. For starters, AI-powered sales performance platforms help identify which online customers are most and least likely to purchase a company’s product or service. This benefit is two-fold: companies can focus marketing budgets on those most likely to buy their product, and sales teams optimize productivity and redirect efforts to these smaller groups of prospective customers.
Similarly, AI-generated data helps businesses understand market trends to match supply and demand. Dr. Tom Davenport, distinguished professor of information technology and management at Massachusetts’ Babson College, notes that external data enables businesses to gain better insight into market trends. For example, if a steel company has data showing a decline in automobile manufacturing, it can plan for the impact and slow production or explore areas to offset the decline in the automobile industry. Davenport believes that some industries will see greater benefits and insight into future actions by using AI-generated data than others.
Find the Right Solutions to Grow Your Business During COVID-19
Businesses across the world face unprecedented financial and operational challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. While all markets feel its impact, some businesses adapted with innovative solutions to maintain course or even grow their operations. Artificial Intelligence is just one of the tools care facilities and businesses used to respond to COVID-19’s challenges. But there are other ways organizations can adapt.