By leveraging data and the power of artificial intelligence, healthcare services can be defragmented to better connect patients with medical professionals
By Sean Tarry
The entire world has now well and truly entered the age of digitization, where most things, whether physical or not, come with an electronic companion or digital duplicate. It’s enabled the recording and filing of a plethora of information related to just about everything. And, among what seems to be a mess of information are datasets on datasets that, if compiled and linked properly, can improve and enhance a number of different services and sectors that everyone relies on. With this in mind, recognizing many of the more significant gaps that exist within the Canadian digital healthcare ecosystem, Empower Health was founded in order to defragment the landscape and connect Canadians in need of healthcare services with the professionals that are available to help them.
The digital health company has developed an accurate data infrastructure which it relies on in order to connect the many silos and defragment the Canadian healthcare system. It works by allowing patients to access the Empower Health website or mobile app, search for clinicians based on a number of simple preferences, and book appointments online. It’s a breakthrough that is set to change the way the Canadian healthcare system operates to a degree, taking the guesswork out of the equation for patients, freeing up the process of incumbrances and bottlenecks. And, it’s one that, according to Ryan Doherty, Founder and President of Empower Health, benefits the entire health ecosystem.
“Our system helps patients connect with clinicians when they need to most,” he asserts. “It also serves to put clinicians in front of more people who are seeking the type of specialized care that they offer. It also takes a strain off of the system itself, connecting more people with the help they truly require and allowing services to become optimized for the purpose which they were intended for. In addition, if a patient needs to see a nurse but doesn’t want to or is unable to visit a hospital, the Empower Health platform can be used to easily book zoom appointments that connect them with clinicians within a few hours at which time they can be referred for other services that are available.”
The connecting qualities of the Empower Health platform alone make it a worthwhile service. However, where it really becomes interesting is the way in which it leverages artificial intelligence in combination with its data infrastructure, taking the information from within its system concerning where services are available, who’s offering them, and how, and ensure for the end-user that the information is accurate and reliable as a result of it being generated in real-time. In addition, Empower Health is also able to harness the power of AI to predict where and when services will be available in the near future based on historical data. And, it all started, as Doherty explains, as a result of hearing time and again from people about the struggles that they experience related to the Canadian healthcare system.
“The impetus of the company was sparked on the patient side,” he says. “I’m an academic, and keen on being an innovator and changing something for the better. It was during my studies when I was talking to a lot of people who shared with me their stories of challenge and difficulty when it came to the healthcare system in the country, and the frustrations that they experienced. And it struck me that there were major changes that needed to be made in order to help people get the care they require in their moment of need, when they feel lost and as though everything’s broken. I thought that there were ways that we could leverage advanced technologies like AI in order to close those silos that cause anxiety and frustration among patients.”
Although the Empower Health service runs on a national framework and strives to service every province across the country, the most comprehensive service that the company offers is in Ontario as a result of a mature market and largely digitized datasets. In fact, as Doherty points out, it’s data aided by the digitization of the world around us that is directly related to the success of a platform like the one that Empower Health offers.
“The only way that services like the one that we’ve created works, fulfilling its potential, is by gathering and gaining access to as much data as possible,” he says. “It’s critical. And, the digitization of everything around us is really supporting us in our efforts. What we’re doing is enabling patients to capitalize on the ease and convenience of the digital world, and the online world where everything is literally just a click of a button away. Because the digital world provides a certain level of connectivity, there’s an immediacy that comes with it. But what the Empower Health service does more so that anything else is it takes the guesswork out of the process for patients, saving them time and aggravation by coordinating the system for them.”
Doherty suggests that critical services like the one that Empower Health offers will soon be commonplace, and very much the way of the future. However, he says that as we move forward, it isn’t just about the data, but about structured data that can be relied upon as accurate and trustworthy. That, he suggests, is where real traction will be achieved with respect to the use of AI to help improve the use of electronic health records and the facilitation of connections between patients and clinicians.
“The real opportunity when it comes to the use of AI is when better connectivity is achieved and the quality of the data that’s being used is enhanced,” he asserts. “When these two things happen, we’ll really start to see the true potential and benefits of the technology. It can form a foundation for a lot more tangible benefits to follow. It’s one of the major challenges for a lot of different companies at the moment; they have the framework and ideas, but the quality of the data’s missing. As a result, there are gaps in the data. But, with consistently better standards around data and processes, the quality of the data that we’re generating will improve, and so, too, will the efficacy and overall performance of systems and software that are driven by the power of advanced technologies like AI.”
Shift in knowledge
It’s with better standards around the data and processes that Doherty suggests will result in the creation of greater efficiencies all around, allowing the Canadian healthcare system to run smoother, leveraging fewer resources on smaller budgets. In fact, he goes on to say that the challenge in finding every Canadian a family doctor can be solved relatively easily using a service like Empower Health’s, explaining that there are technically enough doctors available; their availability simply needs to be managed differently. However, in order to realize these possibilities, Doherty believes that a bit of a shift in mindset is required to enable a necessary digital evolution.
“The one main barrier to the widespread adoption and use of AI today is a reluctance by organizations, institutions, and individuals to move away from the traditional processes and ways of doing things,” he says. “So, in order to remove that barrier, people just need a bit of a shift in knowledge to provide them with a better understanding of the nuances of the technology and the benefits that it can result in, and addressing any negative assumptions that they might have concerning its use, whether those assumptions are around security, privacy, business models, or anything else.”
Greater connection and impact
The impact and influence that Empower Health has already had on the Canadian healthcare system is tremendous, showing the real potential inherent in the use of AI and data. However, looking forward, he says that there’s still a lot of room for the service to grow and expand, reaching a lot more patients in need and clinicians who are available to offer their care.
“We’ve had a lot of really great success so far working with a number of healthcare organizations, nonprofits, and other groups in efforts to ensure that the Empower Health service is as beneficial as possible. But we can improve what we offer. Ultimately, my goal is to expand the reach and availability of our services nationally, enhancing healthcare processes, improving efficiencies, and increasing the impact that we’re already making.”