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Why AI hasn’t reached long-term care yet

Why haven’t long-term care providers been embracing the new technology out there more? Why hasn’t the process improved much in the last 15 years? And why has AI remained just a buzzword in this industry, while in others, it’s paving the way to the future?

There. I got those questions off my chest! These issues are being raised by many in the healthcare arena, who are expecting to see rapid advancement in the industry at least at the pace of other lagging industries that are now catching up with technology.

The answer, in a word, is adoption. Until all areas of healthcare adopt a shared platform and common data source, any advancements will be fragmented and broadly underutilized. As AI scientist Andrew Ng says, “Data is food for AI.” We need to feed it well for it to perform well.

HHS, CMS, and other government three-letter acronym organizations are continuously announcing new initiatives to streamline healthcare data, promote interoperability, and allow necessary care to be accelerated with less speed bumps in the process. 

These are all wonderful, and for a small amount of healthcare operations, these are welcomed and a refreshing step toward adapting toward the future. But honestly, at your next scheduled healthcare appointment, you are still not expecting to hear Rhonda, the receptionist, welcoming you by saying “Please have a seat, we’ve received all your recent information already from the data sharing API, and your doctor has already reviewed any potential risks our machine learning software identified from your medical history, labs and meds. We’ll be right with you.”

It’s not happening, not anytime soon.

So… let’s explore this adoption issue that is holding us back. In the corporate world, we are constantly faced with new processes to implement and unexpected work that has now been added to our employees’ already busy schedules.

As far as we know, there are only two ways to make these changes happen. Either you shove the agenda down their throats, or you show them the benefits of making the change. Being that most of these scenarios are not that black-and-white, a bonus or incentive is often crucial to throw in to sweeten the deal. 

Local funding a key

Ta-da! Ladies and gents, I think we’ve just uncovered the secret sauce. If you’ve ever ventured to you’ll find a host of localized grants that you may be eligible for, as long as you are a nonprofit, rural hospital, or government entity or are located in a special emphasis zone — never really applicable to you. Imagine instead if you received the below email on a Monday morning from Grants.Gov 

Good Morning!

We understand making any change, especially one that entails countless hours of uploading and configuration is very time-consuming. It’s the last thing you want to think about on a Monday morning with a full inbox.

Although we all recognize the importance of the healthcare community’s adoption of new technology, we know it will take significant effort. Therefore, we are offering the following incentive for all healthcare providers and staff- that includes you. A $1,000 per person grant will be immediately redeemable to everyone in any practice/office/facility that adopts and sets up this new technology by the end of the year. (The distribution will be monitored to ensure all the individuals involved are receiving the bonus and not held by the people in the cushy chairs on the top floor.)

Directions are attached, good luck!

You better believe those files will be uploaded, configured and put in place before the next legal holiday. That is the power of incentives.

It’s time for AI incentives

Skeptics will ask: Why have other industries been able to adopt new technology without dangling a carrot in front of their faces, and not healthcare? And why is healthcare the industry we should grant all these incentives to? The government already spends so much on healthcare; how is this affordable?

Glad you got these questions off your chest. Now we’re even. 

My dear skeptic, healthcare is by far one of the most important areas of focus. Without our health, nothing much else really matters. Aside from our own selfish needs, recognize that the industry’s inability to advance in this space can literally mean life or death solutions not accessed for current patients in need of critical care. 

By the way, this is not a novel idea. The federal government put this in place in 2009, and it was successful. Remember that laborious transition from paper files to electronic health records. That was a heavy lift for healthcare and a headache staff were not excited about. So, the federal government set up a $27 billion incentive program to help sweeten the deal. It worked well!

Have you stubbed your toe on a medical filing cabinet recently? Thought so!

It is high time for the next stage in healthcare technology to be incentivized and bring new processes incorporating AI and machine learning into the workplace. And who knows — maybe Rhonda can finally take that needed vacation and have her AI assistant let her know of anything urgent at the front desk!

Steve Shain is Partner, EVP of Contracting at LTC Ally. His team negotiates managed care contracts and authorizations on behalf of long-term care and other healthcare providers. He can be reached directly at

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

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