More on Operations

Artificial Intelligence ROI is coming sooner than you think

With 75 percent of health orgs planning to execute an AI strategy, OptumIQ says top benefits are improving patient experience and lowering costs.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Ninety-one percent of 500 healthcare leaders voiced confidence that they will see an ROI on AI, according to an OptumIQ survey.

Hospital executives expect to see a positive ROI in four years -- while  38 percent of employers and 20 percent of health plan executives anticipate ROI sooner, in three years or less.

Ninety-four percent of respondents said their organizations are investing in and making progress in implementing AI. And the same percent agree that AI technology is the most reliable path toward accessible and affordable healthcare.


The inaugural OptumIQ annual survey on AI in healthcare shows an  estimated average investment of $32.4 million per organization over the next five years.

This represents a tipping point in the adoption of AI in the industry, according to OptumIQ.

Optum, an information and technology-enabled health services business that is part of UnitedHealth Group, has virtually every major payer as a client, about 300 insurance companies. OptumIQ is its intelligence arm of data and analytics.

Ninety-two percent of respondents agree that hiring candidates who have experience working with AI technology is a priority. Close to half estimate that more than 30 percent of new hires in the next year will be in positions requiring engagement with or implementation of AI.

The industry is already seeing a race for AI talent in the industry, according to Steve Griffiths, COO of Optum Enterprise Analytics.


The first wave of AI implementation focused on improving processes, combating waste, fraud and abuse and maximizing impact of IoT, such as wearable devices.

AI will continue to improve health outcomes, a third of respondents said. Thirty-six percent expect AI will improve the patient experience and 33 percent anticipate AI will decrease per-capita cost of care.

The top two benefits respondents expect to see from incorporating AI into their organizations are more accurate diagnosis and increased efficiency.


Three-quarters (75 percent) of healthcare organizations are actively implementing or have plans to execute an AI strategy. Forty-two percent of those organizations have a strategy but have not yet implemented it. Employers are furthest along, with 22 percent reporting their AI implementations are at a late stage, with nearly full deployment.

The survey found that respondents are looking to AI to solve immediate data challenges – from routine tasks to truly understanding consumers' health needs.

Of those health organizations that are already investing in and implementing AI, 43 percent are automating business processes, such as administrative operations or customer service; 36 percent are using AI to detect patterns in healthcare fraud, waste and abuse; and 31 percent are using AI to monitor users with Internet of Things devices, such as a wearable technology.


"Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform healthcare by helping predict disease and putting the right insights into the hands of clinicians as they treat patients, which can reduce the total cost of care," said Eric Murphy, CEO of OptumInsight.

Optum Enterprise Analytics COO Griffiths added: "Analytics isn't the end, it's the beginning – it's what you do with the insights to drive care improvement and reduce administrative waste."

Focus on Artificial Intelligence

In November, we take a deep dive into AI and machine learning.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: