Over the last five years, more than 300 venture capital and private equity deals have been made to fund experiments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for healthcare, ahead of all other industries. Nearly half of this money has been flowing to new start-ups — outside innovators — looking to disrupt existing structures and systems. These startups along with computer scientists have sparked much of the current AI conversation in healthcare. But as AI evolves and consumers learn more about the massive investments in machine learning, pressure will be on the healthcare industry to provide even better products and customer service.

Innovative voice technologies like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home and Apple’s Siri have helped simplify interaction, aided easy connectivity and brought healthcare home. For many, voice removes massive barriers to accessibility and creates a sense of intimacy and connection. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Biosector 2 and Syneos Health (formerly INC Research/inVentiv Health) we found 37% of Parkinson’s respondents said they already use voice technology at least monthly. Based on the groundbreaking sales of Amazon’s Alexa this past holiday season we anticipate this trend to increase and the hope is voice may soon be able to aid early diagnosis for serious conditions like Parkinson’s while today it helps with speech therapy.

The way people access and engage with major healthcare systems is also changing due to AI. Over half the interactions Kaiser Permanente’s 100 million members have with that healthcare system happen entirely online. Major insurers and centralized payers are using algorithms to prioritize and automate proactive patient interventions. Leaders like the NHS and AstraZeneca are piloting replacing human-run call centers with AI-powered chatbots to triage patients and guide them through care. And while no patient wants to see his or her doctor replaced, our new research shows patients are quite comfortable with virtual nurse assistants and other supportive AI interfaces. This is likely because we treat computers as humans according to multiple studies by Clifford Nass and colleagues at Stanford University. These modern support systems become a member of patient’s multidisciplinary team to help with managing things like home environment and in the moment feedback based on wearable and home-based sensors, properly understanding and responding to individual needs, and quality outcomes. However, increasingly, the value and impact of drugs will have to be relevant inside computer algorithms (very measurable / quantifiable) not just in conversations with physicians (more qualitative).

The best AI experience will integrate human intuition and empathy with machine learning technology for a winning solution. AI won’t be focused on the “Generation Now” millennials. Instead, it will first serve what we’re calling “Generation Right Now” Baby Boomers — the generation with the greatest healthcare needs. To learn more about their views and our report, “Artificial intelligence for Authentic Engagement: Patient perspectives on healthcare’s evolving AI conversation” click here.