Could AI revolutionize healthcare? The key is utilization, chief of surgery says

Gregg Adams, MD, chief of surgery at San Jose, Calif.-based Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, discussed EHR disadvantages, telecommunication and other technological advances in medicine with Becker's ASC Review.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style and length.

Question: Do you think artificial intelligence and virtual reality have the potential to revolutionize your industry, or are the benefits of these technologies exaggerated? Why?

Dr. Gregg Adams: They could if they could be utilized. Remember that the EHR is bought and paid for by the business offices of hospitals and those who pay for healthcare. The programs are therefore geared toward those endpoints, i.e., billing and compliance measures. There are components of AI built in, but they often require specialized skills to tease out useful data or systems. In reality, the EHR is underutilized in that regard. It takes a thoughtful and forward-thinking administration to make those resources available.

VR may be exciting, but it is expensive and very difficult to implement. On a simple level, the current state is great for procedural training. And Moore's Law is still in play with respect to memory and processing capabilities, but it will be decades before the processors will be able to demonstrate all of the potential scenarios. To paraphrase Norman Shumway, MD, PhD, the pioneering Stanford cardiac surgeon, virtual reality is the future of medicine and will always be the future of medicine.

Q: What are some innovations that have changed the way your organization operates, in a positive or negative way? Please explain.

GA: The EHR has slowed down the process of care delivery, and not necessarily to the benefit of the patient. Most researchers note a permanent 15 to 20 percent drop in productivity. This does nothing to improve the real problem that we face today, which is patient access to the system. It also places a computer screen between the practitioner and the patient, which has a negative impact on the patient's perception of connection. You can, however, finally read a doctor's handwriting.

On a positive note, telecommunication and data sharing has improved greatly, making it possible for expertise to be available in a practical sense if not a physical sense. And the advances in devices are truly exciting. All they need is the data that support their use.

Interested in participating in future Becker's Q&As? Email Angie Stewart at

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