Robots may be the next referral source for surgeons

The next stream of specialist referrals could come from a software platform.

Surgeons typically rely on colleague referrals or word-of-mouth recommendations to drive patients to their practice. Some also engage in direct patient marketing efforts to become the surgeon of choice in their communities. But technology could disrupt those patterns in the future as employers use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make personal recommendations for care.

In a recent example, Walmart announced it would integrate Health at Scale's technology platform into the search engine of its health plan administrator to match patients with providers. The platform employs AI and machine learning to model the differences in provider outcomes based on a patient's health factors.

The service covers 25 specialities and 34 procedures as well as imaging. Walmart and Health at Scale bill the capabilities as going beyond star ratings for providers, which is how the company previously recommended healthcare services to employees.

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