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Artificial intelligence in healthcare: Does it lower costs for patients or lower the costs of patients?

Healthcare Dive’s April 14 story details a joint venture with Anthem as a major player.

Healthcare Dive recently broke the news that med-tech startup K Health is partnering with two major players—health insurer Anthem and investment management giant Blackstone Growth—to launch a joint venture called Hydrogen Health.

The new venture will leverage K Health’s symptom-checker app, which Anthem has already invested in and even launched to its members. Users answer a series of questions, and the app uses AI to scan through millions of medical records and surface the most common diagnoses and treatments that doctors have given to patients with similar symptoms. The new partnership will scale this and other related AI-powered health technology and make it available to employers, other insurers, and consumers.

So, what’s the ultimate goal here? According to a K Health press release, the plan is to “increase access to high-quality care, enhance the health care experience, and help lower costs.”

That’s all well and good, but we’re still wary of insurers’ ownership of these kinds of tools, because that could open up a whole new set of ways to avoid covering care—including cutting it off at the pass entirely. In a worst-case scenario, a patient wouldn’t be pointed toward certain appropriate, insurance-covered care, because the AI algorithm—having been developed in partnership with an insurer—wouldn’t recommend it. Are we being paranoid? Maybe. But the question of whether “lowering patient costs “means lowering costs for patients or lowering the costs of patients is a legitimate one.

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