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Need to pick a doctor? Trust the AI.

Topic: Need to pick a doctor? Trust the AI, study says

When searching for the best surgeon for care such as hip-replacement surgery, consumers may get a major assist from artificial intelligence (AI), a new study says. The report in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) compared health care decision-making based a range of choices: consumer ratings; quality stars; reputation rankings; volumes and outcomes; and precision machine learning-based rankings.

That last category looked at a type of AI that uses data to determine whether a hospital is a good fit for a potential patient, based on that hospital’s history with similar patients. The researchers focused on elective hip replacement surgeries, which are among the most commonly performed surgeries in the U.S. Other research has shown a wide variation in performance and outcomes across hospitals for this type of surgery.

Overall, the study found that the machine-learning approach to picking a surgeon delivered better outcomes than choosing surgeons by other methods. “Elective hip replacement surgeries performed at hospitals where patients were matched based on patient-specific machine learning were associated with better outcomes and lower total costs of care,” the study concluded.

A range of choices for finding a surgeon

The study noted that patients have a wide set of information to choose from when picking a physician, but data on quality of care has been mixed. “Prior research on the use of popular ranking and rating approaches, including web-based ratings, consumer guides, and various quality ratings for physicians or hospitals, have resulted in inconsistent findings, and it is unclear which rating approach works best,” the study noted.

For the JMIR study, researchers looked at 4,192 Medicare patients undergoing elective hip replacements in the Chicago metro area between 2013-2018. It also followed their results for 90 days—noting re-hospitalization, ED visits, and total costs.

The results indicated that some quality guides were associated with better outcomes. “Of the approaches considered, hip replacements at hospitals that were more highly ranked by consumer ratings, quality stars, and machine learning were all consistently associated with improvements in outcomes and costs in both adjusted and unadjusted analyses,” the report said. However, it added: “The improvement was greatest across all metrics and analyses for machine learning–based rankings.”

Topic Discussed: Need to pick a doctor? Trust the AI, study says

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