AI can enhance health care and enable cost savings, lawmaker says

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Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., said lawmakers “have to build the infrastructure” around the use of AI in wearable medical devices.

Artificial intelligence tools can improve U.S. health care while also reducing patient and government costs, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., told Nextgov/FCW.

“Technology has to be part of the way we bend the borrowing and debt curve,” Schweikert said in an interview, adding that the broader adoption of AI “can make government better, faster, cheaper” in responding to the needs of Americans.

When it comes to the health sector, Schweikert said AI technologies can enhance everything from diagnostics to front and back office medical operations, such as automating the process of filling out a patient intake form. He added that his “holy grail” is working to ensure that, as the Food and Drug Administration approves the medical use of new technologies, “we'd be reimbursed.”

“How do I make sure we’re embracing technology and using it to bring disruptive cures to market, or other opportunities to market?” Schweikert asked. “And does that also now help lower drug pricing?”

Schweikert previously introduced legislation in January 2023 that would make AI and machine learning technologies able to serve as “a practitioner eligible to prescribe drugs.” A proposal he introduced in July 2021 would amend the Social Security Act “to provide coverage and payment for certain tests and assistive telehealth consultations,” including wearable medical devices that include AI.

Neither of these measures advanced out of committee, but Schweikert said the focus for many health care providers in adopting these services “turns out to be making it reimbursable” — especially since studies have indicated that the use of AI across health care and a move toward wearable medical devices can provide greater cost savings.

Last month, Schweikert introduced legislation that would direct the Department of Health and Human Services “to issue guidance on payment under the Medicare program for certain items involving artificial intelligence,” such as remote monitoring devices that transmit health data to a health care provider. That bill passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee on June 27.

During the interview, Schweikert noted that the FDA last month approved Apple Watch’s atrial fibrillation feature for use in clinical trials — the first such digital health tool approved for inclusion in the agency’s Medical Device Development Tools program. 

Schweikert said the next step is understanding how this type of technology fits “into everything from building medical records, tracking you, helping you manage any pharmaceuticals you use for your heart issues, even down to producing data sets for your cardiologist to remotely look at your data.”

“It's here, we now just have to build the infrastructure around it,” he said about the new medical landscape, adding that “the technology is starting to move much faster than our regulatory rules.”