AI And Healthcare: Beyond The Hype

You could pin the blame on the internet if you wanted to. It was back in the late 1980s when the “information superhighway” started to change the world as we knew it. The internet eventually became a game-changer that completely altered how we seek information, entertainment and communicate with each other. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential of having as big an impact on our society in 2020 and beyond.

One industry that stands to benefit the most from AI is healthcare. With projections of worth in the neighborhood of 200-billion dollars in the healthcare industry by 2025, changes are taking place to deliver quicker, more accurate and cost-effective medical solutions to all parties. Trends with AI in healthcare point to such things as automation through robotics, telehealth which provides more access to healthcare professionals and much more.

It is truly an amazing time to be alive to witness the shifting landscape that has come about due to the ongoing development of new technology. Here are a few examples of where AI will take a larger role in the delivery of healthcare services.

1. A Return To The Patient-Centered Approach

Not to nitpick about oaths and promises made by medical professionals as they pass through the licensing process to always put their patients first, demands in the industry over the years has shifted away from that and focused more on the bottom line than the quality of service. While this is not completely true in all cases, it has been a developing trend. 

With current AI developments, researchers are working to push the focus back on patients. New technology has already taken care of the beginning of this shift. With the development of smartphone apps that permit access to at-home health solutions and the democratization of access to electronic health records, healthcare has become more hands-on.

The inclusion of telehealth as a means to provide direct access to doctors from patients has assisted greatly in returning to the patient-centered approach. Now those who live in remote regions or have mobility issues can be in contact with a doctor. AI assists with diagnostic information and provides accurate data giving doctors the ability to make informed decisions for treatment.

2. Medicine Driven By Data

According to Healthcare Weekly, data drives science and science drives modern medicine. By providing better access to medical records for patients there is potential that exists that treatment can improve as a result. AI plays a huge role in the organizing and categorizing of that medical data. It may seem like a simple solution that should have been logically taken care of some time ago but it isn’t all the easy.

Well, that was until AI. Estimates sit at about 4-trillion GB of healthcare data being created each year and that doubles in size roughly every two years. That’s a whole lot of data to sift through by any medical professional trying to pin down why you have those pains that just don’t seem to go away. Artificial intelligence can tackle healthcare data mining.

With the implementation of electronic health records for each patient, AI technology can access data across the spectrum to be used in clinical trials. The results can be produced quicker than lab tests and will lead to better treatment options, the development of new drugs and an overall improvement in patient care. The data is there and AI can make it work.

3. Advancements Due To Imaging

Sure, x-ray technology was cutting edge at one time and continues to be a go-to when examining situations to formulate a strong diagnosis. However, additional imaging formats such as MRI or fMRI has transformed the medical industry far beyond just diagnosing problems. It has provided a giant leap in the technology available for use in medical research.

But costs associated with the existing imaging formats have pushed for the need for an AI option. For example, an MRI/fMRI can cost you up to $4,000 and without insurance, the average x-ray is in the $1,000 range. Cheaper AI imaging programs are already in use with more being developed with shocking results and data collection, even with phone apps.

At the current rate of speed that technology is traveling, AI imaging could be the next biggest thing to happen to the healthcare industry. For example, Google DeepMind can already identify 50 different sight-threatening eye diseases. Other AI programs can screen children for autism, locate lung and liver lesions and even identify the markers of a potential stroke.

4. Better Healthcare Communication

There has always been something about the patient-doctor relationship. As mentioned above, demands within the healthcare industry forced a disconnect of sorts that can be remedied with AI. Telehealth is one such example. Not only does this provide better communication and direct communication between doctor and patient AI plays a bigger role here.

Based on the information gathered from the patient-doctor interview, physicians can employ AI to seek solutions through the many gigabytes of data to locate information on other patients with the same conditions to formulate better treatment options. Before AI, access to patient data was restricted and now doctors can learn from other prescribed results and improve their patient outcomes.

In Conclusion

According to Digital Authority, the future of AI in healthcare is going to continue to improve and along with it, there will be challenges created. However, these challenges will be mostly in the department of qualified, skilled technical and marketing teams faced with the operation and promotion of the AI advancements. With data continuing to be produced at a record-setting pace, a focus will need to be placed on secure storage of all that information. 

Plus, more AI creations will be required to keep that massive amount of data easy to access for patients, doctors, and researchers. These are the three main components of the equation that AI has to be able to satisfy with all future developments. It sounds like a lofty goal, but just like x-rays, AI has opened doors to better delivery of healthcare services to the masses.