The pandemic, a surge in lifestyle-related diseases, demographic shifts, and a burgeoning global population have placed tremendous strain on the healthcare system. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is offering up solutions to help relieve some of these pressures.
AI has the potential to revolutionize the delivery of medical care. A report compiled in collaboration with the European Union’s healthcare innovation arm, EIT Health, explored how AI can facilitate improvements in care outcomes, patient experience, and access to healthcare services. The report found that not only can AI improve productivity and efficiency in the delivery of care, but it can also enable healthcare systems to give more and better treatment to a greater number of patients. Furthermore, the report found that AI offers the potential to make the lives of medical professionals easier, allowing them to devote more time to providing direct care to patients while lowering their risk of burnout.
Patients also seem to be amenable to the role of AI in healthcare. According to a research survey by PWC, patients across Europe, the Middle East and Africa were asked whether they were willing to talk to a computer or robot-based AI to obtain health information, for diagnosis of a medical condition, and for treatment advice. 54% said yes.
How is AI Being Used in Healthcare?
To answer this question, it’s probably best to first define AI. Artificial Intelligence involves the use of advanced computers and processes taught to those machines, to simulate human intelligence. Ai is being used today to create expert systems that employ natural language processing, speech recognition, image analysis, predictive data analytics and software and robotic automation. Combining these capabilities with the encoding of clinical best practice guidelines and protocols for medical treatment, opens the door to a robust role for AI across the full spectrum of the healthcare system. Here are a few examples:
- Medical Diagnosis. With the use of AI, researchers can develop algorithms capable of reliably diagnosing a wide range of diseases, including cancer. AI could be deployed to evaluate patient scans and other test results, identify abnormal pathologies, and provide accurate recommendations. AI applications have proven very effective in wide range of areas spanning oncology, dermatology, and other areas.
- AI-assisted Robotic Surgery. Although robotic surgery has a long history in the medical field, it cannot be performed reliably without a surgeon retaining constant control. The combination of robotics and AI has generated revolutionary hybrid devices that can be used in a variety of scenarios, especially microsurgery. AI-assisted robotics can allow surgeons to precisely measure and map areas within a patient’s body, make pinpoint incisions required for a given procedure while minimizing trauma to surrounding tissues. AI holds the promise of making many surgeries much less invasive, thereby allowing patients to recover more quickly.
- Health tracking applications. AI is being incorporated into a wide range of wearable technologies that can track a patient’s health status and identify patients who require medical intervention or predict those that may require it in the future. AI enabled devices can detect falls, measure blood oxygen saturation, heart rhythm, blood sugar and variety of other metrics to identify potential issues that require further medical intervention, and alert the appropriate healthcare provider.
- Discovery of medicines. Developing a novel medication is a extremely expensive and time-consuming process. AI is allowing pharmaceutical companies to more quickly identify molecules that have high potential for success in clinical trials. AI has the potential to shave years off the drug development process while reducing costs due to drugs that prove non-viable during clinical testing.
- Medical Practice Management. AI-enabled practice management software is showing a lot of promise in streamlining the administrative burden on healthcare professionals. AI is being used to streamline patient intake, record keeping, billing and other areas to free up healthcare professionals to spend more time on patient care.
Benefits of AI in Healthcare
As the role of AI in healthcare continues to grow, some clear benefits are beginning to emerge. AI is revolutionizing healthcare by:
- Increasing the efficiency and capacity of the healthcare system to meet the needs of patients,
- Providing patients with easier and faster access to the healthcare services they need
- Increasing the productivity of healthcare professionals through reduced administrative burden,
- Diagnosing medical conditions quickly and accurately,
- Revolutionizing surgery by making many procedures less invasive thereby allowing patients to recover more quickly,
- Reducing the development costs and time needed to develop new medications,
- Incorporating a broader data set into clinical decision making such as data from wearables and other devices,
- Personalizing healthcare service delivery and treatments by customizing care plans to the unique needs of the patient.
The healthcare system is under strain. AI holds the promise of huge advancements that will benefit not only patients and healthcare professionals, but all stakeholders across the healthcare system.