Guest post by Krithika Siddharth, content writer, Innoppl Technologies.
Since 2011, more than $870 million have been invested in more than 65 healthcare artificial intelligence (AI) startups. These startups concentrate on various areas, from nursing to drug discoveries, where AI’s potential can be put to best use. This is where the world’s heading towards and the future of healthcare lies.
The roots of AI may have been from some science fiction storytellers, but now, the reality is that AI plays a major role in our everyday life. Beginning with the IBM Watson supercomputer defeating the longtime Jeopardy champion, Ken Jennings, the world started taking notice about what artificial intelligence can do.
With Google and IBM making tremendous progress with their AI initiatives and the other tech giants (Like Apple, Dell, Facebook) trying to catch up, it makes us wonder what will happen when one day we have robots running around doing our everyday chores.
But, the main question should be what will happen when AI does fully breach our day to day lives: Will we embrace this reality and let robots take us over? And do we really need or is it desirable to have self-driving cars and artificial intelligence? Should computers acquire enough data and knowledge to replace our existing doctors?
Maybe we do or maybe we don’t, but let’s stop before we get ahead of ourselves.
AI should not be perceived as “artificial intelligence” but rather as “augmented intelligence.” It has the potential to process data and make cognitive decisions, which an average human can take many months to process. AI has truly opened numerous opportunities in the field of healthcare, which was humanly impossible just a few years ago.
Getting into the facts, the main advantage AI has over a normal human being is the ability to process a gazillion data points within seconds.
So let’s imagine a patient walks in with a flu – even to diagnose and treat this common illness with the right medication can take a while. There are some cases where the patients don’t even react to the medication. These are common scenarios, as each body reacts differently to different medicines leading to an increased treatment time. Whereas, if the diagnosis is powered with an AI backed system to help, doctor’s will be armed with all the right data and can diagnose and prescribe the right medication within minutes.
How’s that for a game changer?
Yes, AI is the perfect medical assistant to healthcare professionals.Through an iPad based electronic medical record, even the patient genome studies could be integrated into their electronic medical reports. Armed with this data, AI has enough information to make a better analysis and provide accurate treatment plans based on the patient’s medical history, genetic conditions and other medications they are taking for other illnesses.
The use of AI is not restricted to such common problems alone. Currently, IBM’s Watson Health is being used in more than 15 cancer institutes to help diagnose and treat patients better. With respect to oncology, there are thousands of different cases being treated where one is extremely different from the other. AI helps to curate all the studies to find patterns and treat cancer patients better.
Basically, AI is used to speed up diagnostic time, improve efficiency in suggesting treatment plans and eliminate human error.
The healthcare industry is huge,with a staggering amount of unstructured data. We also have millions of online forums that patients use to find answers to their illnesses. It doesn’t end there, there are also many doctors who publish papers and reports every week based on their latest findings. How can a human brain structure all these data in time to plan effective treatments? With IBM Watson’s supercomputer claiming to read 40 million data points in 15 seconds, why not make use of AI assistants to help us access accurate information for framing the right treatment plan?
AI is not only playing an important role in framing medical treatments, it has a crucial role in clinical trials, as well.
AI is being used to access data of how one patient reacts to a particular treatment when compared to others. With such accurate and intelligent use of data, AI is key in understanding each drug and its effects on each type of patient. There are various values and criteria that comes into play when a clinical trial is conducted. With the help of AI, the time taken to conduct the trial is reduced and the success rate of each trial is improved.
AI has different roles in different healthcare arenas. The “augmented intelligence” (AI) helps make the healthcare system more stable, accurate and predictable.
Many suggestions and studies state that AI is replacing doctors and surgeons. It’s quite disturbing, but, not true.
AI is intelligent – Google’s AI could beat the GO Champion without breaking a sweat. But still,it’s just a machine that has no compassion and human intuitiveness: Two of the most important aspects for being a successful doctor. A surgeon can change the course of an operation or a physician can empathize with their patient, making a treatment more effective or the patient feel more safe and secure. All AI can do is act upon a large data set to make a cognitive decision; AKA a perfect assistant for a competitive doctor.
As for where the future of AI in healthcare is heading, there are possibilities where AI could act as your personal physician, assess your symptoms and help you understand them better. No longer will you need to spend hours Googling your symptoms and end up deciding you have cancer.
Your personal AI can also assist you by letting you know if your condition is serious enough to visit the ER or not. Also, once you have consulted the doctor and set a treatment plan, your AI health assistant can act as your personal nurse and can help you recover sooner by reminding you about your medication and by advising you to be on a proper diet.
The AI technology has not had a welcoming response from world’s biggest tech leaders, though.Stephen Hawking tried to warn people about the implication of AI. He said that it might be the greatest invention by human, but it might also be the last. Well, that’s an awkward forecast, but it doesn’t stop big giants from venturing into the world of the unknown. Let it be for fame or the thirst for knowledge, when AI is used or the right reason, it’s for our benefit. For example, Google’s Deep Mind is being used to detect eye disease early, making AI indispensable in the field of healthcare.
So, going back to our pessimistic thoughts about AI: There’s no denying the fact that AI will be “considered” a disruptive technology. As more people start relying on AI’s help for diagnosis and treatment, the chances are that smaller hospitals and clinics might have to shut down. It might also take over few jobs, but that’s the normal side effect of any new technology that comes into play. It doesn’t mean we say no to the computer or other automated machines. We just learn to live with it and make technology work for us better.