November 6, 2018

3 Ways AI Can Improve Healthcare

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Artificial intelligence is having a huge impact across almost every industry. It's even being used to save lives. In the healthcare world, few innovations are seen as important for the future of health as AI. As you can see from the chart below, only analytics management is ahead.

What technologies will drive innovation in healthcare?

Source: Technology Innovation in Healthcare Survey, HIMSS Media

Source: Technology Innovation in Healthcare Survey, HIMSS Media

Many health companies and startups are already finding methods of implementing AI to save lives across the world - providing an unprecedented level of healthcare access. In this post, I'll run through 3 ways AI is improving access to healthcare. 

1. Precision Medicine Powered by AI

According to NIMML, a laboratory at VirginiaTech Biocomplexity Institute, "autoimmune diseases, infectious disease, and cancer have become increasingly difficult to treat using conventional methods that do not take into account individual genetic, environmental, and lifestyle differences. The 'one-size-fits-all' approach to healthcare no longer works." That's where precision medicine, powered by machine learning, comes in.

Precision medicine promises to bring the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. In his talk embedded below, Matthew Might, director of the Hugh Kaul Personalized Medicine Institute at the University of Alabama Birmingham, explores the development of an algorithm for delivering precision medicine in practice and how it optimizes healthcare outcomes for patients with respect to their medical data.  


2. Access to Specialist Support

i-Nside is a worldwide leader in endoscopic technology. With a small device you can attach to any smartphone, i-Nside can take professional-grade medical images of the human ear and (with computer vision - a form of artificial intelligence) use them to diagnose. This is particularly important for areas where specialists are either scarce or nonexistent. 

3. More Efficient Doctor Visits

The standard doctor visit tends to go something like this: arrive, fill out forms, meet with a physician assistant who puts your information into a computer, wait an unknown amount of time while staring at the weird human anatomy posters that always seem to be hung around, meet with your actual doctor for a few minutes where they look at a chart, share their thoughts, and then send you out the door. Not exactly the most effective use of anyone's time and not exactly the personal touch most people would want from the person expected to help keep them healthy. 

According to a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, for every hour physicians are seeing patients, they are spending nearly two additional hours on paperwork. Alleviating this would free up time for doctors and nurses to do what they do best: interact with and counsel patients.

According to HealthAffairs, "By auto-populating structured data fields (for example, allergies and problem lists) from open-ended physician notes, querying relevant data from prior clinical records, and transcribing recorded patient encounters, AI has enormous potential to free physicians from their computers and dramatically reduce documentation burden. Examples include clinical language understanding applications that analyze physician free-text narratives and extract problems and allergies as structured data."

AI's impact on healthcare is just beginning to be understood, but what is clear is that there is a real opportunity to augment doctors to improve everyone's lives and health. 

Artificial Intelligence Glossary, 2021 Edition