Artificial Intelligence has arrived as a boon for the healthcare industry. While AI is expected to disrupt most aspects of modern life, be it entertainment or commerce, healthcare seems to be ahead when it comes to adoption and deployment of AI services. From early detection of diseases and drug discovery to connected care, AI is making healthcare accessible, inclusive and at the leading edge of AI-powered innovation.
AI technologies are so common in healthcare that a 2016 CB Insights report shows that 86 per cent of the biosciences companies, healthcare providers, and technology vendors use them in some way. This rapid growth of AI applications in healthcare is driven by the growth in the number of startups providing AI support to the healthcare industry.
Another factor driving AI applications in healthcare is interest from traditional organisations like Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands and NHS in the UK. The healthcare industry needed some kind of revolution to address variables like maturing populace and constant evolution in illness, and it found one in AI. Here is a look at eight applications driven by AI in healthcare.
Early Detection of Diseases
An old adage common in healthcare is “prevention is better than cure”. But with AI, detection could make that prevention even more feasible. With the help of computer-based intelligence, it is now possible to detect malignancy in patients at the beginning. There are AI-powered tools capable of detecting issues and notifying care teams immediately. There are also ML-based tools that assist pathologists in making more accurate diagnosis.
These technologies are being used to reduce error in cancer diagnosis and develop methods for individualised medical treatment. The use of AI has led to quicker survey and interpretation of mammograms with better accuracy. In early detection of diseases, it is not just AI tools and software that are making the difference but also wearables like the Apple Watch.
Improvement in decision making
One of the difficulties facing healthcare professionals and care providers is the decision they need to make on behalf of the patient. The delay in decision making could mean the difference between life and death. With AI-powered diagnosis and datasets, there is increased adoption of predictive analysis in healthcare leading to improved decision making. There are also universities coming together to improve decision making via Projects AI for Health by sharing data, knowledge and facilities.
The healthcare industry is now increasingly using past data of patients to distinguish between those in danger of developing a serious condition. This sector, called predictive analytics, uses big data and machine learning to offer predictions based on patient data and historical data available about a condition. The result is clinicians being better prepared to diagnose and treat patients than before.
The pandemic showed that the definition of a healthcare institution need not be one with a massive complex covering different types of disease or diagnosis. Instead, a modern healthcare system will be one where care centres will be primarily for those who are extremely sick or suffering from an acute health issue.
A connected care is one where patients are being constantly monitored by AI applications by getting inputs from their phones, fitness wearables and other devices. Even a smart weighing scale at home could push BMI data to an AI program and help with diagnosis. Only when these vitals make AI to predict a complexity that the patient can connect with a doctor on tap, get initial diagnosis and visit in person if required. This future will also support the shortage of healthcare workers and lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Support in treatment
AI is also extending beyond diagnosis in the field of healthcare. The AI programs have begun acting as an aid in treatment by assisting clinicians to adopt a thorough strategy for an ailing patient. These also extend in facilitating care plans and creating long-term treatment plans for the patient.
However, the biggest aid is being seen in the form of intelligent robots. Robots are not new in healthcare but the modern robots are intelligent, AI-powered and able to collect and corroborate data. They are extending from basic research facilities to assist a human specialist in medical procedures.
Improvement in end of life care
The life expectancy of an average human being has considerably increased due to better healthcare facilities available right now. However, as humans grow older, their bodies succumb to slow death and develop conditions like dementia, osteoporosis and others. Now, AI is being used to alter the end of life care.
As reported by Stat News, the AI-powered algorithm is nudging physicians to have that delicate conversation with their patient about their goals and wishes should their condition worsen. There are intelligent robots available to help individuals stay autonomous for longer, which lowers the need for hospitalisation or visit to care centres.
Health monitoring through wearables
Can gadgets improve your health? Well, the answer may not be a direct yes but it can definitely act as a useful tool. There are now wearables available in the market that can track a number of vitals that directly correlate with the health and wellbeing of an individual.
From the number of calories burned each day to the amount of sleep, these wearables are capable of recording data with remarkable accuracy. An Apple Watch can even record ECG and send an alert in case of a fall using a gyroscope. While these devices include a number of sensors, the data gathered by these sensors is analysed by an onboard NPU (neural processing unit) to send alerts and translate machine data into well being information.
Access to medical services
AI’s biggest impact in the world of healthcare is seen in the form of increased access to medical services for every individual. Right now, due to the lack of enough healthcare service providers, ultrasound professionals, or radiologists, the key medical services are only available to a few privileged individuals.
With AI supplementing some of the repetitive work, these care providers are able to offer their assistance to a large set of population and computerised reasoning is now making way for a shortage of qualified clinical staff. In a few years, the number of deaths due to lack of access to medical services is expected to come down significantly.
Overall improvement in healthcare experience
All of the above applications for AI in the healthcare industry culminate in one thing: improved customer experience. The reason people go to Google for search or Amazon for shopping online is the sticky user experience these platforms offer. The healthcare industry has often left a sour taste on individuals, leading to poor customer experience.
AI-based systems are able to change that dramatically with improved staffing, lowering hold up times, and offering assistance in the form of chatbots. This means that clinicians are able to offer better diagnosis, show their aptitude and connect with patients in a way that they could not do before. This increase in power of healthcare professionals driven by AI is leading to faster feedback cycles, better guidance and long-term support for staying healthy.