OK computer? The future of artificial intelligence in healthcare


Artificial intelligence (AI) is being implemented in almost every aspect of day-to-day life.

From recommendations on Netflix or Spotify and fraud detection for your bank account, to experimental self-driving cars, the scope of this technology is rapidly expanding.

AI can also improve the quality, safety and implementation of healthcare.

It removes bias and finds patterns from huge pools of data, doing work in minutes that humans either couldn’t feasibly do, or that would take months or years.

Pipeline development, diagnosis, treatment design and medication management are just some of the areas AI can help improve healthcare, through the use of Big Data.

Data-based diagnosis

AI is already being used for basic care and diagnosis, providing patients with an appropriate course of action based on their symptoms, medical history and other factors.

Once such tool – Your.MD – has been approved for use by the NHS, to help alleviate the pressure on healthcare workers by reducing patient visits to doctors.

From rare disorders and hard-to-spot patterns, this technology not only assists in early diagnosis – crucial in nearly all disorders – but can also prevent misdiagnosis.

Another example is DeepMind, owned by Google, which uses images from eye scans to help spot notoriously hard-to-detect eye disorders, such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular edema.

The algorithms can detect abnormalities in a matter of seconds that would potentially never have been picked up otherwise.

The project is being developed with the NHS, and it is thought that this technology could prevent up to 89% of severe visual loss for certain diseases.

Treated by tech

Treatment plans and regimens are another area where AI can assist healthcare professionals.

Taking into account data encompassing medical history, clinical trial studies and healthcare information, AI technology can select a plan for a patient in seconds.

A study found that one such technology for cancer patients recommended the same treatment plan as oncology specialists in 99% of cases.

Will AI medicine be hard to swallow?

The concept of healthcare AI is not without its detractors though.

The amount of sensitive data that is stored, and the safety of that information, is a concern for some.

The loss of jobs its implementation may cause is another – and the lack of human touch is touted by some as a danger.

But there is no question that AI can help us to be quicker, more accurate and able to complete more tasks than any person possibly could.

The impact AI can have on healthcare – from helping in the drug development process, to making sure patients adhere to treatment protocol – is monumental.

It is also through AI that personalized medicine utilizing genomics will elicit a huge impact on healthcare in the next decade.

The revolutionary changes this technology can elicit will change the healthcare landscape and allow for improvements across the board for patients, health practitioners and pharmaceutical companies alike – as long as they can stomach the thought of a more automated future.