Interesting notes on AI in healthcare
The buzz topic this year “Artificial Intelligence in healthcare” is being debated and examined by leading technology houses and medical researchers. Of course it’s also been covered extensively in the industry news. Here at Interweave, as you know, we’ve always got an eye on what the future could hold for the healthcare industry. So we have collated some of the most interesting notes from these sources to see how AI might change the provision of healthcare in the future.
What is AI?
Firstly, you may be wondering what is really meant by AI or Artificial Intelligence. Simply put, it is the ability of software to think and learn in a similar way to humans. Apple’s Siri on iPhones and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant are examples of AI in everyday use.
These voice assistants typically listen to questions and provide answers, either by preparing the answer or redirecting you to a list of website links instead. Fun at first (“Siri, tell me a joke”), sometimes useful (“Alexa, what’s on my to-do list”) but it’s not yet changing the way we live.
However, recent developments of the technology, using increasingly complex algorithms to predict what will happen next, is the exciting news.
When did AI become a thing?
You might be surprised to learn that scientists and mathematicians, such as British mathematician Alan Turing, have been working on the technology since 1958! So 60 years on and it’s now got to a point that it can be used in business. The enabling factors have included faster internet and the increased use of wearables. Also the vast amount of digital data being generated by apps.
AI in healthcare today
Some artificial intelligence is already in use in healthcare environments, even in our own NHS. For example, University College Hospital in London developed an AI app to predict which patients are most likely to miss MRI scan appointments. This enables admin staff to call the patients most likely to skip the appointment and remind them. Saving wasted appointments and reducing wait times overall. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg – we wonder what game-changing AI applications will appear next.
How will AI change healthcare in the future?
Now that you have a better understanding of what AI is and where it came from, let’s look at what the healthcare industry pundits are predicting.
Two years ago, The BMJ said that they see AI assisting doctors to make better clinical decisions. The AI apps can instantly access huge amounts of clinical data from a large patient population. It can use this to identify trends and state the best course of action to take. Most importantly, this empowers the doctor. Because he or she can choose the treatment option that has statistically returned the best patient outcomes overall.
Thoughts in 2019
More recently, in January 2019, the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges published a comprehensive paper. The paper included the “12 domains that will be most impacted by AI” over the next few years. Professor MacEwen, who penned the report’s Foreword, states the troubling issue about integrating AI into healthcare environments. That is to say, the fact that software development is done in an “Agile” way which is to build fast & fail fast. Whereas healthcare professionals try to live up to their Hippocratic Oath of “First, do no harm”. How these two methodologies will work together is currently still a mystery. Well worth a deeper read.
Also published this year was the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ report on Artificial Intelligence in healthcare and research. The report predicts some future uses of AI in healthcare including screening patients for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s. In this use case, AI tools are being developed that analyse speech patterns to monitor patients’ symptoms. The report suggests that AI could also be used to speed up the analysis of medical imaging scans. Detecting serious conditions such as pneumonia a lot earlier, which will save many lives. If you are mostly interested in the ethical and social issues of using AI in healthcare, this report will be for you.
Earlier this month, US-based technology publisher Datamation released an article which covered the A to Z of how AI is in use in healthcare. Arguably the most interesting use case covered in the report is AI being used to analyse cancer patients’ DNA. The AI then prescribes appropriate immunotherapy options for the individual.
To round it all off
Finally, we couldn’t miss the Medical Futurist’s opinion in an article about the future of medicine! In the recent article Top AI algorithms in healthcare, the USA development of AI being used to co-ordinate all the different devices in an Intensive care unit is the most exciting of all. This will provide an on-hand automated data analyst checking all the patient’s vital signs. The AI will “carefully calibrate treatment” accordingly. Surely this would make any patient feel more at ease in an already terrifying situation.
All in all, AI in healthcare is inevitable. The changes ahead will be exciting, but will push everyone’s boundaries – we wait and watch with anticipation.