For some people, the idea of seeing a robot doctor might be discomfiting, but artificial intelligence (AI) is already making its way into the healthcare industry. Researchers aren’t so much interested in replacing doctors (the human touch is still a big part of healthcare), but in finding ways to enhance and expedite healthcare. We’re a long way from automation and AI occupying every clinic and hospital, but changes are coming. Here are 6 uses of artificial intelligence that are helping to transform the healthcare industry.
Tired of this scenario? You’re sitting in the doctor’s office at 10:55, and your appointment is at 11. 11:30 passes by, and you’re still waiting. Finally, at 11:45, you’re ushered into the office, only to spend 10 minutes consulting with a doctor to find out all you need is a little rest. Doctors are sick of it too. They’re booked up weeks or months in advance, and hate running behind schedule. A.I. could help take some of this burden off by offering online diagnosis to patients who aren’t sure how serious their need is. Instead of consulting with WebMd and self-diagnosing, A.I. could help cut down on doctor’s visits—safely.
Your.MD is a startup hoping to usher in this new era of diagnosis. Using a chatbot, probability models, and machine learning, the app can help users evaluate their condition, and decide whether or not it’s time to head to a clinic.
Telehealth is the use of mobile communications to monitor and sometimes diagnose patients. Phone, email, and video chat are all forms of telehealth, and they cut down on patient travel time and medical costs considerably. Some startups are tackling the more mundane (and time-consuming) aspects of telehealth with A.I., creating bots to remind patients to take their medications, schedule follow-up appointments, and more. One startup, Sense.ly, claims that their follow-up bot “Molly” frees up 20% of a doctor’s day! With ongoing personnel shortages in the healthcare industry, these bots could cut down on tasks that don’t require a doctor’s expertise.
Personalized Medical Assitance
For patients who have trouble remembering to follow their doctor’s treatment plan, A.I. can help. Similar to Siri, Cortana, and other virtual assistants built into many devices, health-specific A.I. personal assistants can keep patients on track. Health apps with reminders and advice are available 24 hours a day to patients, and could help them keep track of their health and well-being.
Image and Treatment Analysis
Diagnostics rely heavily on images from MRI, x-ray, and ultrasound procedure. Skilled physicians can spot anomalies, but it isn’t always easy, and some things slip through the cracks. A.I. has been used to find these abnormalities, allowing for enhanced diagnosis and more efficient treatment. With changes being applied to the health care policy, IBM’s Watson has also been used in oncology applications to create customized treatment plans for patients, based on evidence-based practices.
Drug research is a key factor in helping to treat devastating diseases, but it often proceeds at a slow pace—too slow for many afflicted patients. Drug discovery platforms are now using machine-learning algorithms to help cut down the time in the discovery process, potentially saving thousands of lives in the process.
Making a diagnosis early on can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. AI can help predict risk based on a patient’s characteristics, coming up with a personalized profile. Using big data and AI analysis, every aspect of a patient’s health and history can be examined quickly, helping to determine risk and arranging a prevention plan. This would cut down significantly on the number of people dying from illnesses like cancer, thanks to the AI’s predictions and early detection.
The Rapid Advancement of AI
Many of the AI developments in healthcare have been focused on empowering patients with tools they can use at home. However, due to the rapid pace of AI development, it shouldn’t be long before more advanced tools are making their way into medical facilities and helping doctors to better serve patients. AI won’t replace the need for nurses and doctors, but it can help everyone stay healthier and keep hospitals running efficiently.