How AI Is Transforming Healthcare

For the past decade, we’ve experienced an exponential increase in the rate at which technology advances. Leading the charge are steady advances in how Big Data is harnessed to improve our personal and professional lives. Big Data, in all its many facets, is the quintessential component of data science. And, data science powers smart machines and applications the world over. Through Artificial Intelligence, computers are trained to emulate two human senses – vision (image recognition and processing), and listening (speech engines). Machine learning and natural language processing enable computers to carry out tasks just as the brain helps humans get things done. The most prominent of these algorithms is the Neural Network – very similar to the network of neurons found in the human brain.


Many industry practitioners are already harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence, most notably in the healthcare industry. A U.S. News article reported that “Just six months after El Camino Hospital in Silicon Valley implemented artificial intelligence, the rate at which patients suffered dangerous falls dropped by 39 percent.” (I)


Here are some other examples of how the healthcare industry is leveraging AI:


Advanced processing and assistance:

From X-rays, data capture, CT scans, MRI’s and more, AI is creating sweeping change in the proficiency with which healthcare professionals can manage the patient relationship. Through its deep analytic capabilities, AI surfaces more sophisticated treatment options. For example, one does not have to wait for the radiologist to generate a report, and then take it to the doctor for review. Instead, an AI-enabled system analyzes the X-Ray and immediately captures vital information, automatically kicks out reports, and then sends alerts to the doctor within a matter of seconds. Moreover, AI can detect the onset of tumors, osteoporosis, arthritis, and other crippling diseases weeks before any visible signs occur.


Cardiology is another discipline in which AI is helping save lives with early detection of disease such as heart failure. The system identifies the risk and suggests plans to help individuals lead a healthy life.


AI-powered virtual assistance

Virtual Assistants can provide instant answers to queries. Patients can ask questions directly related to a drug, report information, and receive reminders. The virtual assistant can provide a vast amount of data in a matter of seconds.


Physicians can also benefit from virtual assistants because it tracks and follows up on patient records to ensure the best care. While capturing essential information, AI suggests vital parameters to which physicians should adhere.


For example, a patient might not know that he/she is allergic to a medication, but while prescribing a drug, the system alerts the doctor to check for medication allergies thereby making healthcare more accurate at the outset. Similarly, smart suggestions for HPI or histories are also available to the doctor on the fly while charting.


Research and diagnosis

Developing medicines and drugs through clinical trials take many years and can cost a fortune. AI is already speeding up the process and doing it cost effectively. The identification of a molecular structure of drugs that can cure a targeted disease, and then successfully testing it on a set of subjects is where AI can reduce the number of iterations drastically.


During a recent Ebola epidemic, an AI-based program suggested two medications that could minimize the effects of Ebola within 24 hours. Before AI, the process would have taken months, or in some cases years. In addition, Stanford University has researched and developed an algorithm that can diagnose skin cancer faster.


The World Health Organization reports that by 2020, the prevalence of chronic disease is expected to rise by 57% and this makes predictive medication crucial. NLP-based programs are being used to predict probable epidemic spread based on historical events and geographical conditions that change rapidly.

Managing and recording medical data

There are tons of healthcare records, mainly the patient records stored for analyses and future treatments. Artificial Intelligence is one of the most widely used programs for data management where it can save, format, collect and trace data to provide faster and consistent access to doctors or health institutions. Because of the ability to analyze the data, AI can also make the diagnosis faster, saving money and time. AI can help improve medical diagnosis, provide immediate support via healthcare bots, monitor health-related information, deliver digital consultation, and much more. Frost & Sullivan reports that AI has the potential to improve outcomes by 30- 40% and reduce the cost of treatment by as much as 50%. (II) However, along with its benefits, AI brings risks and challenges prompting healthcare providers to continuously monitor its use.


Optimizing revenue

New use cases include helping healthcare providers increase revenue for services provided by fixing leaks, and making intelligent suggestions for attaining maximum income.

New applications for AI in the making:

    • >Apps like Babylon in the UK use AI to give medical consultation based on personal medical history and common medical knowledge. Users report their symptoms into the app, which uses speech recognition to compare against a database of illnesses. Babylon then offers a recommended action, taking the user’s medical history into account.


    • >Genetics and genomics look for mutations and links to disease from the information in DNA. With the help of AI, body scans can spot cancer and vascular diseases early and predict the health issues people might face based on their genetics. The startup has developed Molly, a digital nurse to help people monitor patient conditions and follow up with treatments, between doctor visits. The program uses machine learning to support patients and specializes in chronic illnesses.


    • >In 2016, Boston Children’s Hospital developed an app for Amazon Alexa that gives basic health information and advice for parents of ill children. The app answers questions about medications and whether symptoms require a doctors’ visit.


    • >The National Institutes of Health have created the AiCure app to monitor the use of medication by a patient. A smartphone’s webcam is AI-enabled to autonomously confirm that patients are taking their medication, and it helps them manage their condition better. The most common users of this app tend to be people with serious medical conditions, patients who struggle to follow a doctor’s advice, along with clinical trial participants.


    According to a 2016 report from CB Insights, about 86% of healthcare provider organizations, life science companies, and technology vendors to healthcare are using artificial intelligence technology. By 2020, these organizations will spend an average of $54 million on artificial intelligence projects. (IV) The possibilities for cognitive computing are endless. How are you using AI or planning to use it?