Healthcare decision-making is a highly complex process. Providers must carefully assess a variety of information from many different sources, including the current medical literature, in-house protocols, and accepted best practices along with their own clinical judgment before coming up with an accurate course of action. Add to this the pressure and narrow time gap during which they have to take these decisions, and you have a prefect recipe for medical errors and mishaps. No wonder the doctors who used to prescribe your grandparents blood thinners got it right only 67% of the time and cardiologist used to miss 250,000 out of 300,000 people who were at high risk of falling prey to heart related illnesses every year.
Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) has come to the providers’ rescue. By putting a wealth of information at their fingertips, AI platforms are enabling doctors to discern useful patterns and gain usable intelligence. Using complex computer algorithms that make sense of unstructured data, these systems are enabling physicians to run through millions of Electronic Medical Records (EMR), public databases, journal articles, provider notes, prescriptions, diagnostic images and other sources, in a fraction of time and come up with an optimal course of action. The case involving an elderly Japanese woman, who was suffering from a rare form of cancer, is an example of this.
Faced with a 60-year-old woman who was unresponsive to treatment, a group of doctors in Japan reportedly decided to leverage the prowess of AI. They chose the 2011 Jeopardy winner, IBM Watson, and supplied it with huge amounts of clinical cancer case data. This system matched the patient’s symptoms against 20 million clinical oncology studies that included symptoms, treatment and response within ten minutes and came up with an optimal treatment plan, which ultimately saved the life of the patient.
The best part about AI platforms is that they are capable of “machine learning.” In simple words this means that they can learn on the go, increasing their prowess by incorporating new findings into their operating algorithms while adjusting to rapid advances in medical research. This gives them an edge over human eye/brain with regards to pattern recognition. The same is the case with decoding X-rays, skin rashes and biopsy slides.
What Does All This Imply To Us?
In the future you don’t have to leave the comforts of your home to get immediate medical attention. You can simply reach a healthcare provider and send them a picture or a video of, say, your inflamed ear through a smartphone. The computer on the other end will go through the image and recommend what kind of actions should be taken.
Similarly, patients suffering from chronic conditions can be offered care at their home by doctors and nurses who pop in frequently — just not in-person. They’ll connect with you via a live chat, acting on data from external, wearable or implantable sensors. These sensors will be further monitored by AI-powered bots that double as companions/caregivers, thereby increasing the responsiveness of healthcare delivery.
Thanks to AI platforms, there will be no such thing as a separate Intensive Care Unit in the future. Every single room in a healthcare facility will act as a self-contained ICU. Nurse staffing ratios for individual units and departments will be adjusted automatically by AI monitoring algorithms. And each room will have high-tech sensors, video monitoring and voice recording features along with a range of built-in cameras that will promote real-time examinations of patients.
What’s more, AI eliminates the need for doctors to manually carryout cumbersome tasks such as entering physician orders and notes into the EHR. Leveraging natural language voice recognition algorithms, these professionals can go about doing their tasks and leave the job of capturing the inputs to the intelligent software.
AI also helps doctors to compare individual patients’ characteristics — down to the last genome — against millions of anonymous, elaborative clinical trials and latest findings in medical research. They can leverage these platforms to calibrate personalized alerts that will clearly distinguish life-threatening anomalies from minor medical issues —blurring the line that is currently a major contributor to errors in healthcare – and also design comprehensive dashboards that will track adherence to latest medical standards and best practices. On the patient side, AI enables every individual to take complete control over their own EHR and eliminate the need for redundant information requirements.
AI promises speed, accuracy and efficiency in a scale that was previously unheard of in the industry. For patients, that means reduced costs and more personalized care even in the most remote corners of the globe. And for doctors, it brings much needed assistance in keeping track of records and making accurate medical decisions. However, this technology is not 100% foolproof and a certain degree of preparation needs to be taken by every concerned party to make sure that they avoid the pitfalls of utilizing AI. Here are some of the steps that are needed to be taken on this regard-
- Healthcare regulators should come up with ethical standards that are applicable and obligatory to all the concerned parties
- Companies developing AI solutions should educate the general public about the potential advantages and risks of using AI in medicine
- Healthcare organizations planning to implement AI shouldn’t do it in haste. They should rather opt to do it gradually so that they will get time to map the possible downsides
- Decision-makers at healthcare organizations should implement all the steps necessary to measure the success and effectiveness of the system
- Medical professionals should acquire the required knowledge about how AI works in medicine in order to understand how the intelligent platform might help them in their everyday job
- Patients should be open to work with artificial intelligence platforms and explore the benefits by themselves
If everything goes smoothly and you succeed in implementing AI, medical discoveries and treatment breakthroughs will become a norm in your everyday business.