How Artificial Intelligence Will Redesign the Healthcare Industry
Written by Gayathri Venkatesh
Coupled with leading industries, the healthcare industry is one of the lifelines for an economy. It drives and contributes not only to saving lives, but also to maintaining a sustainable market by contributing to the country’s GDP. With the industry already set up, countries seek to enhance services rendered by improving policies, accessibility, and reducing cost. With the need to increase life expectancy and the urgency to prevent or fight epidemic outbreaks, the healthcare industry has allowed analytics and improved technology to develop and play a combined important role over the last decade.
The global healthcare market is expected to reach ~US$24 B by 2020 and currently the industry has revolutionized to improve outcomes, cut costs, and ease the access and manipulation of data. Big players like IBM, Google, and Oracle have started developing solutions to manage and interpret large amounts of data, throwing them into a spiral of options to use from. Some of these solutions are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Big Data, and IoT (Internet of Things).
This article will emphasize on the role of AI in healthcare industry.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have all your health concerns attended to at the speed of light? Or receive accurate diagnosis that could save money on re-admissions and save lives in the process? This does not have to completely replace doctors with machines of AI. However having a computerized system to collect, store, and interpret massive data could be a start.
By utilizing AI, there is potential to organise and improve patient treatment plans and provide physicians with all the information they need in real-time. There are already several examples of AI in healthcare that show optimistic future options. However, these implementations will only make sense if it is available to mainstream users and not only to the creamy layer of the economy.
Before plunging into how great a role AI can play in the industry with applications, one should know that AI is generally considered a term for three related technologies; machine learning, extended human cognition, and robotics. Machine learning has brought AI to the forefront of healthcare and its impact on analysing and treating diseases will actually be unmatched. According to a 2016 study by Frost & Sullivan, it was stated that the market for AI in healthcare is projected to reach US$6.6 B by 2021 and there is ample scope for AI to create solutions to diagnose, prevent diseases, provide treatment, create drugs, and help in management.
The Applications of AI and Its Impact:
- Medication Management
Getting patients to adhere to a drug or medication regime can be a huge task, if manually done. AI brings in the possibility for doctors and nurses to keep track of patient’s medication in between visits. For example, mobile technology with a few algorithms and facial recognition can tell the doctors if the right patient is taking the right medication at the right time.
Repetitive jobs such as data mining are also taken care by AI. It can collect, store, and retrieve patient medical records at any point of time in order to provide better and faster health services. Recently, Google’s AI department launched ‘Google Deepmind Health’ to mine medical records of patients in a jiffy.
- Drug Discovery
Irrespective of the company size, with the developing trend in the industry, most companies probably now have a budget portioned out to work with big players that have access to databases of existing medicine structures that can be mined/analysed to treat diseases. Typically, this analysis would take months or years but the discovery can be done in less than day with AI’s involvement.
Recently, companies have started mining data to find out why some people survive diseases, which helps current treatments or helps in creating new therapies. This form of mining aids in the discovery and development of drugs, diagnostics, and healthcare applications.
- Diagnosis and Treatment
With outbreaks of epidemics happening so frequently around the world, it becomes important for doctors and physicians to quickly diagnose and treat patients before the spread or viruses. Doctors have much less time in hand to refresh and access medical knowledge to develop a treatment, but computers can perform this in a comprehensive way. AI uses cognitive computing to find data patterns that are relevant for a variety of individual patients in order to help make diagnosis faster and provide better treatment options.
Recently IBM Watson launched a special program for oncologists, which has the ability to analyse the notes and reports of clinical experts that were used to treat patients a while ago. Along with this, the patient’s file is retrieved with extensive research and a program is developed to be used as treatment.
Adopting and adapting to AI will take a lot of time. Many doctors, physicians, nurses, and administrators will have to be trained to start using the system. The accuracy and safety of these programs also has to be tested multiple times until we can safely believe that the system provides accurate diagnosis. Lastly, since AI is still at the nascent stage in healthcare sector, it could take many attempts and years for regulatory bodies to approve and rely on the predictions of the system.
The impact of AI on the healthcare industry is manifold and in the coming years will definitely harvest a bounty after overcoming its challenges. Initially as humans, we may be critical/sceptical of the new technology and its predictions but super computers are happening now and will be a major game changer in the industry. Rest assured, AI is on its way to becoming ubiquitous and has huge scope to develop technology and aid healthcare experts in taking better and faster decisions.
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For additional insights on Artificial Intelligence, you can also visit our previous blog “Artificial Intelligence – Will it Affect or Improve Jobs?” to understand more on how AI will impact jobs.