AI has become an integral part of our daily lives. It’s in our cars, telling us when it’s time for the engine to be serviced based on our driving patterns; it’s in our everyday Google searches and the suggestions from Amazon that follow us around on the web; it’s the chatbot on the end of the telephone in call service centres. AI is becoming ubiquitous and most of us use it: Apple’s Siri processes two billion natural-language requests a week, and 20% of requests on Android phones are made by voice alone.
Last year when I was interning with NHS England, I became aware of the impact of AI and technology is exerting in healthcare sector. It ranges from early detection of diseases to diagnosis, from precise treatment to personalized medicine and patient monitoring and care, from research & training to supporting hospitals in operational effectiveness to save cost, improve patient satisfaction, and fulfil staffing and workforce needs.
AI in health care mainly refers to doctors and hospitals accessing vast data sets of potentially life-saving information. This includes treatment methods and their outcomes, survival rates, and speed of care gathered across millions of patients, geographical locations, and innumerable health conditions.
AI is getting increasingly sophisticated at doing what humans do but more efficiently, more quickly and at a lower cost. Machine learning algorithms can detect and analyse trends from the data and make predictions to identify potential health outcomes.
According to a report by pwc, the potential for both AI and robotics in healthcare is vast. Just like in our everyday lives, AI and robotics are increasingly a part of our healthcare ecosystem.
Some of the areas where AI is having a major impact are discussed below.
Keeping Well: AI-based applications are helping people to manage their own health and lead a healthy lifestyle. For example, the Smart belt – welt has a built-in mechanism that alerts the person when they overeat. Smart apparels like smartwatch, fitness bands, vital monitoring apps in smartphones monitor the real-time biometrics and create customised reports to help people follow a healthy routine.
Early Detection: AI is being used to detect diseases such as cancer and heart disease, more accurately and in their early stages. The use of AI is enabling review and translation of mammograms 30 times faster with 99% accuracy, reducing the need for unnecessary biopsies as well as reducing the uncertainty and stress of a misdiagnosis.
Diagnosis: IBM’s Watson for Health uses cognitive technology to store and review medical available around the world, exponentially faster than any human and find patterns in it. IBM Watson can provide confidence-scored recommendations based on relevant inputs like symptoms and other related factors, thus, helping doctors in identifying treatment options for patients.
Google’s DeepMind Health is working with hospitals in the UK to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms to solve real-world healthcare problems. An example of this work is that Google DeepMind’s neural networks matched the accuracy of medical experts in diagnosing 50 sight-threatening eye diseases.
Research: A study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found that only 13.8% of drugs successfully pass clinical trials. Furthermore, a company can expect to pay between $161 million to $2 billion for any drug to complete the entire clinical trials process and get FDA approval. With this in mind, pharma businesses are using AI to increase the success rates of new drugs while decreasing operational costs at the same time. Few examples of this are:
Novartis uses AI to predict untested components researchers should explore to find new cures.
Verge Genomics uses AI to predict the effect of new treatments for patients suffering from ALS & Alzheimer’s.
Mission Therapeutics uses AI to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s.
Investments in AI-based healthcare ecosystem
A few of the big names contributing to the inclusion of AI in healthcare market are NVIDIA, Intel, IBM, Google, Microsoft, GE Healthcare, Siemens Healthineers and Medtronic.
AI market for healthcare will increase by 40% between 2014 and 2021.
Many start-ups are emerging and providing preventive healthcare, analytics, pathology, emergency services. Some of the top healthcare startups in India include Docturnal, Practo, Lybrate, Niramai and many more.
Advantages of using AI in healthcare
While many governments are worried about shortage of doctors and resources in the face of growing population and demands for healthcare services, AI would enable easier and quicker access to healthcare for more people.
AI-based softwares and machines can make diagnosis faster and more accurately.
Better treatment recommendations are being made by AI-based solutions.
Smartphones and AI-based apps help people monitor their own healthcare and to keep themselves well through healthier living.
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