Modern technology is disrupting nearly every industry and then some. Just consider the likes of automation, AI, machine learning, big data, predictive analytics and robotics.
Artificial Intelligence, in particular, is poised to change the world as we know it. Imagine talking Androids and robots that can say, do and listen. Driverless and automated vehicles will glide through the streets and become standard in nearly every household. Smart homes and predictive convenience technologies will know when we want our lights on, what shows we want to watch and so much more. And most of these technologies will be powered by AI or some form of it.
One area you might not expect to see it take hold is healthcare. Surely an AI is no match for human doctors and physicians, right?
Dr. Daniel Kraft, a Harvard-born oncologist, entrepreneur and healthcare expert, believes we are going to see a radical change for all in the industry. So much so that we may actually come see AI-powered physicians as the norm. Doctor C-3PO, anyone?
While discussing machine learning, AI, big data, and the internet of things, he had this to say: “This set of technologies, especially when meshed together, offers a real opportunity to reshape and reinvent healthcare around the planet.”
What is the “reshaping” Dr. Kraft’s talking about? What is the future of AI in healthcare and medicine?
Predictive Analytics and Medical Record Mining
Data management is a huge concern in healthcare — especially the handling of patient records and information. Medical professionals and physicians are, after all, human, and they make mistakes like the rest of us. If and when they miss something important — and it does happen sometimes — it can prove dangerous for their patients. However, such a thing can be easily remedied with an always-on, always-connected data management tool powered by AI.
Google DeepMind Health, for instance, is already being used to scour and mine the vast trove of medical records available to it. The goal is to provide better, faster and more accurate health services. While this particular project is in its infancy, there’s no reason it can’t contribute to some incredible improvements. The Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is already making use of the platform to assist in the betterment of eye treatments.
This shows just how useful an automated or AI-based tool can be when scouring and analyzing medical records. It’s no stretch to believe platforms such as Google’s DeepMind Health will soon be saving lives on the regular.
Personalized Treatment Plans
When a patient has a major issue, physicians come up with a structured treatment plan. When diagnosed with cancer, for example, you lay out a foundation for treatments over the course of a few months to a year. At the end of the plan, you and your physician sit down, assess the current status of your body and ailment and come up with a new plan. It’s sort of a rinse-repeat process, but this is no different than any other health ailment, disease or problem. In some cases, your doctor will simply discern a plan for you and hand it over.
Systems like IBM’s Watson, however, can be tapped into to create and deliver better and more personalized healthcare and treatment plans. Watson has an oncology-themed function that provides clinicians with evidence-backed treatment options for patients.
The result is a more accurate and better-targeted treatment plan that factors in a patient’s medical history, clinical expertise, external research and development and cutting-edge data. This makes it possible for an AI system to come up with an innovative, practical plan that no physician at the time knows about.
Precision Medicine and Genetics
Deep Genomics is a “next-frontier” medicine company that utilizes genetic therapies to improve the lives of its patients. The AI and automation tools analyze huge stores of data that contain medical records and genetic information to identify patterns that can be used to improve treatment. The tools also seek out trends regarding mutations and links to diseases that even the trained and experienced eye might have difficulty spotting.
The result is a computational system that works alongside health professionals and provides them with more detailed information. Doctors will know, for instance, what happened within a cell and when and why DNA was altered by genetic variations, both natural and therapeutic.
AI can also be used for complete genome sequencing to deliver full-body health scans with the means to spot cancer and other ailments during a medical check-up.
More Than Meets the Eye
Of course, these are just a handful of ways in which AI will be used in the near future to transform the healthcare industry as we know it. Other areas where AI could and will have an impact include pharmaceuticals and the creation of new drugs, remote health assistance, medication management, insurance, healthcare reporting and more.
What about that Android Doctor we hinted at, though? Is there really going to be a Dr. C-3PO someday? Because that’s equal parts amazing and frightening.
In short, the answer is “no” — there likely won’t be a realistic, human-like Android that can handle healthcare tasks anytime soon. But you’ll notice across most of the technologies discussed here that they will be working directly with real medical records, patients and in healthcare settings. That means, for lack of a better phrase, that artificial intelligence will be used to save lives in the near future.
Healthcare will largely be driven by big data, predictive analytics and smart systems like IBM’s Watson and Google’s DeepMind to deliver poignant, accurate healthcare plans and treatment options. We should all be excited because it means better, effective and personalized healthcare for us.
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