A flurry of AI advancements is in line with the unprecedented growth of big data, the advent of powerful graphics processing units (GPUs), and re-advent of deep learning. Healthcare is ripe for disruption as technologies such as AI are likely reduce medical costs.
The burning question is: Can AI live up to its hype in the healthcare landscape?
Patients expect doctors and other stakeholders to prioritize human needs above business interests. The convergence of connected health and smart home products and the emergence of technologies such as voice assistants are helping enhance health outcomes and provide convenient access to information.
In hospitals, AI can unburden healthcare workers of menial duties, helping free up time to address more patient-facing problems. Reports are optimistic about the prospect of AI in the medical sector. According to Global Market Insights Inc., the healthcare artificial intelligence market revenue will surpass $21 billion by 2026.
AI Bolstering Health Quotient in Medical Imaging and Diagnosis
Artificial intelligence has trended toward outperforming human clinicians in diagnosis of medical conditions, including image analysis within radiology and dermatology. Machine learning and deep learning capabilities can also be integrated into robots to create training material for clinicians.
AI diagnostic systems tend to use machine learning to identify patterns that would be indiscernible to program. Medical image recognition AI has come on the horizon to bring a paradigm shift in diagnostics. Not only do the algorithms enable early disease detection, they go beyond the realm of potential prevention and improve radiologist workflow through automatically prioritizing urgent cases and expediting reading time.
With a myriad of imaging methods at clinicians’ disposal, medical imaging has become the linchpin in decision making, and AI has become the backbone of the healthcare system. Radiologists can cash in on AI technologies to sift through a slew of images and spot likely patterns and abnormalities.
According to research spearheaded by the University of Birmingham and the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, AI can detect diseases from medical imaging on par with the accuracy of healthcare professionals.
While traditional imaging and diagnostic methods will continue to gain traction, it is plausible machine learning can possibly outperform humans and will remain at the helm of the healthcare system.
Application of AI Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
In the wake of COVID-19’s headwinds, health systems have renewed focus on affordability and efficiency. According to the American Hospital Association’s reports released in May and June 2020, U.S. hospital financial losses were projected to stand at $323.1 billion through 2020. The silver lining is financial plans largely remained buoyant through 2020, thanks to health plans prioritizing AI to make better clinical decisions.
AI-based analytics are underpinning the decision-making process. For instance, researchers at New York-based Mount Sinai developed an AI tool and combined imaging and clinical data for faster COVID-19 diagnosis. AI algorithms were integrated with patients’ chest CT scans with clinical information, such as blood reports, symptoms, age, and potential contact with infected people.
The AI algorithm is alleged to have detected 68 percent of COVID-19 positive cases in circumstances where radiologists termed those cases as negative due to a negative CT appearance.
AI has become the catalyst in reducing patient risk by detecting medication errors and alerting of fatigue. The technology will remain invaluable for predicting bottlenecks, allocating same-day surgeries, distributing resources, and preventing a dearth of medical staff.
The applications of AI have complemented better outcomes, faster treatment, and shorter hospital stays. For instance, hospitals across the U.K. are using the National COVID-19 Chest Imaging Database (NCCID) to track markers and patterns of COVID-19 patients, robustly create treatment plans, save radiologists’ time, and boost safety and develop technology to leverage the best care for patients hospitalized with a severe infection.
AI hit the sweet spot, taking the relationship between healthcare and technology to the next level in 2020. Telemedicine services and virtual assistants were highly preferred during the outbreak as the irreversible trend toward advanced healthcare has disrupted the healthcare industry.
Smart Use of AI Through Virtual Assistants
Virtual assistants are well positioned to bring the value proposition of AI in healthcare a notch higher. Virtual assistants have reinforced patients using mobile and web based interactivity and tools to attain online health goals.
Virtual health assistants help organizations bolster patient relationship management (PRM) by placing more information in the hands of the end-users. It can help find information about medications and healthcare conditions as well as enhance administrative processes—including scheduling, follow-up, and sending reminders.
While video conferencing solution has leveraged virtual care in neurology, in cardiology, mHealth tools are helping people comply with medication adherence, self-manage well-being and health, and notify healthcare workers about any changes in users’ conditions. Fitness devices such as Fitbit and Apple Watch are assisting patients to track their health parameters, including blood pressure and heart rate.
There is a massive push for telehealth with the deployment of AI for minor diagnosis in smartphone apps. From diagnosis to treatment to monitoring health, AI has created synergies to minimize errors, reduce costs, and boost convenience and efficiency.
Strategic Approaches to Promise a Competitive Edge
Organizations such as the WHO, CDC, and NHS have exhibited unprecedented traction toward virtual assistants. For instance, the WHO came up with their own WhatsApp helpline, helping users research about the cure of the disease.
Following the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus, IBM introduced “Watson Assistant for Citizens” last April to deliver responses to COVID-19 questions. The company has brought Watson Assistant, AI search capabilities, and natural language processing capabilities under one umbrella to advise citizens about treatment, prevention, and other topics about the pandemic.
Amid a marked rise in the number of COVID-19 affected cases, healthcare workers globally preferred virtual appointments as the virtual assistants can schedule appropriate consultation after identifying the patient’s severity and condition.
Offering a personalized experience to patients, AI-enabled virtual assistants help schedule doctor’s appointments, monitor health status, and identify illness based on symptoms.
It would be too naïve to conclude virtual assistants will supplant medical professionals; however, it can add value to the medical professionals’ work and lessen their burden.
Wearables Revolutionizing Health System
From sensors implanted in the body or under the skin to gauge glucose levels and blood pressure to detecting and alerting wearers of cardiac emergencies, wearables are reinvigorating AI in healthcare settings. Scalable and cost-effective opportunities for real-time and remote patient monitoring during periods of sleep tracking, cardiac health, diabetes care, and fitness monitoring have spurred consumer preference for wearable devices and sensors.
Well established companies and new entrants are developing wearable medical devices that will not only monitor blood glucose, but also assess the likely condition in future. Several companies have introduced wearables, including wristbands, smart shoes, smartwatches, and contact lenses.
Amazfit and Zepp are offering smartwatches with sensors like a geomagnetic sensor, gyroscope sensor, vibration motor, and BioTracker. Fitbit joined hands with Health2Sync in September 2019 to foster diabetes management in East Asia, focusing on Japan and Taiwan. Reportedly, over 300,000 users of Health2Sync in these countries will be able to use the device to better manage their diabetes.
In a bid to expand its footprint in North America, Zebra Medical Vision teamed up with TELUS Ventures last July to accelerate AI-based preventive care in Canada. Zebra received $30 million in Series C funds to create AI-based tools for radiologists in 2018.
The inevitable shift toward wearable medical devices also precludes their use in assessing recuperation, athletic training, and in-game performance. We are in the age of wearables as they give both the doctor and the wearer a deep-dive insight into health.
Wearable manufacturers are introducing devices meant for activities and exercise, emphasizing calorie burn, heart rate, jogging and walking, and integrated GPS monitoring to boost measurement of the distance.
Even though AI has great potential in healthcare, there are several bottlenecks. Data privacy concerns, ethical concerns, and lack of resources are restraints to the adoption of AI. Undeniably, cyber-attacks have long been a costly challenge—both financially and hurting a company’s image—for hospitals and tech firms.
AI-enabled healthcare solutions can fuel returns through cost reduction, leading to better customer engagement and optimizing talent allocations and resources. Organizations may infuse more funds in AI to enhance their competitive positioning, provide personalized customer experiences, and attain profitable growth. Healthcare systems are expected to bolster their relationships with AI companies, including technology and service firms and start-ups.
Sunil Jha has been a part of the content industry for many years now. Having previously worked as a voice over artist and sportswriter, he now focuses on penning down articles across numerous topics, ranging from business and technology to trade and finance. With a business-oriented educational background, Sunil brings forth the expertise of intensive research and a strategic approach in his pieces.