You’ve probably heard about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will be used in the future. However, AI in healthcare has many practical applications right now and in the next few years for healthcare professionals that can make a real difference in a patient’s care.
Within the next two years, about 35% of healthcare organizations are planning to use artificial intelligence, according to a study by Healthcare IT News and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). The study also found that over 50% of these organizations want to leverage AI in the next five years.
AI’s potential impact is huge. For example, a study by Accenture concluded that clinical health AI applications could result in $150 billion in annual savings by 2026 for the U.S. healthcare economy.
How can AI be used in the healthcare field? The top three applications with the highest value in the near future are:
- Robot-assisted surgery: $40 billion.
- Virtual nursing assistants: $20 billion
- Administrative workflow support: $18 billion
How Can Your Organization Leverage AI?
Here are four ways you can use AI:
- Triage of patients: AI that uses speech technology can check symptoms and triage patients to urgent care or retail health centers when it’s not an emergency. Accenture estimates that AI can address about 20% of the unmet demand for clinicians. You may have heard of IBM’s Watson which uses machine learning and computers to ask questions and provide a diagnosis. Watson can leverage patient data, medical research, and even current events to help doctors find the cause of a patient’s health issue.
- Virtual nursing assistants: AI tools can remotely monitor a patient’s symptoms and send alerts to staff if care is needed. This can lower unnecessary hospital visits and free up staff for other patients and tasks.
- Administrative tasks: AI can handle time-consuming tasks such as transcribing voice recordings to text, writing chart notes, ordering tests, and tracking prescriptions. According to Accenture, this can save 17% of a doctor’s work time and 51% of a registered nurse’s time.
- Robot-assisted surgery: Robotics can use information from a patient’s medical records and integrate this with real-time operating metrics during surgery to help guide and enhance a doctor’s use of instruments. Outcomes when using robotics during surgery include an expected 21% reduction in length of stay at a facility.
However, some barriers to adopting AI include:
- Management and staff need to buy into AI
- Limitations of an organization’s infrastructure
- Challenges finding IT staff skilled in using AI
- Many feel it’s too early to implement AI
- It is expensive
Limitations of an organization’s infrastructure
A lack of infrastructure is one of the main reasons why companies are slow to adopt artificial intelligence. When we say infrastructure, this includes physical infrastructure, financial capital, manpower/skill/expertise etc. With so much investment required, companies are hesitant to adopt because they are unsure how it will affect the company’s bottom-line, how customers will respond to these changes, and how employees at all levels will embrace it. Because of these reasons and more, many companies choose to stick to their existing technology. However, companies that are concerned with being industry leaders and pace setters have started to include Artificial Intelligence in their new strategies and in their long-term goals. These early adopters pave the way for other healthcare organizations that are hesitant and do not particularly have an innovative culture to be more open to the idea.
Using AI to Leverage Machine Learning
Previously, machine learning was used mainly by data scientists and those with a technical background. Now you can use predictive analytics software and AI to look at your healthcare data and create predictive models. These models are able to learn and unlearn as they are fed more and more data and so they come up with better-refined models each time. One example of open source predictive analytics software is healthcare.ai, which makes it more accessible to everyone in the healthcare field with the right skills and tools. Since healthcare.ai is open source, a wide range of healthcare professionals can contribute to a central repository and download information and tools, ask questions, and more.
What’s the Future for AI?
Eventually, AI might be used to prevent diseases instead of diagnosing and treating them. For example, in the future, scientists may tweak genes, detect early symptoms of a potential condition, or help change a person’s behavior to avoid a health issue. Some startups are developing genomics-based medicine that analyzes the sequencing of a person’s genes to see if a person is at risk of developing a disease. However, it’s unlikely that AI will replace doctors with robots. The ultimate goal would be to help doctors provide the best care possible for their patients and to be more accessible.
The movie industry is always keen on showing the possible applications of artificial intelligence. With movies and tv shows like iRobot, Ex-Machina, Westworld, Iron Man etc, it is easy to see the possible applications of Artificial Intelligence. In as much as a lot of this ar fiction, the technology today is not that far off from fulfilling some of these predictions. There is a lot of new technology that is not yet available to the general public for commercial purchase but they soon will. The coming decade is one that will be fraught with so much technology that nobody will be able to avoide integrating technoligy to their everyday lives. It’s like the invention of cooking with fire, in time technology us will be so imbedded into what it means to be human that we will be unable to remeber a time where we survived without it.