Artificial Intelligence is what enables any digital device to see and recognize objects, understand and reply to recognizable messages, make decisions, and even learn to change its thinking and behavior as it analyzes of data points in the distributed memory known as the cloud. IBM’s Watson project is a good example of this last point especially.
AI in all of these facets is already in use in the world of healthcare at a fairly basic level but what more extended role is Artificial Intelligence likely to play in healthcare in the future?
Although we can’t be certain about the future, we can look just a few years ahead and make several predictions upon which many experts in the healthcare technology space can agree. This includes smart individuals such as Dr. Eric Topol, Dr, Berci Meskó, and Dr. Bob Wachter, all of which have written about this.
10 Ways AI Can Impact Healthcare
- Patients who feel a little unwell or think they need medical advice will dial into a telehealth service and talk to a nurse. Data on their condition and symptoms may be uploaded in real time from a smart phone or smart sensors, and an artificially intelligent system will suggest next steps to the nurse on the line. And by the way, smartphones will be used to regularly send pictures or videos which a computer will read and recommend how to proceed.
- Patients who feel sufficiently unwell will not go to a hospital urgent care department and instead will mostly go to a conveniently located small clinic, probably in a local mall or chain pharmacy. There the patient will be seen by a nurse practitioner who will be able to take into account a patient’s entire medical history by pulling up a universally accessible, privacy protected, electronic health record, or EHR.
- Patients with chronic conditions will be cared for at home by visiting nurses and doctors (matched by smart platforms and “Uber”-type technology) who can then call in as frequently as necessary either in person or via telehealth means. People who are not ambulatory at all will also be able to be watched over by AI robots that also provide some basic care in situ.
- Where a hospital is still needed, for say major surgery, these will be making extensive use of technology, much of which will be available in every patient room (or portably deliverable to it) like a mini ICU. AI will feature significantly in these rooms and will be blended with human resources.
- In-Patients (in hospitals, surgery centers, clinics, skilled nursing centers, hospices etc.) will have multiple screens around them which can deliver tailored education by AI means and be responsive to patient requests for feedback (by just using their voice as a command).
- Human medical staffing ratios will be adjusted constantly according to the individual patient’s need as determined by AI risk-monitoring and treatment algorithms and by adjusting according to a continually updated electronic health record.
- Most orders and notes from doctors will be entered into the EHR through natural language voice recognition software. Each patient will control his or her own EHR, a digital compendium of clinician-generated notes and data with patient-generated information and preferences (all of which will be simply analyzed, charted and displayed as a patient wishes).
- Patient Alerts will be calibrated to clearly distinguish life-threatening issues and problems from minor conditions or ignorable symptoms.
- Doctor’s efforts will be greatly assisted, especially when engaged in differential diagnosis and evidence-based treatment and precision medicine practice by cognitive computing systems like IBM’s Watson.
- Artificial intelligence applied to cloud-based “Big Data” will assist clinicians by comparing and contrasting individual patient’s characteristics with other patients in the database with similar conditions in order to find the best possible diagnoses and solutions.
Most of the above are already starting to happen in healthcare. However, progress is far from uniform and progress is likely to be “lumpy” at best. Artificially intelligent technology is well on its way to becoming ubiquitous and has huge scope enhance technology at many levels, leading to much better, faster patient outcomes.
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