AI is transforming the way we prevent, manage and treat illness in new ways. It will maximize efficiencies and harness an increasing volume of data and knowledge, but AI is different from human intelligence. It uses machines with algorithms to ingest and analyze complex data. What distinguishes AI technology from traditional techniques in health care is the ability to gain information and detect meaningful relationships in data sets — for actionable output.
AI, along with robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering and quantum computing are converging and enabling new possibilities in health care and patient engagement. Global spending on health care AI is expected to reach anywhere from $644 million to $126 billion by 2025.
Health care organizations and payers are leveraging emerging technologies while also dealing with challenges like privacy, control of data, inequality and bias. Let’s look at a few key areas of focus.
The challenge for AI is how to provide better insight into medical data so that health care consumers can make informed health decisions. “Consumers expect health care to be available like conducting their (online) banking, reserving their airline seats and making restaurant reservations,” says Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente.
Precision medicine will enable data to screen for and treat disease, tailored to one’s DNA via an AI profile that includes lifestyle, health history, biology and genetic information. Genetic testing is becoming easier and less expensive. The cost of sequencing one’s entire genome costs less than $1,000 via a mobile app, as compared to over $200,000 10 years ago.
Prescriptions and other treatment regimens based on a person’s AI profile are also moving away from a one-size-fits-all category. Physicians can quickly identify the most effective treatment, minimize drug reactions and reduce the procedures they prescribe.
AI is making its mark in health care delivery by reducing and/or removing the potential for errors. In radiology, AI is enabling radiologists to make more accurate diagnostic decisions, including breast cancer. For example, two Massachusetts-based scientists created an AI system to improve the detection and diagnosis of lesions seen on mammograms.
Wearable devices are getting more sophisticated, with sensors being integrated with algorithms that allow patients, doctors and anyone looking for a healthier life to focus on prevention and wellness. They generate continuous data in real time, rather than periodic measurements of health-related signs.
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is testing Emerald, which offers promising “X-ray Vision” technology. This smart home system uses AI, sensors and radio signals to track movements, sleep, heart rate, breathing and gait — as long as there is Wi-Fi. Its radio signals bounce off a person’s body, sending the reflection onto the device’s screen in the form of a stick figure that walks, sits and moves its limbs just as the person does.
With the help of AI, online apps give basic health information and advice. There are AI-based services from insurers, for instance, that serve as virtual doctors. If you notice any symptoms, log into the app to get medical advice wherever you are. The AI-driven system uses speech recognition to help select the correct action by analyzing data within the context of the consumer’s health reports, but also external research and clinical expertise.
Imagine a world where AI can analyzeyour health via eye scans, recognize depression, detect skin cancer and spot outbreaks in disease so that people can lead longer and healthier lives. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s coming.