Science fiction often touts that artificial intelligence will be the end of humankind –– but what if AI could improve our quality of living or extend human lifespans instead? In the past decade, researchers, developers, and doctors have worked to turn fictional fantasies into the healthcare industry’s new reality. Now, artificial intelligence in healthcare enables the accelerated development of life-saving treatments, increased operational efficiency in clinical settings, and improved patient outcomes across the board. As more hospitals and research organizations adopt AI/ML into diagnostic and treatment processes, technologies are bound to improve and expand.
The future of artificial intelligence in healthcare is expected to unlock more medical insights we can’t even begin to anticipate, deliver better patient care, and enable a more proactive, results-based approach to medicine. Consider the following ways experts envision the role of AI in the future of healthcare.
1. Addressing Neurological Challenges with Brain-Computer Interfaces
Powered by artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces are a promising technology that could improve communication skills and mobility in patients with neurological conditions.
A brain-computer interface uses artificial intelligence to analyze neural signals associated with intended movement. The interface could then activate artificial limbs, mobility-related medical devices, or communication technology to dramatically improve the quality of life for individuals coping with traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, ALS, stroke, or other neurological conditions.
2. Less Invasive Biopsies
One particularly promising way AI will change healthcare is through so-called “virtual biopsies”. This promising technology involves the use of image-based artificial intelligence to categorize the phenotypes and genetic qualities of cancerous tumors.
Currently, it will require significant refinement in order for virtual biopsies to become a reality. If the technology does sufficiently develop, clinicians will be able to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how tumors function, as opposed to understanding the properties of a small segment of tumors. This will allow for a better diagnosis of individual cancers and more targeted treatments for patients.
3. More Efficient Administration
Over the past two decades, electronic health records have been transformative, but there are still significant challenges associated with the use of electronic health records, particularly when it comes to overwhelming documentation requirements. Another way that AI will change healthcare is the creation of more intuitive interfaces for documentation and the automation of routine processes related to record keeping.
Artificial intelligence will also increasingly be used to process routine administrative activities, such as providing refills on medication and notifications for test results. AI technology for healthcare administration can also help prioritize tasks for doctors, nurses, clinicians, and other important personnel, optimizing their time management.
4. Another Weapon in the War Against Superbugs
So-called superbugs like antibiotic-resistant strains of Clostridioides difficile are appearing in healthcare settings and becoming a major concern. Artificial intelligence is already being used to track patterns of infection for “C. diff,” and this information is being used to protect at-risk patients. The future of artificial intelligence in healthcare will likely see an expansion of this approach.
5. Better Patient Monitoring
Connected devices are increasingly found in healthcare settings to monitor patients. Aggregating data from all of these devices inside and outside the healthcare system is a Herculean task.
Artificial intelligence systems are capable of handling this, allowing the industry to extract more insights from the multitude of smart devices currently in operation. The use of artificial intelligence in this area can also enable a more proactive approach to patient monitoring. For example, a system could notify doctors when a patient starts to develop sepsis or other negative complications.
6. Improving Immunotherapy to Treat Cancer
By activating the body’s immune system to attack malignant cancers, immunotherapy is emerging as a promising approach to treating cancer. However, current immunotherapy options are only effective on a small number of patients, and researchers currently do not have a reliable method for determining which patients will benefit the most from this treatment option.
Many expect the future of AI in healthcare will involve the analysis of complex datasets related to immunotherapy, allowing for better targeting of patients with this treatment option. Through the analysis of disease pathology, artificial intelligence will also be able to identify new immunotherapy therapy treatment pathways.
7. More Insights from Electronic Health Records
Electronic health records hold a massive amount of readily-accessible patient data, but extracting insights from that data is a major challenge.
In addition to the administrative hurdles that come with aggregating such a massive, widespread dataset, there are also challenges related to record keeping. For example, an algorithm designed to predict stroke based on billing records could actually only be predicting the likelihood of a billing code for stroke, which is very different from predicting the actual medical condition.
Artificial intelligence can help researchers analyze electronic health records with more precision and specificity. Deep Learning technology will be able to locate novel connections within datasets, allowing for the development of new methods of care.
8. Better Use of Wearables
Smartwatches and other digital devices may be taking over the commercial marketplace, but the healthcare industry has yet to fully embrace the treatment possibilities that these devices could be offering. Artificial intelligence is expected to play a major role in making the most out of healthcare data collected from these personal devices. One of the major stumbling blocks to realizing this potential use of artificial intelligence and healthcare is having people get comfortable with sharing their personal data. If the healthcare industry is able to show patients that they can provide adequate privacy protections, it will likely be another way that AI will change healthcare.
9. Smile-Friendly Diagnostics
We know facial recognition software as the technology we use to unlock our iPhones, but the same type of technology, powered by artificial intelligence, could be used to diagnose diseases associated with facial abnormalities. According to a study published in Nature Genetics, a team of German researchers launched a new technology capable of detecting rare diseases based on facial features. The study team said their technology and genetic data could accelerate therapies for patients with rare disorders that manifest in facial abnormalities.
10. Enabling a Fee-for-Results Model
In the United States, there is a massive disparity between the amount of money spent on healthcare and positive outcomes. This disparity has triggered conversations around a fee-for-results model that involves health care providers being paid based on outcomes, not by the number of tests or treatments they provide.
Through prediction and risk analysis, artificial intelligence is able to provide the foundation for a fee-for-results model. Providers can deliver superior results based on more informed, evidence-based decision-making.
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