Artificial Intelligence: Shaping the Future of Healthcare

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undefinedThe idea that artificial intelligence (AI) will dominate the foreseeable future has stirred up mixed emotions. It is hard to believe that a machine is capable of empathy and that it can respond with the same level of compassion as a human.  

Some situations will always require a human touch, particularly when it comes to healthcare. However, the presence of AI can significantly improve the way in which our care is handled.

Instead of assuming that AI will become a substitute for real-world human interaction, try to see it as a compliment. Here are some medical breakthroughs in AI that prove machine learning will positively impact our future.

A Gold Mine of Information

IBM’s Watson is a prime example of how AI is starting to revolutionize healthcare. This AI-powered device depends on a mutual partnership with humans to perform its work successfully.

Watson is already starting to manage life-threatening cancer cases by helping doctors to narrow down the best treatment options. Since Watson is a machine, it can store significantly more information than any single doctor or hospital can, and recall that information on a case-by-case basis.

Last summer, Watson helped a lung cancer patient identify an immunotherapy treatment option based on the patient’s history. Having instant access to case studies, medical journals, and clinical trials provided the doctors over at Jupiter Medical Center all the literature and data they needed to make an informed decision.

undefinedKnowledge is power. When doctors are given instant access to patient-specific medical information, it allows them to manage that patient’s care quickly and effectively. Doctors will still have the final say when it comes to a treatment plan, but they now have supporting evidence to back their decision. Many medical situations are time-sensitive, and AI is making it possible for doctors to work smarter, not harder.

Just like humans, machines are self-learning and evolve over time. Computers can output information almost instantaneously, but require the input of human information first. That is why the relationship Watson has with his human counterparts is considered a partnership.

Increasing Bandwidth in Healthcare

undefinedWatson is not the only AI-powered device that is changing the face of healthcare. Just like the personal assistant you might use in your home, IBM’s Medical Sieve is a cognitive assistant that medical professionals use in the decision-making process. Medical Sieve is specifically designed to analyze imaging information, such as an X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound.

One of the biggest problems in healthcare is that doctors and nurses are overloaded because their resources are limited. They are not just limited in tangible supplies, but also in their mental capacity. On any given day, they are swamped with information, images, and patients they have to respond to. Cognitive assistants are not prone to the same limitation. According to IBM, it only takes three seconds for Watson to process hundreds of pages of information.  

Google is also investing its resources into health-related AI. In 2014, it acquired an up-and-coming AI company called DeepMind. As a result of this acquisition, Google is now applying the principles of human psychology to machine learning. Its team of intelligence experts will test the cognitive abilities of AI devices and figure out how to improve their skills. It will also help to understand how humans and machines stack up against each other when they are given the same tests, and how to narrow any gaps in communication that this relationship might suffer from.   

At the end of the day, AI is not here to replace humans – it is here to empower them. It is also a way for sensitive information to be processed, stored securely, and shared at a life-saving speed.

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