The ever-evolving technology powered by artificial intelligence is transforming many industries. The healthcare industry is no exception. AI in healthcare has become very prominent. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies are increasingly being depended upon to keep up with the influx of constant new information about health conditions, treatments and medical technology. Today, machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics are being used to reduce drug discovery time, provide virtual assistance to patients and diagnose ailments by processing medical images. Let us dive deep into understanding what AI is in healthcare by learning about its past, present and future.
From the past to the present
The Information age has brought with it an influx of technology that aims to make healthcare cheaper. Opposed to earlier where manual labor and doctors were heavily relied upon, artificial intelligence in the present can help scan thousands of images and identify patterns at a fraction of time and machine learning can help improve sensitivity and accuracy over time. These developments in AI in the healthcare sector are much cheaper than what it has been in the past.
For example, AI can bring down the cost of a cancer screening test, by reducing the time to perform the operation and by bringing down the doctor’s fee, since highly skilled endoscopists may no longer be required to perform screening tests. Medical VR (virtual reality therapy) has been evidenced to stop the brain from processing pain and reduce pain in hospitalized patients. This, in turns, shortens the length of the patient’s stay in the hospital, which also lowers the costs of care.
Key Applications of AI in Healthcare
Although VR indeed set sails to enhance the demanding gamer’s experience, it has also made significant improvements to the lives of people with autism, lazy eyes, chronic pain, and other health conditions. Startups like Floreo use virtual reality to help make the delivery of therapy simplified so parents can support their offspring from home. Their product uses mobile VR to instigate social interactions with autistic kids by spurring virtual characters in a scene. It can also be used in a manner that influences the brain to reduce chronic pain. A faster recovery time can be clocked using innovative technologies. Mindmaze is a Swiss app that allows patients to practice how to move their fingers or lift their arms in a fun fashion with the help of VR. Although patients do not carry out the actual movement, their engagement, motivation, and attention is notably improved with audio-visual feedback, which could speed the recovery of traumatized nervous systems.
Computer Vision and Robotics
One of the major applications of AI in healthcare is the usage of computer vision techniques and robotics. Medical imaging is the biggest and most established area of computer vision and is used by computer-aided diagnostics for personalized therapy planning, care assistance, and better decision-making.
Robotic surgery has been making waves in the industry and is being hailed for being ‘minimally intrusive’, thereby allowing the patients to heal faster from smaller incisions. They also analyze data to guide the surgeon. One popular example is the da Vinci Surgical System features a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and tiny wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human hand. As a result, da Vinci enables the surgeon to operate with enhanced vision, precision, and control.
Among other robots, the HeartLander is a miniature mobile robot that can enter the chest through an incision below the sternum. It reduces the damage required to access the heart and allows the use of a single device for performing stable and localized sensing, mapping, and treatment over the entire surface of the heart.
Virtual nurses are high on demand as they offer many benefits including round the clock availability and quick answers. They offer regular communication between the patients and the care providers. Care Angel’s voice powered virtual nurse assistant provides wellness checks through AI. Another digital nurse is Molly, created by the startup Sensely, which monitors a patient’s condition and follows up with treatments, between doctor visits.
AI can help in compiling, managing and analyzing medical records and other data. Automated Administrative tasks can thus save money and time. Robots collect, store, re-format, and trace data to provide faster, more consistent access. Mundane tasks analyzing tests, X-Rays, CT scans can me made faster and more accurate. The data collected and stored can accessed consistently. Technology such as voice-to-text transcriptions could help order tests, prescribe medications and write chart notes. IBM’s cloud based intelligence Watson, mines big data and helps physicians provide a personalized and more efficient treatment experience. It is also among the pioneers of the field.
Doubts still remain
Even though there have been breakthroughs in the applications of artificial intelligence in healthcare, people still harbor fears of mismanaged care due to a mechanical error. Numerous problems exist with the use of AI in healthcare. The lack of human insight and data privacy issues are other concerns that the industry has to deal with. While technology can support highly trained medical professionals, the chances of it taking over the industry completely remain very low.
In a few years, the market for AI-powered healthcare technologies will exceed 6 billion dollars. Demand for electronic, data-driven, and virtual-based care is the driving force, especially because they offer more convenient, accessible, and affordable care. Patients look forward to gaining greater insight into their own health and finding a more appropriate level of care for their needs.
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