INSIGHTS

AI is the Top Technology to Transform Healthcare

7 min read ·

Feb 23

Aidan Helmbold

Director of Innovation

Tech innovations are evolving quickly and everywhere, with artificial intelligence (AI) taking headlines as THE fuel for industry transformation. Healthcare is a prime example. Although patients may experience AI mostly in customer service and web applications, AI’s influence on the healthcare sector goes far deeper.

AI can analyze and learn from vast amounts of data at a breakneck pace, revolutionizing how medical professionals diagnose and treat illnesses and, ultimately, deliver better patient outcomes. So what are the most promising AI use cases, and how are they transforming the industry faster than ever?

The actual volume of data now being generated in the healthcare space is estimated to be approximately 30% of the world’s total data. AI’s processing and analytical power can augment a clinician’s ability to collect, understand and make inferences from what would otherwise be an overwhelming volume of patient data.

The sources of this data explosion in healthcare include electronic health records, patient-reported data, data from connected medical devices, data from genomic research initiatives and many other sources.

However, much of this data is often incomplete, unstructured and siloed, making it challenging for healthcare providers to leverage it to make more-informed decisions about patient care. By leveraging the power of AI to make patient data more actionable, healthcare providers are improving the quality of care they provide, reducing costs and ultimately saving lives.

AI in Diagnostics 

AI’s diagnostic capabilities have grown significantly in recent years. Today, the technology has the potential to revolutionize how medical conditions are diagnosed and treated. AI can be used for a wide range of diagnostic tasks, from identifying early signs of diseases to predicting the likelihood of a patient developing certain conditions.

In one real-world example, we’ve helped a national government equip a network of 200 rural health clinics with AI-enabled and cloud-connected diagnostic equipment. This equipment empowers nurses to provide more sophisticated point-of-care diagnosis and offer remote consultation for complicated cases. Meanwhile, electronic healthcare records and real-time data collected from the clinics are aggregated at a central “health intelligence center” and used for real-time decision making, resource allocation and preventative measures.

Striking a balance between embracing AI’s capabilities to enhance healthcare and protecting patient privacy is an ongoing but solvable challenge.

AI Assesses Diabetes-Related Disease

Another example of AI in diagnostics is the US FDA’s approval of the first AI-powered diagnostic device for detecting diabetic retinopathy. This is a pressing issue to solve in light of the increased prevalence of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy in the U.S. The new diagnostic device uses AI algorithms to analyze images of the retina and provide a diagnosis without the need for a specialist to interpret the results. Under normal circumstances, human interpretation creates bottlenecks in the screening process, making it difficult to broadly screen populations. Using AI-based algorithms, providers can get patients into the healthcare system and screened for diabetic retinopathy much faster.

 

Other Technologies are also Changing Healthcare 

Although AI is among the top technologies for transforming healthcare, other tech innovations are demonstrating their value as well. Here are just a few additional technologies changing the healthcare landscape.

Telemedicine: Telemedicine, also known as remote medical care, is expected to continue to grow in popularity. Telemedicine allows patients to receive medical care remotely, which can be especially helpful for patients in rural or underserved areas, or those who have mobility or transportation issues. Although numerous tech elements are required for telemedicine to work, connectivity solutions via broadband and telecom network operators is the most critical.

Wearable technology: Fitness trackers, smart watches and other wearable devices have moved far beyond simple step trackers to play an increasingly important role in healthcare. These devices can monitor a person’s vital signs, track physical activity, and provide other health-related information both for self monitoring and, in some cases, remote data transmission to healthcare providers.

When it comes to wearables, AI once again plays a pivotal role by helping move healthcare from the hospital into the home. AI is being applied to data that is conveniently collected at home through medical-grade wearable technology. A great example of this can be seen in cardiac care, where cloud-based AI can help quickly detect heart rhythm disturbances based on an analysis of remote electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings. Heart rhythm disturbances affect millions of people each year, but the condition often goes unrecognized and untreated. By flagging readings that may require the most urgent attention, clinicians are empowered by AI to deliver cardiac care faster and more efficiently.

Personalized medicine: Advances in technology such as targeted therapies, immunotherapy and genetic testing make it possible to tailor medical treatment to an individual’s unique genetic makeup. This can help to increase the effectiveness of treatments and reduce the risk of adverse reactions.

Virtual reality (VR): VR is already being used in healthcare to help patients manage pain and anxiety. It is also being used to train healthcare professionals and simulate medical procedures.

3D printing: One of the more intriguing cases of emerging technology in the healthcare sector is 3D printing. This tech is already being used to create prosthetics, implants and other medical devices. In the future, it may be possible to use 3D printing to create replacement organs and tissues. Of course, AI will play a role in this potential future, as it can help in the data analysis and extensive design work required for successful 3D production.

Blockchain: Blockchain technology can best be described as a digital ledger or record book, duplicated across many computers all over the world. Each time a transaction happens, such as buying or selling something with cryptocurrency, it gets added to the ledger as a block. These blocks are connected in a chain, enabling users to see the history of transactions and verify authenticity and chain of custody. This is a critical tool for the pharmaceutical industry as it transports critical medicines to distant locations. Blockchain also has the potential to revolutionize how medical records are stored and shared by providing a secure, decentralized way to manage information that potentially reduces costs.

Ethical Considerations

AI is delivering incredible benefits to the healthcare sector, and it will continue to do so. But its use in such a highly regulated industry does require ethical considerations. One concern pertains to patient privacy and data security, as AI systems often rely on vast amounts of sensitive medical data when providing results. Healthcare practitioners using AI must ensure rules are in place to protect patient confidentiality and prevent misuse of data.

Additionally, eliminating algorithmic bias and ensuring fairness are critical as AI systems may unintentionally push forward disparities in healthcare access and treatment. Transparency in the AI decision-making processes, combined with continuous evaluation for bias, is important to address these concerns. Striking a balance between embracing AI’s capabilities to enhance healthcare and protecting patient privacy is an ongoing but solvable challenge for healthcare systems.

What’s on the Horizon?

The advancement of AI in healthcare represents a profound transformation that promises to revolutionize diagnosis, treatment and patient care. AI-powered solutions hold the potential to alleviate the burdens on healthcare professionals, improve patient outcomes and ultimately save lives. Amid this AI-fueled journey, healthcare professionals must stay up to date with the latest developments, embrace new ways of delivering care, and adapt to the inevitable changes in how they work with colleagues and patients.

Today’s integration of AI into healthcare systems offers a glimpse into a future where medical interventions are more precise, more effective and more accessible for all. As we navigate the considerations surrounding the integration of AI in healthcare, responsible AI deployment must remain top of mind. Implementing safeguards and ensuring transparency in AI decision-making processes will allow healthcare to harness the transformative potential of AI to improve healthcare outcomes.

Share

Other articles that may interest you

Let's talk about your next big project.