9 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Affecting the Medical Field

Amanda Page  Former Editor April 19, 2012 Updated June 20, 2018
REVIEWED BY  Jerry Kennard on June 20, 2018
Robotic science has always been a basis for Hollywood entertainment, science-fiction novels, and childhood fantasies. Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t a new concept, and while the technology hasn’t advanced to Spielbergian expectations, the World Health Organization estimates 400 million people have no access to the most basic healthcare. AI has the potential to help change this.

How artificial intelligence works

AI gives computers the capacity to learn, reason, and apply logic. Scientists, doctors, clinicians, mathematicians, and engineers work together to input data and develop machine-learning research. Huge amounts of data in the relevant fields of medical diagnosis and treatment are matched with language and cultural information that could offer reliable and safe systems of healthcare delivery.

Reduced mortality rate

Medical science is progressed through disease prevention, accurate effective treatments, learning from past knowledge, and by evaluating outcomes. Introducing systems that clinicians can access through AI will help reduce death rates by prioritizing those in more urgent need. It can also help by recommending individualized treatments, as this plays an ever greater role in medical care.

Fast and accurate diagnostics

Systems are already in place that help give advice to people on whether they need to seek medical help or can successfully home treat. In 2016, IBM’s Watson computer was used to diagnose, within minutes, a previously baffling condition affecting a Japanese patient with leukemia. It did this by cross-referencing 20 million oncology records.

Therapeutic robots

Cuddling and caring for pets can have positive effects on our health. It can reduce blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and help increase social interaction. Therapeutic animal robots and the use of social assistive robot technology in elder care helps improve the quality of life for older people.

Reduce errors related to human fatigue

Human error is costly, and the greater the level of fatigue, the higher the risk of errors occurring. One of the most recent studies on this subject placed the financial cost of medical errors at $19.5 billion. Although still in various stages of development, one benefit of AI is that it does not suffer from fatigue, distractions, or moods. It has the ability to process vast amounts of data at incredible speed and out perform humans in terms of accuracy.

Decrease in medical costs

AI is costly to implement, but once established it can undertake highly complex tasks. Populations, or groups within populations, are constantly changing. AI has the ability to spot trends that might otherwise go unnoticed and enable early medical interventions. The development of new drugs and vaccines is both time-consuming and costly. AI can be used to sift through what now amounts to around 30 million lab and data reports.

Movement assistance

As the medical community struggles to meet the needs of patients, hospitals are showing increasing interest in robotic systems to assist in labor-intensive but necessary tasks. Mobility challenges affect many people, for example after strokes, or spinal injuries. The development of HAL 5 exoskeletons is increasingly assisting with rehabilitation and having dramatic and positive effects in the process.

Minimally invasive surgery advances

In 2015, Google teamed up with Ethicon to develop AI-based surgical equipment. Google’s software and data analysis expertise now aids in the development of robotic systems, augmented reality, and advanced imaging and sensors. The robotic systems enable a degree of precision and accuracy far greater than can be achieved manually. The less invasive the surgery, the less trauma, blood loss, and scarring for patients.

Improved radiology

The first computed tomography (CT) scanners were introduced in 1971. The first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the human body took place in 1977. By the early 2000s, cardiac MRI, body MRI, and fetal imaging, became routine. The search continues for new algorithms to detect specific diseases as well as to analyze the results of scans.

Virtual presence

Thanks to virtual presence technology, you may never have to leave your bed again.  Using a remote presence robot, doctors are able to engage with patients and staff without actually being there.  They are able to move around and interact almost as effectively as if they were present.  This allows specialists to assist patients that may not be able to travel to see a particular doctor.

Redefining Roles

As much as the development of AI excites some, it concerns others. Fears that AI may one day replace qualified personnel seem unfounded. A more realistic scenario is that AI will augment and assist. It can be used to undertake dull, repetitive or less-desirable tasks, as well as those requiring high levels of dexterity. Whether we can imagine AI providing empathy or insight into the human condition is a very different thing.




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