This week Google signed healthcare data and cloud computing deal with Ascension, a healthcare provider operating 150 hospitals and 50+ senior living facilities across the US. Access to the datasets owing to this deal would enable Google to finetune its own AI tools for providing Healthcare Solutions.
According to BGV, global healthcare investment in AI is expected to surpass USD6.6 billion by 2021. If you find that number staggering, here is another one for you to ponder – according to Accenture, AI applications may end up saving USD150 billion for the healthcare industry by 2026. Some of the key areas in which AI can fulfil the demand for clinicians include robot-assisted surgery, virtual nursing assistant, administrative workflow, cybersecurity, preliminary diagnosis, etc.
The growth and acceptance of AI apps are and will be definitely slow, but it has the potential to successfully tackle the healthcare troika of access, affordability, and effectiveness.
In the near future, AI in healthcare apps will support doctors and other healthcare providers in performing preliminary analysis, diagnosis, identifying risks, chalking out treatment plans, etc. However, the onus of the action will remain with the clinicians.
As systems become more intelligent, and it is proved beyond doubt that the success rate of such applications is more than that of human healthcare providers, adoption of the healthcare apps would become mainstream.
How is Artificial Intelligence (AI) used in Healthcare for better outcomes?
Artificial intelligence can be used to do the same work but more efficiently and hence at reduced costs. Prevention is always better than cure. Apps using Artificial Intelligence can help users in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and be proactive. When consumers see that they are in control of their own health, it further motivates them to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Let us look at some of the solutions that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help provide to doctors, patients, and caregivers:
Healthcare systems already possess huge amounts of data on existing medical conditions as well as medication available. AI applications can leverage this information, and design solutions to create new medications, therapies, health plans, etc.
IBM’s Watson for Health and Google’s DeepMind Health are two applications that are helping healthcare providers apply cognitive technologies to diagnose medical conditions based on a huge amount of data that they can store. Doctors and pathologists make their diagnosis on the basis of data available to them. It is a no brainer that the amount of data that a machine learning-enabled system can have access to is much more than any human being, howsoever experienced or intelligent.
2) Testing new drugs / Drug Discovery
Testing new drugs and therapies is a slow, resource-intensive, and time-consuming process because it is manual. Artificial Intelligence can be used to intervene in every stage of the clinical trial, from identifying patients to creating testing regimen and analyzing preliminary reports. Automating these basic tasks can help reduce cycle time drastically and hence the cost/effort required.
3) Patient Risk Identification
As mentioned earlier, hospitals maintain a vast amount of historical patient data. Artificial Intelligence can be used to analyse the lifetime health records to identify patients who are at risk. Identifying patterns that put someone at risk due to deteriorating lifestyle, health conditions, or environment enables such solutions to provide real-time support with greater precision.
The need for patient risk identification has been brought about mostly by health insurance companies reluctant to pay for re-admission charges if it occurs within a 30 days period. Healthcare service and insurance providers tend to play the blame game with each other and it's the patient who has to suffer.
4) Robot-assisted surgery
If you think that Artificial Intelligence is a new phenomenon in the field of healthcare, you couldn’t be further off the mark. Robots have been used to assist during complicated and long-drawn surgical procedures for the past three decades. Due to the integration of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence with robotics, robots are increasingly assisting in both routine and complicated surgeries. They are especially useful in carrying out routine tasks with precision each time, decreasing the impact of human errors.
5) Virtual nursing assistants
Many AI Healthcare start-ups are working towards developing systems that can provide consultation to the patients through voice-based chatting. This can provide immediate access to information regarding medical issues, many times eliminating the need to visit the doctor. Such solutions can be especially helpful in Primary Health Care segment where the pressure on doctors and GPs is quite high.
AI-enabled solutions can also provide support to ageing patients, you need to be motivated to perform daily health care routines like exercising, taking health supplements, or following prescribed meal schedules, etc.
6) Administrative workflow assistance
Companies are using Artificial Intelligence techniques like computer vision, robotic process automation, and remote monitoring to gather data required for smooth administrative workflow. The data collected can be further used as input for analytics to support hospital decision systems.
7) Healthcare Bots
AI-driven healthcare chatbots can assist in a wide range of healthcare activities from maintaining fitness goals for exercising, sleeping, and nutrition to providing real-time consultancy on medical issues. Their services may help the patients avoid visiting doctors for minor issues while getting the necessary care.
8) Supply Chain management
According to a Sage Market Report for Syft, hospitals could save USD11 million annually through supply chain management. The report further says that healthcare leaders are looking to optimize supply chain management to cut costs and drive revenue. AI-enabled solutions can help them plug gaps through which the hard-earned revenue is slipping.
Supply chain management in the Healthcare industry is critical not only from a financial perspective but also with respect to customer satisfaction. The pressure on the management is high to maintain ample stocks at all times. In such a scenario, Artificial Intelligence can help them manage supply in a way that overstocking does not increase inventory cost while lack of supply creates issues inpatient care. After all, supplies account for 1/3rd of the operating costs of a hospital.
We all better know that prevention is better than cure. Despite this common knowledge, people find it challenging to maintain a fitness and nutrition regimen that can keep them healthy and away from healthcare needs. Artificial intelligence-driven applications can help them keep focused on their fitness and nutrition goals. The market is flush with fitness and nutrition apps that track users’ nutrition intake and fitness level.
AI apps are instrumental in developing nutrition supplements and foods, customized to users’ unique requirements.
10) Mental Health
The biggest problem with mental health is lack of awareness and reluctance of the patients to seek medical intervention. AI application can help in proactively identifying mental health issues and providing initial healthcare support. The apps can also alert linked users and hospitals of the illness, in case the patient is not willing to get medical help.
Many healthcare startups are using Artificial Intelligence to build applications that can help a user keep mental issues at bay. These applications provide personalized plans based on data available to them.
11) Remote Patient Monitoring
As the name suggests, in remote patient monitoring technology is used to gather patient data in a setup different from the traditional clinical environment. Usually, it is the patient's home or workplace or in case of children play area. remote monitoring enables access to Healthcare facilities in far-flung areas at a fraction of cost.
Diagnosis is always the trickiest part of any medical situation. In the case of Artificial Intelligence remote patient monitoring solutions, AI can perform the preliminary data gathering through patient-friendly devices. Medical experts located far off from the patient can make a diagnosis based on data which can be in the form of blood report, X-rays, patient imagery, etc. to assist the doctor in making a diagnosis. Once diagnosed, patient care can be undertaken by a healthcare institution located nearby.
Some Innovative companies Using AI in healthcare
Companies are using Artificial Intelligence to create wide-ranging solutions from clinical trials, patient risk analysis, and diagnostics to end of life care, supply chain management, and clinician support. Here is a list of a few companies that are leaders in their respective domains:
Impact of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare solutions is happening for drug discovery, patient engagement, risk analysis, surgery, supply chain, diagnostics support etc. These areas are increasingly getting digitized, and consumers are finding it easier to interact with patients, hospitals, and other healthcare systems.
Despite this, healthcare providers, as well as patients, will continue to be sceptical as it is a technology that many people do not understand so well. It is up to the industry leaders to create awareness at all levels so that the impact of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare is adopted by all stakeholders willingly. Only then will the Healthcare industry be able to reap the full benefits of Artificial Intelligence.