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How AI is Changing the Healthcare Industry


AI applications in healthcare are wide-ranging from customized predictive care based on patient data to the automation of administrative processes.

The revolution in communication
technology has had a transformative impact on our lives. But the
technological revolution of our time isn’t just changing the way we do business
and stay in touch with one another – it’s radically changing the way we look
after each other, too.

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI), with new advances being
made all the time, holds particular promise for the future of the healthcare
industry. Given AI’s ability to perform intelligence-based tasks, it’s not hard
to see how this might be applicable to the delivery of healthcare.

See also: Udacity Launches AI For Healthcare Program

Big-name tech firms are plowing large-scale investment into AI. They’re
devoting huge resources to exploring how it might be used in the healthcare
sector. AI itself is nothing new – it’s an idea with a history stretching back
to the 1950s. The last few years, though, have seen the technology come on in
leaps and bounds. Now, we stand on the cusp of an AI revolution in healthcare,
with real potential to save and improve the quality of many lives.

So how can we expect AI to transform the way healthcare is delivered?
Here, we’ll take a closer look at some of the key aspects.

The data revolution

There’s been a lot of hype about ‘big data’ and how it could change
life as we know it. From retail to crime prevention, the implications of big
data are wide-ranging. Healthcare also generates huge amounts of data, from
patient histories to test results. However, part of the problem here is that
the data can often be ambiguous, fragmented, or perhaps subjective rather than
clear-cut. This can complicate matters considerably.

AI could help clear up these ambiguities and subjectivities, processing
data much more efficiently. This is why it could potentially revolutionize
patient diagnostics. Intelligent use of AI could allow for earlier and more
precise diagnoses. This could lead to the creation of more bespoke treatment
programs devised to suit individual patients’ specific medical needs. It could
also provide a more granular picture of lifestyle factors and their
implications for patients’ health.

However, the ethics of data usage and storage are complex. If they are
to consent to their data being collected and used in this way, patients will
need to be reassured about its security and confidentiality.

Predictive care and understanding
lifestyle factors

Although AI is highly unlikely to replace human doctors, the technology
could bring about drastic changes in predictive care and diagnosis. As we’ve
already noted, AI can offer us new and more detailed insights into how our
general lifestyle is likely to impact on our health. We know that our living
conditions, diets, exercise routines (or lack of them), and genetic make-up can
affect our health in different ways. AI could help us understand this much
better.

With the new insights provided by AI – and its ability to process huge
quantities of data – doctors could also be better placed to recommend
predictive care measures. By addressing certain lifestyle or other factors,
predictive care could reduce the risk of patients developing particular
conditions down the line. This could do a great deal to enhance the quality of
life, as well as extending life expectancy.

The new generation of business communications technologies, meanwhile,
is helping experts share and discuss these vital new discoveries uncovered with
the help of AI. During the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, medical experts
around the world have used video conferencing to combat the virus and to
understand the lifestyle factors that might leave people more at risk.

Simplifying admin

We discussed earlier that healthcare provision inevitably involves vast
quantities of information. This also results in a lot of admin and paperwork.
Getting this done ties up resources that could be better used elsewhere. AI can
process vast amounts of data rapidly. Its use could then drastically simplify
admin in the healthcare sector and make it much more efficient. In doing so, it
could free up health workers to spend their time and energies in more useful
areas. Not to mention saving money that could be spent on the direct provision
of healthcare.

Much patient data is already stored digitally, so introducing AI in
this area should be relatively straightforward. We’ve already discussed the
ethical issues around patient data. That means healthcare providers will need
to make sure robust protections are in place. Patients have a right to expect
that their personal data is kept secure and used responsibly. They’re also
correct to expect it will only get used for relevant purposes. If these qualms
are addressed, however, the streamlining enabled by AI could deliver
large-scale savings. Such savings could be crucial in easing the strain on
healthcare budgets.

What do you think?

Written by John Allen

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