Artificial Intelligence has been promising to revolutionize healthcare for quite some time; however, one look at any modern hospital or healthcare facility, and it is easy to see that the revolution is already here.
In almost every patient touchpoint AI is already having an enormous impact on changing the way healthcare is delivered, streamlining operations, improving diagnostics, and improving outcomes.
Although the deployment of AI in the healthcare sector is still in its infancy, it is becoming a much more common sight. According to technology consulting firm, Gartner, healthcare IT spending for 2021 was a hefty $140 billion worldwide, with enterprises listing “AI and robotic process automation (RPA)” as their lead spending priorities.
Here, in no particular order or importance, are seven of the top areas where healthcare AI solutions are being developed and currently deployed.
1. Operations and Administration
A hospital’s operation and administration expenses can be a major drain on the healthcare system. AI is already providing tools and solutions that are designed to improve and streamline administration. Such AI algorithms are proving to be invaluable for insurers, payers, and providers alike. Specifically, there are several AI programs and AI healthcare startups that are dedicated to finding and eliminating fraud. It has been estimated that healthcare fraud costs insurers anywhere between $70 billion and $234 billion each year, harming both patients and taxpayers.
2. Medical Research
Probably one of the most promising areas where AI is making a major difference in healthcare is in medical research. AI tools and software solutions are making an astounding impact on streamlining every aspect of medical research, from improved screening of candidates for clinical trials, to targeted molecules in drug discovery, to the development of “organs on a chip” – AI combined with the power of ever-improving Natural Language Processing (NLP) is changing the very nature of medical research for the better.
3. Predictive Outcomes and Resource Allocation
AI is being used in hospital settings to better predict patient outcomes and more efficiently allocate resources. This proved extraordinarily helpful during the peak of the pandemic when facilities were able to use AI algorithms to predict upon admission to the ER, which patients would most benefit from ventilators, which were in very short supply. Similarly, a Stanford University pilot project is using AI algorithms to determine which patients are at high risk of requiring ICU care within an 18 to 24 hours period.
AI applications in diagnostics, particularly in the field of medical imaging, are extraordinary. AI can “see” details in MRIs and other medical images far greater than the human eye and, when tied into the enormous volume of medical image databases, can make far more accurate diagnoses of conditions such as breast cancer, eye disease, heart, and lung disease and so much more. AI can look at vast numbers of medical images and then identify patterns in seconds that would take human technicians hours or days to do. AI can also detect minor variations that humans simply could not find, no matter how much time they had. This not only improves patient outcomes but also saves money. For example, studies have found that earlier diagnosis and treatment of most cancers can cut treatment costs by more than 50%.
AI is allowing medical students and doctors “hands-on training” via virtual surgeries and other procedures that can provide real-time feedback on success and failure. Such AI-based training programs allow students to learn techniques in safe environments and receive immediate critique on their performance before they get anywhere near a patient. One study found that med students learned skills 2.6 times faster and performed 36% better than those not taught with AI.
Telemedicine has revolutionized patient care, particularly since the pandemic, and now AI is taking remote medicine to a whole new level where patients can tie AI-driven diagnostic tools through their smartphones and provide remote images and monitoring of changes in detectable skin cancers, eye conditions, dental conditions and more. AI programs are also being used to remotely monitor heart patients, diabetes patients, and others with chronic conditions and help to ensure they are complying with taking their medications.
7. Direct treatment
In addition to adding better clinical outcomes with improved diagnostics and resource allocation, AI is already making a huge difference in the direct delivery of treatments. One exciting and extremely profound example of this is robotic/AI-driven surgical procedures. Minimally invasive and non-invasive AI-guided surgical procedures are already becoming quite common. Soon, all but some of the most major surgeries, such as open heart surgeries, can and will be done as minimally invasive procedures, and even the most complex “open procedures” will be made safer, more accurate, and more efficient thanks to surgical AI and digital twins of major organs such as lungs and the heart.
Rohit Mahajan is a Managing Partner with BigRio. He has a particular expertise in the development and design of innovative solutions for clients in Healthcare, Financial Services, Retail, Automotive, Manufacturing, and other industry segments.
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