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What Does AI in Healthcare Mean for Your Future?

With the use of artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly infiltrating many areas of our daily lives, it is no surprise that its application in numerous contexts and settings is gaining traction. In light of an aging population and a post-pandemic medical backlog, AI holds significant promise in alleviating the pressures felt by healthcare facilities worldwide.

AI integration into healthcare

The concept of AI was born in the 1950s, with the first healthcare application developed at Stanford University in 1972. MYCIN was a computer-based machine-learning consultation system designed to assist clinicians in the diagnosis and management of patients with bacterial infections.

Through advancements in deep learning, we are entering a new era of medicine, in which AI systems are capable of self-learning and analyzing complex algorithms. Application of such throughout healthcare may improve diagnostic accuracy, workflow efficiency, and patient care while driving innovation in medical research.

AI is being used to diagnose conditions, develop personalized treatment plans, and improve clinical decision-making by developing technologies that not only streamline processes and procedures but also have the potential to enhance the standard of patient care. Throughout this article, we will consider specific uses of AI throughout healthcare, considering how AI has the potential to change the future of medicine.

Disease identification and diagnosis

AI integration into healthcare is especially promising for the domain of disease diagnosis. AI-powered diagnostic technologies can analyze medical imaging and recognize complex patterns in large volumes of medical data, assisting clinicians in making timely and accurate diagnoses. Going forward, AI will be utilized to find patterns across large volumes of medical data, aiding in both disease prevention and disease prediction.

Predictive analytics will not only help clinicians foresee individual patient needs, but it will potentially give the ability to predict future health trends, having beneficial implications for public health goals. According to research, some of the ways AI has already benefited public health delivery include risk prediction, control of misinformation, public health surveillance, disease forecasting, pandemic and epidemic preparation, and diagnostics.

Personalized medicine

Personalized medicine enables treatment plans and interventions to be tailored to individual patients' needs, based on their unique history and characteristics. Healthcare facilities using AI to drive personalized medicine may provide more precise and targeted treatments, reducing diagnostic errors, and improving patient outcomes. By combining data on patient genetics, lifestyle behaviors, and environmental variables, AI-driven technology is thought to encourage more effective, efficient, and patient-centered care.

Genomic medicine technology

Not only can AI analyze patient behavior, lifestyle factors, and social determinants of health to personalize treatments and interventions, but utilizing AI algorithms to identify patterns and variations in genetic data is enabling clinicians to personalize medicine based on each patient's genetic makeup. This is especially beneficial for patients with complex healthcare needs and uncommon therapeutic responses to first-line treatments. Particularly successful in oncology care, genomic technologies alongside AI machine learning are being used to sequence tumor samples, identifying individual tumor mutations, resulting in a precise diagnosis for which the most appropriate therapy can be prescribed.

Robot-assisted surgery

AI modeling is allowing surgeons to have advanced intraoperative metrics, enhancing the detection of positive surgical margins, and even allowing for the complete automation of certain steps in surgical procedures. AI can comprehensively tailor surgical plans to individual patients, and AI-powered robotics are streamlining surgical systems by automating repetitive tasks, freeing up qualified surgeons to focus on critical decision-making and complex or emergency procedures.

Virtual health assistants

A virtual health assistant is a digital tool that assists healthcare professionals in providing support, guidance, and services to patients remotely — through the use of AI. Telemedicine was originally developed to provide care to rural and underserved patients. However, since COVID-19, the use of digital health has significantly increased and is rapidly becoming a proven and reputable method for treating non-emergent patients.

Virtual health technology offers a range of services, such as video consultations with patients, medical education programs, online monitoring of patients, health apps, and sharing medical reports and images. This not only makes healthcare services more accessible but also encourages patients to manage their own health better.

Benefits of AI in healthcare

There are many potential and much-needed benefits of AI in healthcare, which can help alleviate the ongoing strain on services. If AI alleviates some of healthcare professionals' ever-expanding workload, patients may receive a more efficient service, with precise diagnosis and tailored treatment.

Specific benefits include:

  • Precise diagnostics
  • Enhanced treatment planning
  • Predictive analytics
  • Streamlined operations
  • Telemedicine and remote monitoring
  • Drug discovery and development
  • Personalized medicine
  • Improved patient and support education
  • Quality assurance and error reduction
  • Advancements in medical research

Continuous monitoring

Patients are utilizing mobile health technologies to keep track of life-threatening conditions including asthma, diabetes, and numerous heart conditions. Advancements in digital health in the form of wearable devices and remote patient monitoring are providing accurate and timely observations of patients' current health status directly to their doctor or medical team.

AI algorithms analyze this continuous monitoring data to identify patterns and abnormalities, which may indicate any change to a patient's condition, including the current risk of deterioration. This enables proactive and preventative interventions and can reduce the risk of poor patient outcomes.

Accessibility

Virtual health assistants and continuous patient monitoring are improving the accessibility of healthcare for underserved or vulnerable populations, overcoming barriers to healthcare access including geographical, financial, and sociocultural factors. Through remote consultations, 24/7 access, language translation, individual support, and continuous patient monitoring, non-critical health conditions are being diagnosed and managed from the comfort of the patient's home.

Note
The use of AI technology is not a replacement for face-to-face assessment with a qualified medical professional.

Challenges of AI in healthcare

While integrating AI into healthcare offers numerous benefits, it also poses several challenges. Its development in this field is still in its early stages. This means that various technological, legal, data privacy, security, and ethical concerns need to be addressed before its widespread implementation.

For AI algorithms to be effective, they require access to high-quality, large volumes of labeled and digitized medical data. However, healthcare systems often use different digital platforms, complicating synergy and data integration. Additionally, integrating AI into healthcare facilities demands significant investment in infrastructure, technology, training, and maintenance. Furthermore, achieving widespread adoption among medical professionals is crucial for successful implementation.

How will AI change healthcare?

Precision and genomic medicine combined with AI have the potential to improve patient care and associated outcomes, while the use of AI alongside virtual health assistants and continuous patient monitoring could help alleviate certain health inequities related to accessibility. Developments in AI will undoubtedly continue to improve the future of AI-based medical diagnostics.

AI is helping transform patient care by cutting costs, diagnosing diseases with precision, and simplifying administrative duties, all while allowing clinicians the time they truly need to focus on clinical decisions.

It is important to recognize that while AI can be a powerful tool, it cannot take the place of a qualified medical professional. AI is intended to complement rather than replace the clinical experience and compassion found in face-to-face patient care.

As technology advances, the potential of AI to ease the global burden of disease and enable predictive and preventive medicine will expand. AI can enhance the detection of rare diseases and offer remote healthcare access, which is crucial for reducing health disparities. Yet, for AI to responsibly integrate into healthcare on a large scale, legal, ethical, and practical considerations must be carefully addressed.

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