As futuristic as it sounds, artificial intelligence (AI) is here and it is revolutionizing the healthcare industry. AI as it applies to healthcare has less to do with robots taking over for doctors and refers instead to analytical tools like machine learning and advanced analytics. These tools can make predictions to identify potential health outcomes by assessing risk, making diagnoses, and offering more effective treatments.
AI goes hand-in-hand with big data and enables health providers and doctors to access vast data sets, and new computing power can detect and analyze trends in the data, even making predictions with life-saving outcomes. Machine learning uses statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to “learn” with incoming data and to identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human direction. Ultimately, AI provides a faster, more effective way to sift through the thousands, if not millions, of data points that each patient has in their record, thus unlocking the potential for personalized care. This can not only improve patient health, but also fundamentally changes the way that the healthcare system functions.
One of the ultimate goals of using artificial intelligence is to address the current healthcare system’s cost-structure problem, wherein we are able to cut costs, improve treatment, and increase accessibility. By transferring time-consuming human tasks to machines, healthcare providers can focus on other tasks that benefit from human attention and care. AI can also enable patients to self-service their care needs when possible, thus reducing the amount of human labor required to keep more people healthier.
The impact of AI is starting at the administrative level before it reaches the clinical side. Even though artificial intelligence is beginning to permeate the healthcare system, as consumers we often don’t realize it’s affecting our care because most of it happens behind the scenes. While a patient may not be interacting with robot caretakers, yet, they still benefit from AI without knowing it, thanks to a more accurate initial diagnosis and a more effective treatment plan.
McKinsey took a look at where AI is already being adopted in health care and found that the top three applications (e.g. having the highest adoption rates) include service operations, product and service development, and supply chain management. Meanwhile, Accenture estimates that by 2026, some other applications of AI will include robot-included surgery, virtual nursing assistants, and administrative workflow assistance.