Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: A world of endless possibilities
If you read news, follow research articles, and discuss the future, then you would have already read about how the healthcare industry is in dire need of AI.
If I were to pick the prominent industries which can drive sustainable growth healthcare would be on the top. Perhaps it is the reason that majority of new research now includes terms “renewable, sustainable, and eco friendly”. Humans have realized that growth at the risk of environmental deterioration, and deteriorating human health is no growth at all.
There is another parallel industry that is being explored by the inventors and it is “artificial intelligence”. Researchers are combining AI along with machine learning to aid the existing systems. While a lot of people are afraid about the disruption that AI will bring in healthcare, I am very optimistic about the possibilities that AI holds in healthcare.
Let us explore the possibilities with the issues that the industry is facing and how AI can address them.
Issues plaguing the healthcare industry
An endless trail of data — Analysing data for diagnosing
There are no random diseases. Every disease/ailment is a result of certain actions of the individual or the changes in the environment.
While the existing system of providing medicines is effective against the disease and helps individuals to regain their abilities, it does not target the basic problem of identifying what triggered the disease.
Artificial intelligence can target this problem and look at the entire data from a birds-eye view. Though a doctor can diagnose stomachache and provide pills to treat it, an AI system can quickly relate the stomachache of multiple people who recently attended a party as a result of food poisoning. It can prescribe the other individuals who are not yet facing issues with preventive measures and prescriptions.
Genetic diseases can be traced back to an ancestor and a centralized system can provide a more accurate prediction of possible issues. The effectiveness of a drug on a certain group of individuals can be used as a parameter to identify future drugs that will be more effective. It can save a lot of time and resources that are used in testing medicines.
The medical history of an individual provides great clues in diagnosing diseases. In absence of data analytics, diagnosing a disease is a very costly affair and uses a lot of medical tests. Currently, a vast majority of the population undergoes unnecessary testing to identify the disease. An AI system can target it and effectively predict the majority of symptoms that are generic to individuals or locations.
Targeting evolved strains of viruses/ bacteria
The current system of cramming all symptoms in a five-year course is non-effective in this growing disease environment. AI can target it as it can evolve daily with new data inputs across the globe.
The growth of microorganisms is quite high and there are new symptoms with new diseases every day. The current system of cramming all symptoms in a five-year course is non-effective in this growing disease environment. AI can target it as it can evolve daily with new data inputs across the globe. Moreover, there is no memory limit to the AI. It can relate the data of one individual present in North America to the data of another individual who is serving in India and check if they both are struggling from disease evolved from a similar microbe.
But such a type of correlation can also be flawed and thus needs supervision. A doctor or a medical expert cannot correlate the data effectively but if he/ she is aided by AI, a perfect combination can be achieved.
Real-time analytics, partnering with multiple labs, researchers who are working on a similar problem is possible if a centralized AI system is available to guide researchers about other similar problems around the globe. It can save a lot of money, effort, and time.
Real-time monitoring of Patients
In the healthcare industry, everyone knows the importance of real-time monitoring. There are tons of instruments available to monitor patients and even with all these instruments, the monitoring is not effective. A lot of healthcare workers attend to the patients and keep making rounds every hour to make sure the patient is okay. Still, they lag.
This is where AI can help. The machine vision systems can monitor the patient, surroundings, healthcare workers, and attendants every moment to update them in real-time. Triggering the attendant to provide a glass of water to his mother who is struggling to pick water, notifying the nearest nurse about the issue with the cannula, notifying the pharmacy about an upcoming order of a specific drug can be done effortlessly.
Moreover, real-time monitoring can be programmed to notify for specific actions, events and thus save the effort of healthcare workers. They can spend more time tending patients, that is currently spent running across hallways.
Real-time monitoring — Solving supply chain
The AI can manage the supply chain of drugs, instruments and maximize the utility of resources. This is a boon for small economies. A good AI system can provide the same benefit with 10 ventilators as bad manual management would do with 20.
Supply chain management is a critical factor and AI can help in this part. Scheduling of operation theatres, use of instruments across various departments, supplying drugs to various teams can be tracked, managed, and optimized with an AI system.
Opportunities for Healthcare Industry
Individual specific treatment
The treatment and response to that treatment are different for each individual. AI can help individuals identify which treatment suits best to them. It was not available earlier but it is available now.
A user can check the success rate of a drug, its side effects, and which users benefitted most from it. At the same time, a user can check the available doctors which use this drug and how successful they have been with this drug.
AI can enable users to identify different treatments available for a particular condition and their success rates. Thus, the decision-making would be backed by data.
Healthcare devices — identifying the disease before symptoms
Smartwatches are not new to individuals but the possibility of integrating checking of ECG, Blood sugar, Blood pressure, other ions of an individual may seem new. A lot of research is going on in this field and everyone is building devices that can be used by individuals on daily basis to check their health. Once the device spots any irregularity in any of the parameters, it can alert the user that something is wrong. Thus, the health won’t deteriorate further.
Online Booking of services
If you live in a developing country, then you know the struggle of going to a hospital and finding that the doctor is not available today. But now due to online booking and real-time updates, it is easy to track when the doctor or service is available.
You don’t need to miss your entire day for one health checkup or a single consultation.
Moreover, you can compare the price and the average number of visitors to the doctor at a certain time slot to avoid reaching a rush hour. This not only saves your time but also helps the healthcare provider to manage their inflow in a more balanced way.
Dynamic Pricing — Serving the neediest
Everyone wants everything but not everyone needs everything. People who need usually are willing to pay higher prices than people who want but don’t need. Dynamic pricing is a way to separate the individuals who need it from the ones that want it.
Real-time monitoring can be used to provide discounts to users who are more health-conscious and taking steps towards preventive health maintenance.
Services can be provided on priority to users based on their medical state (parameters).
The possibilities are very high but there are hurdles and issues that the industry need to target.