Ten years ago artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare was only realized in movies and sci-fi specials. Today the AI movement has caught up to reality and day-to-day healthcare in a big way. Many patients are unaware that when they are discharged for the hospital in leading institutions, an AI based predicative algorithm calculates the risk of their re-admission and provides guidance for discharge nurses as to the best means to minimize anticipated complications and an avoidable readmission. AI innovation is allowing clinicians and service workers to broadly apply their knowledge, freeing up more face time to spend delivering direct care, and scales critical decision making that was once only applicable to a small population. For example, AI has the potential to efficiently apply the expertize of 1000 top radiologists to one interpretation of a chest x-ray or MRI scan.
Another area within healthcare where we are seeing a rapid adoption of AI is in the consumer-facing side of healthcare. AI bots are available from companies like HealthTap, which give guidance and advice on routine medical questions and situations. AI is also being developed to guide self care for chronic disease patients who forget to take their medications or have a routine yet frequent question related to their own treatment plans. These bots are going to be available via consumer technology like smart phones and conversational devices from Amazon (Echo), Google (Home), Apple (Siri) and Microsoft (Cortana).
One particular device recently introduced, the Amazon Echo Show, has the most promise to quickly advance healthcare communications via AI voice interface and touch screen, which enables remote telemedicine with a simple request like, "Please call my care coach Betty."
The relative affordability, simple setup and multiple use cases for devices like this in healthcare has the potential to bring healthcare to your home with minimum disruption.
The potential benefits of AI in healthcare are staggering and are being applied today in small increments, using technology to drive better outcomes and to integrate AI well into the human ecosystem. Most in the healthcare industry remain cautiously optimistic about the future of AI. As a physician and technologist I share this sentiment and feel that the more informed I am regarding AI the better I can manage my patients and mange how it will impact my practice of medicine.
Editor's note: The Go Practice blog does not endorse any of the products mentioned in this article.