Health & Wellness

5 Ways Artificial Intelligence May Affect Health Care in the Near Future and What That Means for You

By Toby Nwazor | Jul 15, 2020
Toby Nwazor | ACHNET

Technology is changing fast, and the world is changing with it. Concepts that were mere science fiction only a couple of decades ago -- like artificial intelligence (AI) -- are quickly becoming commonplace. Computers have become powerful enough to handle complex AI computations; machine learning algorithms are more accurate and faster than ever; and the cloud and the internet of things have made it possible for even small devices to access artificial intellgence's enormous capabilities.

Related: AI Is Transforming Healthcare as We Know It. Here's a Look at the Future -- and the Opportunities for Entrepreneurs.

That's why responsible use of AI solutions in health care could improve, and even save people's lives. On the other hand, health care is an area where recklessness can occur; that's why new developments are regulated and implemented slowly and cautiously.

Here are five ways that AI and machine learning will likely be affecting your health care in the very near future:

1. Digital consultations

Digital consultations aren’t new. For many years, there have been medical diagnostic systems online or on the phone, such as WebMD or the United Kingdom’s NHS 111 system. These "dumb" systems have significant limitations.

Two developments in AI have made digital consultations using this technology a realistic option. First, the development of "backend" deep learning data allows the systems to make informed decisions about what questions to ask. Instead of blindly following a checklist, AI digital consultation systems have learned from millions of real case files to ask questions that are relevant to the particular patient.

Second, advance natural language processing is able to understand complicated sentences rather than force people to select predefined options. Together, these two AI technologies can help answer patient questions and recommend courses of action like making a GP appointment or going to the ER.

Some companies are already offering AI-driven digital consultation services. In fact, startup Babylon Health is even working with Britain's NHS to add AI to its 111 service". Ultimately, digital consultations should help cut down on unnecessary doctors’ visits and improve healthcare efficiency.

2. Radiology and images

Radiology is the form of medicine that deals with images: x-rays and ultrasounds, CTs and MRIs. This is a healthcare discipline whose practitioners spend considerable time and expertise looking at pictures as well as patients. This makes it a great fit for early AI adoption. With computer vision technology, systems can be trained to look at x-rays or other scans and apply deep learning to understand what images show.

Because the results of the AI detection can then be sent to a doctor for to double-check the results, AI for radiology is already in use in hospitals. In November, for example, the University of Rochester Medical Center announced that it was using tech from Aidoc, an AI radiology company, to help identify and prioritize critical cases so that urgent-care patients could be seen by a radiologist first, giving those patients the best of both worlds: AI and a doctor together.

Related: How is Artificial Intelligence Impacting the Healthcare Industry?

Of course, as technologies develop, it won’t be long before AI radiology