Artificial Intelligence: the future of Healthcare?


Image credit: House of Bots

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being used in the healthcare and life science sectors, particularly when it involves machine learning.

New advances in AI and the growing amount of data and related analysis performed promise to dramatically drive down the costs of healthcare while increasing efficiency.

Machines can process an incredible amount of information without the risks and limitations of human-driven data processing. While most would not substitute a doctor with a machine, it is plausible that AI can be used to increase the accuracy and relevance of diagnostics and treatments.

Could AI be the key to better and more efficient healthcare in the near future? What are some of its implications for doctors and surgical robotics?

A better doctor?

Certain AI solutions already use machine learning image analysis to process the enormous amount of imaging data associated with Computed tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and X-rays. Within minutes of receiving the image, a draft report like the one below can flow into a medical reporting system, saving the time and energy of technicians and doctors.

Draft report

Image credit: RADlogics

AI is also starting to automate some of the work of doctors. The most prominent example is IBM’s Watson, which applies machine learning and massive computing power to addressing medical questions. IBM’s Watson is on its way to becoming the best diagnostician on the planet.

The system can absorb all available (and anonymized) patient data, plus the tens of thousands of medical research papers published every year. This is far more than any human could read.

But IBM’s Watson can also take initiative, monitoring the news and learning, for instance, which regions are affected by a certain contagious disease, which might help diagnose someone who recently traveled to one of those areas. Later, by asking patients certain questions spoken into any kind of computer or connected device, Watson can quickly narrow down the possible causes of a medical problem.

A better surgical robot?

AI is the recipe for the perfect robot surgeon, an article from MIT Technology Review said last year.

Surgery requires more than just hand and eye coordination, it involves how body structures are perceived and which surgical strategy will be followed. Imagine then a surgical robot that can understand the images of a procedure and immediately access thousands (or millions) of similar surgeries, along with their approaches and outcomes. Surgical robotics will not only represent an extension of the surgeon’s arms and fingers, but it will also be the surgeon’s assistant during every aspect of the procedure.

One of the companies developing the future of surgical robotics is Verb. The company says it is “building a digital surgery platform that combines robotics, advanced visualization, advanced instrumentation, data analytics and connectivity.” Earlier this year, Verb demonstrated its first digital surgery prototype, an important milestone as the company develops its platform.

Robotic systems that support both the surgeon’s skill and surgical strategy can eventually be applied to a wider range of surgical operations.

AI is here to help in creating both better doctors and surgical robots.

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