JST -By Rae Steinbach
AI and robots are already changing our lives, from answering questions in the home to producing goods for manufacturers. Their increasing use in healthcare is now altering how the system operates.
From training the next generation of medical professionals to keeping patients healthier, below are eight ways in which AI and robotics are working to transform healthcare.
- Staying Healthy
AI has many potential benefits for our busy lives One such advantage is to help us keep fit and healthy so we don’t need to see a doctor as frequently.
The Internet of Medical Things is made up of a staggering 3.7 million devices that connect to and monitor various parts of the body. This includes wearable fitness devices like Fitbits, and also medical devices like pacemakers which allow for reliable internal observation.
These Near Field Communication (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) connected devices are able to feed information back to IT systems, providing them with the data needed for better diagnoses, improved treatment plans, and to reduce inefficiencies and waste in the healthcare system. The information gleaned from them can be used to warn remote caregivers if something goes wrong with the wearer, or help patients to stick to their treatment plans.
- Accurate Diagnoses
As many as 88% of first diagnoses of diseases or health conditions are incorrect. This can lead to doctors mistreating patients and getting tangled up in costly and often painful medical malpractice suits. AI is allowing healthcare providers to apply significantly more analytical and processing power to patient’s cases than a single human could hope to provide, making for far more accurate diagnoses.
Systems such as IBM’s Watson and Google’s DeepMind Health are being used to review and store vast amounts of patient data and medical information to influence better diagnosis. The sheer amount of information and developments in medicine make the task of assimilating the latest studies with a patient’s full medical history impossible for humans.
- Detecting Disease and Rare Conditions
AI can be used to recognize rare or genetic diseases earlier and with more accuracy, similarly to how it can make everyday diagnoses.
Drawing conclusions from large amounts of data is one of AI’s strengths. Systems like SOPHiA GENETICS and Modernizing Medicine are allowing medical practitioners to identify unfamiliar conditions and understand cumulative data on our genetic code. This allows professionals to predict and give early treatment for diseases such as cancer or diabetes.
In addition to these tools, the data received through the IoMT from consumer wearables and medical devices is being applied to oversee early-stage heart disease and similar conditions.
- Better Decisions for Better Outcomes
The alignment of Big Health Data with predictive analytics can improve decision making as well as help to prioritize administrative tasks.
Pattern recognition can assist in distinguishing differences in patients, like those who are at risk of developing a condition due to predisposed conditions and those who are at risk due to environmental, lifestyle, or other factors. This distinction helps doctors to make appropriate, timely decisions that will provide better health outcomes for patients of all types.
- Treatment and Therapy
AI is being used to help the chronically ill predict adverse episodes. Medtronic and IBM’s Watson Health have built a capable AI solution that can anticipate a hypoglycemic event for diabetics three hours before one occurs. This is allowing both clinicians and patients to approach disease management much more comprehensively, coordinating care plans and helping subjects better manage their ongoing treatment plans.
Robots are used in a range of different ways here: to aid laboratory tests, package medication, or provide a steady hand that will meticulously insert a series of needles into a prostate to treat cancer.
It takes an average of 12 years, at a cost of around $359 million, for a new drug to reach consumers. The meticulous testing and safety measures mean that just 1 in 5,000 drugs is ever approved for human use. AI is being used not only to cut the time it takes for new drugs to reach market, but also to discover new uses for existing medications.
Natural simulations powered with AI technology are allowing students and professionals to draw from a vast database of scenarios to help them learn new skills or brush up on the ones they have. Training programs can learn from previous responses and adjust to ensure that challenges are appropriate and support learning needs.
AI combined with AR or VR is being used to observe surgery. It’s also capable of learning the specific idiosyncrasies of a patient’s anatomy, making for safer surgeries.
- End-of-Life Care
In many countries, an aging population is driving the development of robots for end-of-life care. Humanoid robots are already being used to support people with dementia, both in their own homes and dedicated nursing homes.
Nowadays, robots can do more than just clean and check a patient’s vital signs. Some have been designed to entertain elderly patients, provide emotional support or companionship, and even call for help if they sense danger.
Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.
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