4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Improving Healthcare In the Next Year

May 13, 2019 - 7 minutes read

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is accelerating innovative solutions to longstanding problems across various industries. And nowhere is this more evident than healthcare.

Partners HealthCare, a Boston-based non-profit network of health providers, identified numerous AI technologies during its 2018 World Medical Innovation Forum that are primed to revolutionize patient care over the next decade. But over the past twelve months, AI research has been moving at a rapid-fire pace — so fast that, this year, the organization decided to instead focus on which AI innovations will impact healthcare by 2020!

Here are our favorite picks from the list that you can expect to start seeing by the end of this decade.

Medical Imaging, Reimagined

Radiology has already received numerous benefits from AI development. But providers are just starting to truly tap into the potential of what the technology has to offer. As machine learning continues to expand through medical imaging applications, it will bring earlier detection capabilities, more accurate assessment, and less costly options for testing.

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But as is always the case, with great power comes great responsibility. Radiologists are at the forefront of the AI revolution in medicine, so it’s up to them to develop and deploy practices that preserve patient-provider trust, data integrity, and workflow.

“We certainly feel the onus on the radiology community to make sure we do deliver and translate this into improved care,” explains Alexandra Golby, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery and Radiology at Harvard Medical School. “Can radiology live up to the expectations?  There are certainly some challenges, including trust and understanding of what the algorithms are delivering.  But we desperately need it, and we want to equalize care across the world.”

Fortunately, since radiologists are among the first to overcome initial jitters about employing AI, they have become eager to see what AI can do. “All of the imaging societies have opened their doors to the AI adventure,” Golby says. “The community very anxious to learn, codevelop, and work with all of the industry partners to turn this technology into truly valuable tools. We’re very optimistic and very excited, and we look forward to learning more about how AI can improve care.”

Disrupting Diagnostics and Decision-Making

Besides medical imaging, diagnostic specialties like pathology are also early AI beneficiaries. As a result, Annette Kim, MD, PhD, and Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, believes this headstart will allow AI to mature faster in this field of study.

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“Pathology is at the center of diagnosis, and diagnosis underpins a huge percentage of all patient care,” Kim says. “We’re integrating a huge amount of data that funnels through us to come to a diagnosis.  As the number of data points increases, it negatively impacts the time we have to synthesize the information.”

In terms of advantages, AI will help automate and expedite routine, high-volume procedures. It will also aid in prioritizing and triaging cases so that patients are getting fast access to the care they need. Lastly, AI will ensure that pathologists don’t miss out on any important insights hidden in the vast volumes of data they scour through each day.

Better Brain Health Through Smarter Monitoring

In spite of all humanity’s scientific and technological advances, the brain remains the body’s most mysterious organ. The human brain produces complex data that have confounded healthcare developers and innovators for centuries.

But with AI in tow, clinicians and providers are accelerating progress in this arena so we can better understand cognitive function and the neurological diseases that affect it. Take seizure prediction via EEG tests, for example. AI is enabling providers to gain more detailed, continuous measurements, resulting in improved quality of patient life.

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This is a big deal. Seizures can affect patients suffering from other illnesses like liver or kidney failure. But many providers aren’t aware of the danger. Bandon Westover, MD, PhD, is an executive director of the Clinical Data Animation at Massachusetts General Hospital. Here’s how he explains the conundrum:

“Right now, we mostly ignore the brain unless there’s a special need for suspicion. In a year’s time, we’ll be catching a lot more seizures and we’ll be doing it with algorithms that can monitor patients continuously and identify more ambiguous patterns of dysfunction that can damage the brain in a similar manner to seizures.”

Making Sense of Health Data Through Information Exchange

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is a game-changing technology that’s enabling more efficient exchange of electronic health records (EHR). When combined with AI, health data siloes will become a thing of the past. By supporting wider access to health information, FHIR and AI will let all healthcare stakeholders benefit from a more flexible, fluid information exchange environment.

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Of course, patients, providers, and payers will all need to play their part in preserving the security and integrity of data as it moves across different systems. But the benefits have immense potential to outweigh the risks.

“It completely depends on how everyone in the medical community advocates for, builds, and demands open interfaces and open business models,” explains Samuel Aronson, the Executive Director of IT at Partners Personalized Medicine. “If we all row in the same direction, there’s a real possibility that we will see fundamental improvements to the healthcare system in 3 to 5 years.”

AI Innovation Is Around the Corner

It’s hard to believe that the AI technologies we’ve discussed will be more widely available in just twelve months’ time — just the year prior, Partners HealthCare was estimating many of these innovations would be introduced sometime in the next ten years!

Which AI technology do you think will change healthcare the most? And what AI applications not listed here are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments!

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