The term artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly misappropriated. It’s safe to say it's often misused as a buzzword to improve the perception of tech gadgets and software. But AI is a high-performing tool that is already having a significant impact on the healthcare industry.
AI refers to machines that are programmed to simulate human intelligence, which includes visual perception and analysis, speech recognition, language translation, and analytical decision making. Today’s AI programs are processing documented human knowledge, with information being summarized at much higher speeds than humans could ever accomplish.
To implement AI in any environment, a very clear understanding of two points is required: first, the goals you are trying to achieve, and second, the processes required to accomplish your tasks.
AI works in healthcare because the field defines very clearly what needs to be accomplished – healing people – and is accompanied by a large body of human knowledge to define the processes.
The AI solutions built on these principles are called narrow AI solutions: purpose-built programs that perform a single task. Narrow AI solutions that focus on some of the most common services in healthcare are already proving to dramatically decrease time and costs for the patient and professional alike.
Narrow AI is already applied to:
- Customer communication – using chatbots to address frequently asked questions and streamline appointment scheduling.
- Diagnostic imaging and pathology – AI algorithms to analyze X-rays or MRIs, and to evaluate pathology slides.
- Clinical documentation – utilizing language processing systems to accelerate that process of documentation.
Artificial intelligence is already improving patient throughput by supporting healthcare professionals in time optimization and patient diagnostics, and this is only scratching the surface of what AI will accomplish.
The goal of utilizing AI in healthcare is applying modern technology to bring needed “added value” to the healthcare service offering.
Using AI in the healthcare setting introduces a new set of challenges that have not been encountered before. AI systems do not simply add themselves to healthcare service delivery – they can only be implemented by forward-thinking healthcare professionals. This means that treatment providers will require a keen understanding of many types of AI solutions, including their benefits and limitations. Professionals will need to stay up to date with advances in AI-driven technology solutions alongside the latest developments in medical research and treatment protocols. This provides challenges to strategy development and implementation, not to mention resource allocation, to ensure that human factors do not restrict potential benefits that could be delivered by using AI.
In coming articles, we will take up the pros and cons of AI in its current form, and explore the future generations of AI that will transform healthcare services in ways we can now only imagine.