For any Sci-fi buff out there, there are many interesting devices and ideas that have been portrayed in TV shows and movies over the years that have come to be part of reality.  Other technologies haven’t come to fruition, but we are closer than ever to having many things that seemed out of the realm of possibility even a few years ago.  One of the industries that has truly begun to seek out and implement technological advances is healthcare.  In fact, one of the avenues of great interest is that of artificial intelligence in healthcare.

 

Why Does Healthcare Want Artificial Intelligence?

 

Healthcare has always been a necessity and sought after to make us better when there is some sickness, injury or disease affecting us.  Yet, the healthcare industry is itself infected with its own issues:

  • Constant increases to the cost of healthcare
  • Abuse of antibiotics and other drugs
  • Rise in the number of hospital acquired infections
  • Readmissions on the rise
  • Preventable adverse health occurrences

Those in the business of providing care see these problems and want to make a difference, and one of the most direct paths to creating more efficiency and better care is to utilize something that doesn’t run off biases, comprehends the health patterns from hundreds of thousands of patients who have experienced the same or similar health problems.  Artificial intelligence is working to take all the information about health and sickness and produce a more perfect way to provide insight that will direct the decisions of doctors and other health professionals when treating a patient. 

 

Why Doesn’t Healthcare Utilize Artificial Intelligence More?

 

There are many people who see implementing and utilizing artificial intelligence as problematic.  For one, drawing upon the information of every patient to build a vast database of information could be seen as an invasion of privacy, even if the promise of anonymity is coupled with it.  We don’t really get to choose what happens to our information, just the assurance that our name and identifying information won’t be sold or used without our permission.  Nothing is said about protection or use of the treatments, medications or outcomes.  This fact bothers many people, but trying to fight to protect care data has not been met with much success.

 

Due to the complexity and limited amount of healthcare data collected, there is another roadblock that the industry has run into.  Data within other businesses and industries is much more straightforward, while items such as CAT scans and x-rays are much more subjective, and thus much harder to quantify when trying to get answers for everyone’s needs and care.  It is very difficult to teach a computer or software to learn how to help a patient when a box isn’t checked or can differ from patient to patient. 

 

For some patients, it is a bit inhumane to be categorized or labeled, especially without the gentle bedside manner that can accompany difficult results.  The best way to treat all the needs that a patient may have is to list them according to their risk level.  Patients with life-threatening conditions and multiple health issues require much more attention than someone who is mostly healthy but happen to break their arm.  Classifying a patient is a normal procedure, but can come across as very clinical without any heart.  Thus, depending fully upon artificial intelligence to care for patients would remove the human touch and kindness that is fundamental for most everyone. 

 

Not All Questions Have an Automated Answer

 

Artificial intelligence in healthcare doesn’t have all the answers, and probably never will.  I’m sure you’ve been on an automated call with a specific problem, yet when you either listen to the options or speak out the issue to the computerized service, the answer doesn’t come.  Now, imagine that in the realm of trying to get answers about severe pain that you might be in or a rash that hasn’t gone away.  Maybe you have looked up the symptoms you are having on a site like WebMD only to discover that you are either suffering from a small stomach bug or have cancer.  Neither one is probably true, but the fear of God has already been put into you. 

 

Sometimes it is necessary to seek out a doctor who feels around your abdomen, orders a blood test and possibly an MRI in order to diagnose what is going on.  This isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for future artificial intelligence standards in the future, but good old-fashion one-on-one help is needed.

 

There isn’t a worry that the Terminator is going to take over your local hospital any time soon, but look for advances in artificial intelligence in healthcare to become more mainstream and truly help in everyday decisions in your care.  As more information is gathered, and it will be, and as that non-quantitative data is measured, the implementation of more artificial intelligence will be seen and felt.

 

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