AI in Healthcare Businesses
Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming how healthcare is delivered. The technology touches on every aspect of human health and wellbeing, from disease detection and diagnostics to precision surgery. A growing world population and changing lifestyles have led to a vast patient base that the current numbers of medical professionals can’t sufficiently service. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts a shortfall of 18 million physicians, nurses,, and midwives by 2030. It would seem that AI has arrived just in time to prevent a crisis in healthcare provision. Now is not the time to be afraid of AI in healthcare businesses.
What is artificial intelligence?
The term is somewhat misleading. It gives the impression that computer systems can act with the same intelligence as humans. This is not the case. Artificial intelligence refers to the ability of computer systems to make sense of and draw conclusions from vast troves of data. It’s a tool that works with facts, facts that humans feed it.
What AI does exceptionally well is notice patterns in large volumes of data. It’s this ability of AI that makes the technology so very valuable in medical diagnostics. Machine learning scans through the data, learns from it, and AI draws conclusions that appear like intelligent decision-making.
Benefits of AI in healthcare
1. Streamline administration
AI can automate administrative tasks that are currently overwhelming healthcare professionals, including pre-authorizing insurance, sending out bills, following up on unpaid bills, and maintaining patient records.
Used strategically, AI can help improve processes and optimize operational efficiency. For instance, AI can prioritize services according to urgency and available resources and automate administrative tasks to set nurses and other medical staff free to provide personalized patient care.
AI can take much of the daily workload off the shoulders of healthcare practitioners and hospital administrators. For medical doctors in private practice, this means more time with patients practicing medicine and not attending to boring administrative tasks, improving their productivity and quality of care.
2. AI can reduce the time and cost of drug discovery
It takes many years and hundreds of millions of dollars before a new drug is available for public use. AI can speed up the time-consuming and labor-intensive process of developing a new drug.
Pharmaceutical companies house massive databases of compounds and molecular information that AI can sort through and analyze in a fraction of the time it would take researchers to do, which can help to speed up the discovery of new drugs and treatments. Researchers can develop machine learning tools that can analyze millions of organic chemical reactions.
3. AI can bring medical care to under-resourced settings
In resource-poor areas like African countries, AI will be the doctor that that a mother can’t find in her village. The rapid and widespread adoption of mobile phones have put medical advice via chatbots in the hands of people living in remote villages who would otherwise have to walk days to reach a clinic where the only doctor works in overwhelming conditions.
One example is a mobile-based tool that has been developed in Tanzania to assist community health workers in delivering targeted healthcare information to pregnant women, mothers,, and others responsible for young children.
4. Improved diagnoses
The correct application of AI can lead to more accurate diagnoses and improved care at a greater speed. With its access to mountains of data, machine learning can identify risk faster and more accurately than a human doctor can. In practice, this can minimize diagnostic mistakes, which will save more lives and prevent malpractice claims.
As it is, AI has already been proven to be more accurate at analyzing radiology images. In one study, AI was found to be 99% accurate at diagnosing breast cancers. The AI could even detect spreading breast cancer cells, something that human pathologists find difficult to do.
It’s a sobering thought to know that breast cancer is one of the five most misdiagnosed cancers. One study found that pathologists who don’t apply AI in diagnosing miss up to 60% of small tumors. Misdiagnosis of breast cancer is the most frequent reason for lawsuits against doctors.
Current use case examples
Robot-assisted surgery uses AI to help surgeons perform complex procedures with more control and precision than otherwise possible. Most clinical robotic surgical systems consist of mechanical arms fitted with surgical instruments, which the surgeon manipulates via a computer program. The system extends the surgeon’s capacities, enabling maneuvers that would not otherwise be possible.
AI helps to analyze the medical records of the patient as part of the planning of the procedure. AI-assisted robotic surgery allows for minimally invasive procedures, which drastically reduce the number of days a patient needs to stay in the hospital. Research shows that these surgeries could lead to far fewer complications than surgeon-only operations.
AI brings many advantages to radiology, including faster and more accurate interpretation of images.
- AI can reduce tumor classification to about three minutes,, which is almost unbelievable. At Michigan Medicine, it’s done right in the operating room.
- Imagen’s OsteoDetect software uses AI to detect hidden fractures. It has been used to detect wrist fractures with great success. The technology is also used to detect hip fractures in elderly patients, which is very helpful as these fractures can hide behind soft tissue, making them hard to see.
- In the past, doctors missed up to 40% of breast cancers. Now, with the help of AI, that statistic can be improved. Korean academic hospitals tested an AI-based tool to help radiologists interpret mammography. Using AI, their accuracy improved from 75.3% to 84.8%.
- AI helps with early detection of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s,, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The technology analyze sizes retinal movement and analyzes speech patterns.
Enhanced primary care through chatbots
Chatbots can answer a wide variety of concerns and questions instantly, sparing patients the need to visit the doctor. Lots of symptoms land people unnecessarily in doctors’ rooms. Chatbots can prevent that from happening. Chatbots powered by AI can answer medical questions accurately and provide basic medical advice, which is often all a person needs.
More advanced chatbots even have the ability to analyze a person’s symptoms and recommend the next step to take, for instance that a doctor’s visit is advisable.
Chatbots can also help with scheduling appointments. Their service is available 24/7 and unlike a doctor or nurse, they can deal with many people at a time.
Misdiagnoses lead to 10% of patient deaths in the US, 6-17% of hospital complications, and billions in compensation payouts.
These problems can largely be averted with the use of AI systems that review, store,, and analyze vast amounts of medical data to make diagnoses much faster than humans can. AI can also help clinicians in their decision making, having all possible symptoms and treatments in their memory banks plus access to patients’ electronic health records, symptom history, CT scans, doctor reports, and more.
With all this information at its disposal, AI can assist with diagnostic decisions and suggest the best treatment plans, resulting in better health outcomes for patients.
AI for the private medical practice
Medical practitioners cannot afford to ignore the benefits AI holds for their practices and their patients. AI can:
- Improve administrative efficiencies and productivity
- Help with diagnosis and reduce medical errors
- Spot early signs of disease a clinician might miss
- Make suggestions for alternative treatments
Many doctors are already benefiting from AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants.
1. Chatbots Increase Patient Response Rates
Experts predict that intelligent chatbots will see wide adoption in medical practices in the near future. AI-based chatbots are already disrupting the way physicians, hospital staff,, and patients interact with each other.
Chatbots are popular with patients as they provide basic information instantaneously. Advanced chatbots can analyze a patient’s needs, understand their symptoms,, and guide them through every step of treatment. If this is not appropriate, the system will immediately make an appointment with the doctor.
Patients love chatbots because they’re user-friendly and always available. Interacting with them is far more satisfying than leaving a message on an answering machine or with a receptionist. They also have the added benefit that patients don’t mind confiding in them – some will even tell a chatbot what they won’t tell their doctor.
Chatbots can also answer any other questions related to the medical practice itself.
Doctors should note that patients prefer to communicate through chatbots rather than any other means, so it’s in their interest to invest in the technology. Doctors who communicate with patients through chatbots experience high patient engagement. For instance, if a doctor wants to encourage patients to get vaccinated, a reminder can be sent through the chatbot. The response rate with chatbot communication is higher and faster than through email.
2. AI-based virtual assistants for administrative support
Virtual, or digital assistants, use advanced AI to provide a wide range of business support, including doing administrative tasks and providing medical decision support.
A virtual assistant uses advanced AI, natural language processing, and machine learning to extract information from documents and conversations to understand them and respond to them intelligently.
By constantly adding new data and applying machine learning, a virtual assistant gains better insight and can answer complex questions, and make recommendations.
They understand clinical workflows in a medical practice and can contribute to its smooth running by exchanging patient health history data, insurance details, and more.
Physicians will have noticed that many electronic health record (EHR) systems now include a virtual assistant. These assistants manage patient appointments, enter patient vitals into flowsheets, and order medications, among other tasks.
AI-based virtual assistants benefit both patients and practitioners. Patients benefit from focused time with their doctor, who is now no longer distracted by administrative tasks because the virtual assistant is taking care of them. When doctors can actually focus on their patients, patient engagement and satisfaction skyrocket.
AI-based virtual assistants can be a tremendous benefit for medical practices: Since AI-based virtual assistants have conversational ability, a physician doesn’t need to use a keyboard to communicate with his virtual assistant – he can simply speak.
Virtual assistants can take care of many routine tasks, lessening the burden on medical practitioners and hopefully help to mitigate the current high levels of physician burnout.
Are there any challenges to the integration of AI in healthcare?
The benefits of AI in healthcare depend on the availability of vast sets of data. Machine learning algorithms are trained on data and getting access to people’s health data is problematic. Personal medical records are protected, and rightly so.
AI startups that need data to develop their solutions are constantly battling hospitals to obtain the data they need. So far, several ethical issues have emerged:
- Which entity owns the patient data needed to create a new AI solution?
- How can patients’ privacy be guaranteed?
- Should hospitals be allowed to share their patient data with AI companies?
- Who takes responsibility in case of a data breach?
- Who will monitor the ethical use of patient data?
AI has arrived at an opportune time in human development and can help humans to live longer, healthier lives. The ideal is for AI to increase diagnostic accuracy, improve physician efficiency,, and personalize treatment. However, AI is not quite up to the task yet. It’s still early days.
As Elad Walach, the CEO of the Tel Aviv-based startup Aidoc puts it: “AI solutions are becoming very good at doing one thing very well. But because human biology is complex, you typically have to have humans who do more than one thing really well.”
You know what that means – AI is not about to usurp healthcare jobs.