Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

3 March 2022

Artificial intelligence (AI) is defined as the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.(1) IBM defines it simply as the use of computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. (2) As a field of study it is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines using intelligent computer programs.

For someone who is vaguely familiar with AI, robotics comes to mind straight away. Today, however, there are numerous real-world applications of AI systems that many don’t realise they are already using them in their daily lives.

  • Speech recognition: speech recognition or speech-to-text uses natural language processing (NLP) to process human speech into a written format. Many mobile devices have already incorporated speech recognition into their systems —e.g. Siri, Google and Alexa.
  • Customer service:  Online virtual agents are replacing human agents examples include chat bots on e-commerce sites , messaging apps, such as Slack and Facebook Messenger.
  • Computer vision: AI technology enabling computers and systems to derive meaningful information from digital images, videos and other visual inputs, and based on those inputs, it can take action. Computer vision has applications within photo tagging in social media, facial and fingerprint logins in various software and cloud access and self-driving cars within the automotive industry.  
  • Online Marketing: Using past consumer behaviour data, AI algorithms are used to develop online cross-selling strategies. This is used to make relevant add-on recommendations to customers during the checkout process for online retailers.
  • Automated stock trading: AI-driven high-frequency trading platforms make thousands or even millions of trades per day without human intervention.

One sector that is leveraging and benefitting from AI is healthcare.  The most popular applications are in:

  •  Medical Imaging.  AI is used in the analysis of CT scans, x-rays, MRIs and other images which are observed to be more accurate than human radiologists. (4)
  • Dermatology. Skin cancer detection from face photographs. classification of skin cancer from lesion images.  In 2018, a paper published in the journal Annals of Oncology mentioned that skin cancer could be detected more accurately by an artificial intelligence system than by dermatologists. On average, the human dermatologists accurately detected 86.6% of skin cancers from the images, compared to 95% for the CNN machine. (3)
  • Cardiovascular. Wearables, smartphones, and internet-based technologies have also shown the ability to monitor patients’ cardiac data points.  AI models can use these data and potentially enable earlier detection of cardiac events occurring outside of the hospital. Another growing area of research is the utility of AI in classifying heart sounds and diagnosing valvular disease. (3)
  • Gastroenterology. AI can play a role in various facets of the field of gastroenterology. Endoscopic exams such as esophagogastroduodenoscopies (EGD) and colonoscopies rely on rapid detection of abnormal tissue. By enhancing these endoscopic procedures with AI, clinicians can more rapidly identify diseases, determine their severity, and visualize blind spots. Early trials in using AI detection systems of early gastric cancer have shown sensitivity close to expert endoscopists.(3)
  • Robot-assisted Surgery. Robots integrated with mechanical arms, cameras, and required surgical instruments augment the knowledge, skills, and experience of the doctors, creating a new form of surgery. It allows surgeons to sit at the console of a computer and control the robot’s mechanical arms, while the robot offers a magnified, 3-dimensional view of the surgical site that is impossible to look at with their own eyes. (4)
  • Drug discovery is often one of the longest and most costly parts of drug development. The development of Covid-19 vaccines in less than a year was due to the use of artificial intelligence, that is the predictions of the genome sequencing and protein structure of the coronavirus was made possible by analysing datasets from known proteins by using machine learning techniques.(6)
  • Virtual health assistants, examples are chatbots responding to the queries of routine patients via calls and emails, managing medical information of the patients and covering sensitive data, scheduling appointments with doctors, sending follow-ups and clinical appointment reminders to the patients, etc. (4)
  • Electronic health records (EHR) are crucial to the digitalization of hospitals and medical practice. It is estimated that around 80% of medical practices (at least in developed countries) use EHR.  AI is used to interpret the data collected from EHR and provide new information to physicians.  AI algorithms can evaluate an individual patient’s record and predict a risk for a disease based on their previous information and family history, find any outstanding issues to bring to a physician’s attention and save time. AI can leverage this data to assist physicians in treating their patients.(3)

 There are many other AI applications that have been mentioned in literature such as development of new drugs, analysis of drug-to-drug interactions and even fraud detection especially with respect to insurance claims. The potential for artificial intelligence in healthcare is enormous. The global AI market size in healthcare is expected to reach over USD 40.2 billion by 2026 growing at a around CAGR of over 49.7% during 2019-2026. (7) With that amount of investment AI is poised to become “a core part of the digital health systems that shape and support modern medicine”. (5) 

References:

(1) Oxford Languages Dictionary

(2)  https://www.ibm.com/cloud/learn/what-is-artificial-artificial intelligence – Search (bing.com)intelligence

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence_in_healthcare

(4)  https://intellipaat.com/blog/artificial-intelligence-in-healthcare/#no12

(5)  https://www.rcpjournals.org/content/futurehosp/6/2/94

(6) https://datateamtech.medium.com/the-role-of-artificial-intelligence-in-the-development-of-the-covid-19-vaccine-8becda9ac02a

(7) https://www.acumenresearchandconsulting.com/artificial-intelligence-market

By Marie Balce, Ph.D.

In this blog, I have attempted to consolidate and summarise articles and blogs about Artificial Intelligence in healthcare, while leaving out highly technical terms.  If you want to explore how AI can help your healthcare services, Contact Us.