In 2019, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools will continue to help physicians make more informed decisions, hospitals achieve better outcomes, and patients receive more timely and personalized care. According to Becker’s Healthcare, artificial intelligence (AI) tools will save the healthcare industry $52 billion by 2021.
Here are three of the biggest ways that AI is poised to shape healthcare in 2019.
1. AI Will Unlock the Power of Virtual Medicine
Telemedicine is helping to close some of the gaping accessibility holes in the American healthcare system. It’s connecting rural patients to leading urban health centers, dramatically shortening specialist wait times, and reducing high readmission rates. Though still in its infancy, the industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.5 percent from 2017 to 2023. With that growth comes even greater potential to help providers monitor their patients remotely, whether they are at home or in the clinic, through AI-enabled tools.
AI helps overloaded virtual care teams triage patients and feel more confident in their virtual decision making. One example of remote monitoring using predictive analytics and real-time medical device data comes from Virtua Memorial Hospital where a rules-based analytics engine was deployed to continuously monitor patients deemed to be at risk for post-op respiratory depression. Using specific criteria and filters to properly alert providers, the system not only effectively identified all the at-risk patients, but it also reduced false alarms by more than 90 percent.
This ability to remotely monitor patients using AI stands to be the tipping point for many providers who are currently wary of virtual care. If healthcare professionals are able to receive virtual information they can trust that also helps them prioritize their sickest patients, it will, in turn, lead to increasing overall comfort with virtual care.
2. AI Offers an Instant “Second Opinion”
Highly sensitive and specific algorithms trained on gold-standard datasets can help clinicians screen for pathologies with specialist-level accuracy.
A recent study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress found that AI can be an invaluable aid to help pulmonologists interpret respiratory symptoms accurately and make a correct diagnosis. Two large hospitals in Belgium are already using AI-based software to improve diagnoses, with one doctor saying, “We firmly believe that we can empower providers to make their interpretations and diagnoses easier, faster and better. AI will not replace providers, that is certain…However, it is evident that AI will augment our abilities to accomplish more and decrease chances for errors and redundant work.”
AI that complements, rather than replaces, a clinician’s experience, stands to help clinicians in all fields, from cardiology to pediatrics, as it brings the ears and eyes of trained specialists to the hands of all medical professionals.
3. AI Connects the Dots Between Disparate Sources of Health Data
One of the largest ways both patients and medical professionals stand to benefit from AI will come from AI’s ability to process data from multiple sources and provide predictive analytics that will drive the best path of care.
AI can combine data from disparate sources, like a patient’s genetic test and an electronic health record, to provide more timely alerts and suggestions to a care team. Let’s take Celiac Disease screening for example. In 2017, the FDA allowed 23andMe to market the first direct-to-consumer test that provides genetic risk information for Celiac disease, which causes the inability to digest gluten.
AI tools may be able to combine knowledge of this DNA-variation with symptoms documented in the EHR, such as chronic bloating or vomiting, to alert the physician to an increased likelihood of Celiac Disease. Algorithms can be designed to input data from a variety of sources – health records, wearables, genetic tests, labs, etc. – to create deeply personalized and timely outputs, such as disease risk profiles or suggested diagnoses.
AI Should Assist, Not Replace
People, and especially healthcare providers, retain a special ability to evaluate a patient holistically – to understand the person behind the lab test or the symptom. AI is so much more than the idea of robots replacing humans. It’s a truly scientific and technological breakthrough that holds the power to assist providers in the incredibly difficult task of caring for patients. While AI tools can help close gaps in care and drive a new era of personalized medicine, the tools must serve as a compliment, rather than a replacement, to the clinician.
Connor Landgraf is the CEO at Eko, which he co-founded in 2013. Eko is building simple, intuitive tools to understand how our hearts are functioning, and to help doctors offer better cardiovascular care to improve patients lives.